Alastair. Photography Annie Butler Shirreffs.
Alastair. Photography by Annie Butler Shirreffs.

What’s Mew at Catster: How I Named My Cats

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Naming cats can be a serious endeavor. Picking just the right one is tricky. For me, sometimes it takes hours or days of research and thinking. Some cats are named after favorite literary characters or authors. Some are named after situations. And some names just pop into my head.

The process is different for everyone, but here’s how I named some of my feline friends.

How I Named My Current Cats

Agatha

Agatha the cat.
Agatha. Photography courtesy Annie Butler Shirreffs.

Here’s an example of a name just popping into my head. We enjoy old-timey names, especially those that are Southern or British. We adopted Agatha when she was 3 months old. Her coloring and markings make her look very prim and proper, so the name was a perfect fit. People automatically assumed we named her after Agatha Christie, which we didn’t. As a joke, we made her middle name Christine.

Alastair

Alastair. Photography Annie Butler Shirreffs.
Alastair. Photography courtesy Annie Butler Shirreffs.

This is my favorite British name. When we first found Alastair as a feral kitten, I was convinced he was a girl, so I called him Alice during the couple of days I was trying to lure him out from under our neighbor’s car. Once we caught him and discovered that he was a boy, we just lengthened it to Alastair. His middle name is Moody because, as a “recovering feral,” he can be pretty moody — one minute he’s hiding in the closet and the next he’s flirting with us in the living room. Alastair Moody is also one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series.

Mathilda

Mathilda.
Mathilda. Photography courtesy Annie Butler Shirreffs.

I’ve always loved this name. And the name is sentimental for my husband. When he was a kid, his mother had a dressmaker’s dummy that was kind of rickety and tended to sway back and forth — they called it Waltzing Matilda, which is the name of a 19th century Australian song. And yes, we sing it to her all the time. (You’ll notice that one of our readers was also inspired by the song!) We also love literary names, so her middle name is Jean Louise, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Our Mathilda is a bit of a tomboy and always getting herself into trouble, so it’s a perfect fit.

Jack

Jack.
Jack. Photography courtesy Annie Butler Shirreffs.

Compared to our other cats, poor Jack got shortchanged in the name department. We found him alone and crying on a street corner when he was a kitten. We weren’t planning to keep him, but we couldn’t find him a home, and the longer he was with us, the more we fell in love with him. I suggested calling him Jack, because we didn’t know jack about him. But we made up for it with his middle name: Bartholomew.              

How I named my cats of the past

Runt

When I was a teenager, my family took in a stray black cat. It turned out she was pregnant, and she gave birth to four kittens in our laundry room. We found homes for all of them, except the runt, which I insisted we keep. Being the weird and surly teenager I was, I named her Runt. It was simple and to the point. My family tried to soften the name a little by calling her Runt Baby or R.B., but she was always Runt to me — and the sweetest little runt you could ever meet.

Salmon

As a young teenager, my husband had a cat named Salmon. I always thought his name was because of his dark pink nose but later found out that when my husband first found Salmon as a kitten, all they had in the house to feed him was some canned salmon. The kitten devoured it, rubbed his head inside the can and ended up smelling like fish for a week. Salmon seemed the only appropriate name.

Owen and Zelda

These were the first cats my husband and I had as a couple. Owen was a wild and weird little kitten — a polydactyl, a talker, an ankle biter. A friend called him “charmingly odd.” I just said it was because he was misunderstood. One of my favorite books at the time was John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. He was misunderstood, too, so we named our cat after him.

Zelda was partly named after Zelda Fitzgerald and partly because I just love the name. To me, a Zelda was someone who was flamboyant and enthusiastic and loved life. Our little Zelda, however, was not. She was a shy, nervous and quiet kitty her entire life. She never quite lived up to her name, but I like to think that there was a little excited lover of life somewhere in her.

Foster Favorites                         

Naming foster kittens is one of my favorite things. I outdid myself long before we officially started fostering kittens, when a litter of three was born in our backyard to one of the neighborhood feral cats. We took them in so they wouldn’t end up feral like their mom. I kept trying to come up with clever trio names, but nothing seemed right. Then one day while walking to my car in the office parking lot, it hit me: Edgar, Allan and Poe. Of course, Edgar ended up being a girl, so we just stuck Ms. in front of it. And she and Poe found homes first, so people couldn’t figure out why he had named a kitten Allan, until we explained he was part of a set.

The first two kittens we fostered through our shelter were immediately named Smokey and Bandit by my husband. I’ve never seen the movie (and don’t really care to), but my husband was so pleased with himself, I couldn’t really say no.

