A brief survey of friends has convinced me that more hand-wringing goes into naming animals than naming human children. This makes total sense, though I admit I’ve never named a child. Unlike cats, you can’t name babies after another species (personal favorites: Pig and Bear) or foods (personal favorites: Toast and Pizza) or pop cultural/historical figures (personal favorites: Versace, Chairman Meow) or any of the other fun ways that we can name cats! Oh, the curse and blessing of endless possibilities.
So if you’re stuck in a cat-naming rut, I am here to advocate aggressively for naming your cat a person name. It is the choice of many a cat guardian in my life, and my Keith gets regular compliments and laughs when he is introduced. So you can imagine my shock when six months after naming my cat Keith, a friend emailed me this article specifically condemning naming a cat “Keith” for a bunch of overthought, ultra-serious reasons. ALERT: Someone lost their stick in this mud. So, I defy you, Telegraph article from 2006. And here are the useful, fun reasons why.
1. Get out of a bad date with an implied spouse or partner
For the most part, my bad first dates are never bad enough that I need an excuse to leave. But from time to time, a teeth-grittingly painful first date happens and requires a swift and believable exit story. Attempting to leave early is a tricky skill. Some goofballs, both male and female, never take the hint and will be all up in your text game the next day. And since you’re not some kind of sociopath, you don’t want to make something up and be a liar.
Enter your-jealous-pet-that-you-pretend-is-your-spouse-or-partner. “I better get home, Jean-Paul will get suspicious if I get home too late,” is a great exit line that implies “Whoops, I failed to tell you about my possibly unhinged significant other! Later!” And since I really do live with the nagging fear that when I leave Keith alone, he thinks that I am never coming back for him, it is probably true that your human-named pet is suspicious of your whereabouts. No lies, no foul, no follow-up text that you have to ignore. You just get to see that precious little face earlier than you anticipated. Wins all around. Thanks, Jean-Paul!
2. Confuse family and friends with holiday letters
Several of my friends have started the wonderful ritual of sending parody holiday newsletters that recount the year in a series of ridiculous anecdotes and updates. Complete with imaginary children, vacations, and job changes, they poke fun at the traditionally earnest holiday newsletter and are a welcome reprieve from the seemingly endless bragging of the newsletters from extended family.
Whether you write a parody letter or a real one, listing your human-named cat on the sign-off will have fun consequences. It might just be getting someone to do a double-take and re-count the number of people in the holiday photo. It might result in your cousins in Missouri finally giving you a rest on the “You’re not getting any younger!” talk if they think that Grant is your new boyfriend and not your cat.
3. Disguise your embarrassing eating habits
I know for a fact that most of my friends have done some atrocious eating in their lives; you probably have too, because you’re human and it happens. Unless you’re a cat, in which case, please send your guardian my congratulations on teaching you to read and navigate the Internet. Pets with human names are a helpful tool in hiding your habit of eating items that you once put in the garbage. It happened on Sex in the City, it happens in real life. You just have to share a small bite of food to make it true, and you probably do that anyway.
When coworkers ask what you did last night, you no longer have to tell them that you ordered a cheese pizza for one like a grown-up Kevin McAllister and performed your weekly Google clean-up of searches of exes and successful friends from college. Why, you and Mitchell just shared some dinner and chilled out! No one will ask in what proportions you shared it, unless you work with inquisitive mathematicians. I forgot to warn you that this won’t work for the Inquisitive Mathematician set, sorry. Is Mitchell a roommate? A lover? Who knows? You’re not one of those uncouth work blabbermouths anyway.
4. Explain that super-lowbrow Netflix queue of yours
Look, we’ve all watched This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy, at 2am on a weekend night, weeping into a pillow about our endless string of unsuccessful OKCupid dates and our closing window of peak fertility. Okay, I’m projecting, but stay with me here. The Netflix queue can be embarrassing no matter how awesome your life is otherwise. And if you’re a philanthropist like me, you’ve shared your Netflix password with pals on a budget. So what happens when they see your creepy Alan Rickman marathon or that time you ironically watched all of the seasons of Dawson’s Creek all the way through? “Oh, my buddy Dave has a thing for Katie Holmes!” Dave is a Russian Blue. But if you play it cool, your cubicle mate is none the wiser. Watch away!
5. Your cat already believes he or she is a person anyway
When I was a kid, I had regular nightmares that technologies would develop, allowing animals to understand the true bizarreness of human behavior and that the animals would be able to report on it in human language. This fear prevented many a baby-talking session with my cats and dog. I imagine if said technology does develop, cats will be incensed to learn that they were named Fluffy and Midnight rather than classic and erudite human names like Margaret and Frederick.
I anthropomorphize Keith to a fault (he works for the Metropolitan Transit Authority as a Q Train conductor, his favorite show is Intervention Seasons 1 & 2), but he is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in making himself seem human. With the demanding whine of a child, the contempt for my male friends of a jealous boyfriend, and the ability to read feelings like a best friend, he already acts in a number of human-like capacities. Might as well give your cat a name to match!
So that’s my pitch for naming your cat a person name. Now if you’ll excuse me, Keith and I have some important TV programming to attend to over (a totally sensible) dinner.
Read more by Alana Murray and about cats in silly situations: