Have You Ever Grown Sick and Tired of Your Cat’s Name?


If there’s one thing you learn while doing customer service for a pet-focused company, it’s that at least 50 percent of pets seem to have one of 10 names.

Although I’d started this job about three months before I wrote a post about the top 10 cat names of 2013, the idea of popular cat names was still more or less an abstraction. But now that my six-month anniversary has come and gone, there are some names I’m so tired of hearing that I have to bite my tongue when the owner of a pet with one of these names calls me.

Unfortunately, the most popular of those names also happens to be shared by my youngest cat. And a fictional teenage girl who thinks being stalked by a sparkly vampire is Oh So Very Romantic.

I once considered searching my company’s database for pets named Bella, just to see how many there are, but I was concerned that I might crash the server that runs our operations-critical software.

I’m not exaggerating: I suspect there really are that many Bellas among my employer’s four-legged clientele.

What that means for my poor Bella (short for Belladonna, thank you, and not the moody teen) is that her mama arrives home after a long day on the phones, never wanting to hear or utter her kitty’s sweet name again.

My girl deserves better than this.

I suppose I could just take it in stride. After all, she came to me with the name Belladonna, and I do think it’s a beautiful name, especially since I gave her a middle name to go with it — her full name is Belladonna Moonshadow Kelley — but I can’t help coming home at night with a hankering to ask her how she’d feel about a new name.

Sometimes I wonder if changing her name would also have an impact on her behavior. I mean, she is a lovely cat and she makes me melt with delight on a daily basis, but she does have some traits that can be a bit challenging to deal with  like chasing my elderkitty, Siouxsie, around the house and trying to steal food from any source possible, including my dinner plate.

I think Bella’s over-the-top food hunting behavior may be a hangover from being a constantly hungry diabetic kitten whose disease wasn’t diagnosed for quite a while, because nobody expects a kitten to have diabetes.

And then, of course, there’s the trauma of being in a shelter, then adopted, and then returned to a different shelter, through no fault of her own.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that a name change can transform a life. I also believe that people (and animals) can evolve into and through names. Even something as simple as using the diminutive version of your name when you’re a kid and your full name when you’re an adult is an example of this.

Earlier this week as I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about my cats (as usual) and the word "bodhi" echoed in my head. Bodhi is a Sanskrit word that, loosely translated, means "enlightenment." Then I started thinking of a four-syllable phrase that has the same basic cadence as Belladonna, and "Bodhi dharma" popped into my mind. In some Buddhist teachings, the word "dharma" refers to the realization of enlightenment or manifestation of reality.

The next day I did some quick research and found out that the founder of Zen Buddhism was named … Bodhidharma!

So what am I going to do about my cat name conundrum? If there’s any cat I’d love to find blessed with a more zen attitude, it would be my baby kitty-girl! But ultimately, the choice about a name change lies with Bella herself.

Have you ever gotten tired of hearing your cat’s name? Have you changed your cat’s name after you’ve lived with that cat for a while? How did your cat take it? Share your stories in the comments!

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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