Here’s how I named some some other foster favorites:

Olive. She wasn’t an official foster. My husband found her in a neighbor’s yard and brought her home. She was with us for several days before we turned her over to a rescue organization. She had horrible mange that resulted in huge scabs all over her tiny little face. I used olive oil to loosen them up a bit.

Bertie and Rupert.
Bertie and Rupert. Photography courtesy Annie Butler Shirreffs.

Bertie and Rupert. You really can’t get more British than that!

Grimm and Boo. We got these guys in October and, since Halloween is my favorite holiday, it seemed appropriate.

Ginsberg.
Ginsberg. Photography courtesy Annie Butler Shirreffs.

Ginsberg. This cute tuxedo had a little black spot on his chin that I thought made him look like a beatnik.

How our readers named their cats

I’m clearly not the only one who puts a lot of thought into names. Here are some fun stories from our readers:

Annie and Cleo.
Annie and Cleo.

As a child, I grew up a dog person. We had two dogs my father named after famous queens — Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. When I became a father, our family adopted two kittens. We named them consistent with this tradition — Queen Antoinette and Queen Cleopatra (Annie and Cleo for short). —Kevin Brown

I named my cat Squitten (squirrel + kitten) because she looks and acts like a squirrel. She’ll puff up her tail, run around like crazy and jerk around quickly when she’s spooked — and sometimes just for fun. —Laura Wilson

Lionel.
Lionel.

We have a cat we named Lionel because we thought he looked lionish with all of his fluffy hair. —KaylaAnn

I adopted a 5-month-old kitty from a shelter where she was in danger of being euthanized. She didn’t like to be held and wasn’t particularly pretty. I named her Flower and then Lily Pad, among other “pretty” names. She would answer to nothing until, one day, my daughter said, “Well, we might as well call her Legal Pad because she’s never going to answer to anything.” Sure enough, when my daughter liltingly called out, “Legal Pad!”, kitty came. She’s therefore now known as Legal Pad! —Ann Barnett

Cheshire.
Cheshire.

I was walking to my car after work when I heard plaintive meowing coming from a tree. I saw a cat there and thought I would try to coax him down. However, when he got to a limb where I could lift him down I discovered he was just skin and bones. I could feel his little ribs, he wasn’t fixed and he had no collar. He started to follow me, crying and, of course, I ended up taking him home. Because I found him in a tree he is named after Alice in Wonderland’s grinning Cheshire Cat. —Tess Schaufler 

Matilda Dandelion.
Matilda Dandelion.

She was a rescue at my vet’s clinic, and the staff called her Dandelion because she was growing like a weed. When I met her, I was still caring for my cat, Beatrix Potter, who had cancer, and I wasn’t considering a new adoption just yet. Later that day, I was outside, and a dandelion fluff blew across the parking lot and landed squarely on my chest. That evening, Beatrix took a downhill turn and passed away two days later. I took it as a sign that this little Dandelion was meant to be adopted by me, and I kept her name to honor fate. The first time I played with her, she was waltzing around the room chasing a toy, and I recalled the song Waltzing Matilda. So, I named her Matilda Dandelion. —Annie N.

Shortnin.
Shortnin.

My adorable Munchkin cat is obviously short and looks like a walking loaf of bread, so Shortnin’ Bread (or Shortnin’ as we call her) seemed like a great name for her! —Judy Almy

Our cat named himself. Two days after we adopted him, my husband and I were discussing what to name him. I was reading a list of “cool cat names” to my husband, while the cat slept in a chair nearby. When I said, “How about Duke?” to my husband, the cat woke up, lifted his head and answered with a meow. My husband looked at him and said, “Really? You want to be named Duke?” The cat looked up again and did a double meow. So, we named him Duke. —Kim H.

Zaxs.
Zaxs.

While visiting Florence, Alabama, I enjoyed eating at Zaxby’s restaurant. I ate there on the patio daily during my two-week visit. Every time, I noticed a very small tiger-striped kitten running around under cars and shrubs — he was full of himself. On several occasions, I asked locals if they had seen this kitten before. Most said, “Yes. He lives in the shrubs. He’s going to get hit by a car someday.” The odd thing was that the kitten didn’t approach anyone but me. As my stay in Florence ended, I thought about that crazy little kitten and what the locals had said. I decided he had chosen me. I scooped him up and got a clean bill of health from the local vet. The little guy traveled 1,800 miles to his new home in El Paso, Texas, to start a new life. I named him Zaxs (middle initial B). —Debbie Pietzsch

I have a different sense of humor, so I named my first kitty Orange Roughy. When nobody got the joke, I shortened it to Ruffy. For those of you who might not get the joke either, an orange roughy is a fish. Ruffy is not a fish. He isn’t orange, either. —Dorothy Baroud

Ti.
Ti.

I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan, so I named my cat James Tiberius Kirkcat after Captain Kirk from the show. We call him Ti for short. Here he is in the mother ship. —Delaney Kirk

Cindy.
Cindy.

Cindy is named after Cindy Crawford because of the beauty mark on her face. She is certainly a model as you can see from her purrfect pose! —Pamela Palmer

Tell us: What are your cats’ names? How did you name your cat?

Stay tuned for more from Senior Editor Annie Butler Shirreffs on Catster.com’s What’s Mew at Catster column and on social media with #WhatsMewatCatster. 

Read more about cat names on Catster.com:

25 thoughts on “What’s Mew at Catster: How I Named My Cats”

  1. My recent adopted twin Flame Point Siamese, are Newt and Divi. After Isaac Newton and divinity, the candy. The smart, outgoing kitty got Newt & his laid back, mellow brother is Divi because he’s all white & so sweet I just want to eat him up! Their auntie is Ms. Boo, because she was a surprise adoption. She also has a Bindi marking on her forehead so her full name is Ms. Bindi Boo. She’s a 6-yr old Siamese mix.

  2. My latest adoption, two Flame point Siamese were twin boys so we didn’t have an easy time deciding names. After a few days with them at home I noticed one kitten was more outgoing and playful as well as super curious and his high intelligence was obvious, while his brother, who is also smaller, is very laid back and gentle. We named the aggressive kitty Newton (Newt) because he’s obviously a very smart cat (after Isaac Newton) and his brother is just super sweet and has lovely pale blue eyes. Because he’s completely white (with light orange markings on his tail) I named him Divinity, because he’s divinely beautiful plus he’s so sweet I want to eat him up! I call him Divi for short.???????? They have an Auntie who is several years old & because she was an “accidental” adoption around Halloween time, I just called her Boo. She also has a Bindi marking on her forehead, so her full name is Bindi Boo. She’s a Siamese mix, mostly tan in color.????????❤

  3. I have a 10 year old Maine Coon we ended up naming jasper. The catery was in jasper county MO. Our 15 year old tuxedo girl ended up with a boys name,opie, we just knew this was a little boy until one day the vet left a message to pick up opie from HER spaye surgery! We named our latest rescue gato vejo , Spanish for old cat!

  4. I named my cat Noodles because my dad said I couldn’t get a cat unless i named it noodles. shes a little demon with gray and white fur… very beautiful Siamese mix

    my other cat is Otto- i don’t know why he was named that- it just popped into my head and seemed to fit. He, his sisters, and his parents were living behind a building and i found them and fed them. they wouldn’t come close to me. one day i went there and his sisters were gone. :( eaten by foxes or something! sad- me and my friend took the cats home and otto is a big fighter- his ears are torn up but he’s a sweetheart <3

    my last cat is called Mack (completely black with a white dash on his chest and white tail tip). he died a while ago. I found him by a restaurant called Mack's. Well, i had to name him mack, right?!

  5. I named my cat Noodles because my dad said I couldn’t get a cat unless i named it noodles. shes a little demon with gray and white fur… very beautiful Siamese mix

    my other cat is Otto- i don’t know why he was named that- it just popped into my head and seemed to fit. He, his sisters, and his parents were living behind a building and i found them and fed them. they wouldn’t come close to me. one day i went there and his sisters were gone. :( eaten by foxes or something! sad- me and my friend took the cats home and otto is a big fighter- his ears are torn up but he’s a sweetheart <3

    my last cat is called Mack (completely black with a white dash on his chest and white tail tip). he died a while ago. I found him by a restaurant called Mack's. Well, i had to name him mack, right?!

  6. My daughter was crazy about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” so the first two rescue girls were named “Buffy” and “Angel”…later came an almost dead big tom to our door demanding to be let in…originally referred to as “Bones” he morphed into a hale and hearty “Spike”…and last…a “volunteer” stray demanding to be let in…our crazy boy, “Xander”

  7. I named our first cat Sniffles because we were all allergic to cats. He was a beautiful grey tabby that started hanging around our house. Our second stray we found flowing down the street in a thunder storm. His name was Dr. Jeckle because he had a dual personality. Just a month ago our big dogs found a 3 week old kitten in the backyard. She answers to the name of Kit Kat so that’s what we call her. She now rules the house!

  8. Noelien Badenhorst

    I have 8 kitties:
    Saartjie: she is the oldest, at 18 years. It is an Afrikaans name, for an old aunty.
    Milo: he is a brown tabby and looks a lot like a Bengal kitty.
    Matewis: he looks like the kitty of a children’s story character, who’s kitty had the same name.
    Chatterpaws: our rescue Miane Coon, he has huge paws and likes to chat!
    Leeutjie: she is a dark marmelade tabby that looks like a little lioness.
    Pokkel: my overweight bottle kitty, this name means chubby in Afrikaans.
    Pandie: he is my House Panther.
    Babie: he is the cheeky baby in the family.

  9. I used to have a big black persian cat that was aggressive since he was a kitten. I named him Sidney after Sid Vicious

  10. Our current cat’s name is Chert, a marbled silicate mineral similar to agate, which is one of my SO’s favorite things to go hunting for. I picked the name because our little alley cat was the same cloudy, swirly gray as the type of Chert found in Minnesota.
    My last cat, I picked out the name before the kitten. I just really wanted to name a cat Quercus, the genus name for oaks (my favorite type of tree). I found a beautiful little brown and black marbled tabby kitten who the name seemed to fit shortly thereafter.

  11. One of my favorite tomcats I named Charlie. He was very tiny, but had oversized ears. He was slightly feral and lived in the shop of the truck dealership I work at. Since I couldn’t get close enough to see if he was male or female, I named him Charlie. The big ears reminded me of Prince Charles in England and the name Charlie would work for either sex. He eventually came home with me and became a huge momma’s boy. And he did grow into his ears.

  12. Long ago I had a pair named Amos and Andy, which would probably not pass the culture police today. My best cat so far was Hobie (I live in South Florida so you can probably figure that out). He was huge, all black with a long tail and very long legs. He was either killed or taken…sad day.
    Now I have a pure bred Nebelung who is a rescue. He came with Smokey Robinson for a name and of course I call him the “Miricle” kitty.

    Cheers!

  13. I named my red tiger tabby Annie, because what else would you name an orphaned redhead?

    Seriously, though… I met the little stinker at a local adoption event, and she really poured it on, like Little Orphan Annie when Miss Farrell visited the orphanage. And when I got her home, she just walked through the house like she owned the place, like Annie did at Warbucks’s mansion.

  14. jeroboam bramblejam

    Flibbertigibbet ( “frivolous, flighty, or excessively talkative”) is a good name for my miao-impared DSH… She can hardly get out a pitiable squawk, but her silent miao is very expressive nonetheless.

    Flowbear, a mini-Maine Coone, has long, flowing fur, speaks a fluent French dialect and is very attentive to selected readings from “Madame Bovary”.

  15. I have a Turkish Angora, who I named Bane- simply because he’s the bane of my existence. He’s a glutton, rubs himself all over me and leaves his fur on my clothes, sleeps on my face, etc. But I love him nonetheless, and he’s a very quirky cat.

  16. I named my tuxedo cat Sterling. That is my all-time favorite name, and I regretted it a few years later when my wife discovered she was pregnant. Thankfully we had a daughter because I still like that name better than any other. I did meet a college girl named Stirling once, but I never considered it as a girl’s name. Names are a funny thing. I loathe mine, so I really want to make sure that anything I name has a good name!

  17. Deborah and Erin q

    My daughter and I named our two female Mainecoons Luna and Twilight, we call Twilight Twe for short. Luna is a blue silver tabby, silvery like the moon, Luna, and Twilight is a tortie, silvery grey with white and beige mixed in, so we named her Twilight to complement Luna, as she is the punter cat.

  18. My orange tabby, rescued from a dumpster at 4 weeks old, after struggling to find the perfect name I named Hemingway once I discovered his extra toes.

    My gray & white tabby who was born in the back room of a blue print shop, I named Graycie, because of her color, and also for favorite aunt of mine, Aunt Grace.

  19. GW for gray and white cat. LOL We named him at his first vet visit, right after I found him living in my garage when he was 2 months old. I always said if I get another cat I will name him Bush as a joke. If you have a GW, you must have a Bush, right?

    Got another cat and named him Bush. Well, Bush turned out to be a female so she is Bushie the Camouflaged Cat. Her colors make her invisible on a camo blanket or my black, brown and tan rug.

  20. My cats name is Annie ♥. I named her this because I was just sitting around thinking of one and random names popping in my head and Annie popped in and it just seemed to fit.

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