“A Sensible Everyday Name”

five black cats in a basket
What do you name a bunch of black cats? The possibilities are endless!
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
~from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot

Eliot goes on to tell us that every cat must have a practical, everyday name, a unique and exclusive name, and a name that the cat knows unto herself. For enjoyment as a cat lover, please find this book and read it to your cat—she’ll walk about with her tail waving at knowing that at least one human knows cats well enough to call them friends. It’s also the inspiration for the musical Cats, and we know how felines worldwide reacted when an entire musical was dedicated to their distinctiveness; read more about this in “Litter-ary Cats: T.S. Eliot“.

But we’ll concern ourselves with just that first practical name, the one that we usually give to cats because we have to call them something, and they prefer to sit by and let us guess. All names used in this article are names of actual cats, though their identity has been protected because they don’t particularly want to be bothered with stardom.

According to two articles on Vetstreet, here are both the trendiest and most popular kitten names in the past year:

Trendiest Kitten Names, February 7, 2013MALE AND FEMALEDexter and Penny
Loki and Izzy
Thor and Stella
Cooper and Luna
Zeus and Willow
Ziggy and Katniss
Winston and Ellie
Bentley and Olive
Jackson and Fiona
Sheldon and Charlie
Most Popular Kitten Names, December 6, 2012FEMALE AND MALEBella and Max
Kitty and Oliver
Lucy and Tiger
Chloe and Simba
Luna and Charlie
Sophie and Milo
Lily and Smokey
Daisy and Jack
Lilly and Leo
Callie and Kitty

We could be unimaginative and call all of them “Kitty” because naming is apparently just to fulfill some need we humans have since many cats consider it optional to come when called by any name, except when the calling is accompanied by some incentive like a rattling treats can, a can opener or crackling bag of catnip, at which time you can call them just about anything.

tortoiseshell cat in mixing bowl
Cookie’s full name was “Semi-sweet Butterscotch Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough”, and doesn’t she look like it in this bowl?

Most of us, however, are overly imaginative with our cat names because, admit it, you’ve got a list of alternative names for your cat that are saved for morning kisses time, “Morning Glory”, lap time, “Cuddles”, and that time when your cat had better just get lost for a while because they just caused about $50 in pastels to be broken all over the floor, which is not printable on a family-oriented website.

But that everyday name we give our cats is an expression of our earliest and deepest feelings for them, despite all the other things we might call them, and you’ll see a few of my cats’ names in the examples. The name might describe their personality, “Sweetie”, their coat type, “Peaches”, physique “String Bean” or some typical activity, “Zippy”, for instance.

Our cats enter our lives at different ages, and our first impression of a kitten is different from a mature cat, and rescues are often ill or traumatized and need some quiet time to come back to their own personalities. A name like “Nasty” given to a skinny, unsocialized stray may seem inappropriate on a robust and contented cat later in life, but neither you nor your cat will forget those meager days, and you can laugh together at the memory.

Our own experiences and preferences also influence the names we give our cats. You may choose to name them for characters in your favorite book, “Charlotte”, or movie, “Bogey”, an ancestor, “Sophie”, or a friend, relative or other person who’s made an impression on you. Characters in history, “Kublai Khan”, are popular, as are ancient gods, “Zeus”, and goddesses, “Medusa”, and political figures such as “Napoleon” and “Roosevelt”. Sports figures probably top the list in most cities with pro sports teams—I can tell you I meet plenty of cats in Pittsburgh named “Mario LeMiew” and “Sidney” and “Crosby” and “Hines” and “Troy”—and characters from blockbuster movies and current best-sellers always show up as well with, lately, the Twilight series and The Hunger Games; a few years ago it was the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

black cat nursing black kittens
Mimi nursing the “Curious Quartet” as I called them at first, wearing their war paint on one ear so I could tell them apart.

But what do you do if the cat already has a name? Rescues don’t arrive with a name tag, but shelters and rescuers will give the cat a name, and if a cat is formally surrendered and changes hands, the cat’s name comes along. When I took in Namir and Kelly I maintained their names, but not Angel and Rosebud.

The naming of kittens

Sì, Mi chiamano Mimì, …

“That’s my famous self-introduction, ‘Yes, they always call me Mimi…’,” says Mimi, who was, after much deliberation, named for the female lead in the Puccini opera La Boheme because it is my favorite opera, and I’d recently seen a Metropolitan Opera simulcast and was again caught up in the melodrama of the lovers in the Bohemian section of Paris, and the little wayward mama cat and her kittens now in my care.

But that wasn’t my first choice. Mimi’s name was originally Maia, which I liked, but we both felt she needed a new name for her new life—and then there was the naming of a litter of kittens. After fostering many kitten families and using up lots of favorite names, I came down to using logical sets, like the seasons, or presidents or the main characters in a novel or a movie. My original choice for this family began as:

  • Monday = Mimi
  • Tuesday = Jelly Bean
  • Wednesday = Mr. Sunshine
  • Thursday = Giuseppe
  • Friday = Mewsette

This will make more sense when you take the next step:

  • Monday = Mimi = Moon or Luna, for her feminine qualities and her lovely crescent moon eyes
  • Tuesday = Jelly Bean = Tyr for whom Tuesday is named, well, he was kind of the leftover of the god/demigod set
  • Wednesday = Mr. Sunshine = Odin, for whom Wednesday is named, suitable for his personality
  • Thursday = Giuseppe = Thor, for whom Thursday is named, also suitable for his personality
  • Friday = Mewsette = Freya, for whom Friday is named, Mewsette seemed a wonderful Freya

But even though their prospective names seemed to fit so perfectly and I adored the thought of a family of black cats named after gods and goddesses, in the first two weeks the names just would not stay with me no matter how hard I tried to remember and even posted notes on the cage for myself.

I also got the sense Mimi not only did not like the name I’d chosen for her or any variation, but she really liked the name “Mimi” and it suits her perfectly. She’s the mom, and she’s the boss of all this so from that point their names became characters in or related to the opera, and evolved from there to the names they have today.

four black kittens
The Little Four.

Don’t forget to visit this week’s rescued cats for adoption.

All photos courtesy the cats’ foster homes.

And read about other kittens and adult cats who are looking for homes.


Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

6 thoughts on ““A Sensible Everyday Name”

  • May 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm
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    Interesting how you came up with the names! Austin was given the name by the RSPCA and it seemed to suit him! But he gets called many things! lol

    Reply
    • May 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm
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      Well if you were named for one of the most expensive cars in the world would you change your name? I couldn’t imagine Austin with any other name.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm
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    Mine all have their proper names, the “pet” names, and the names I only use when they’re in trouble – and they all seem to understand very well how and why they are being used! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • May 3, 2013 at 7:25 pm
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      Vicki, I used to think they understood by the tone of my voice, but they actually understand before I even speak! But we humans have our habits, one of these days we’ll have to list those special names.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2013 at 11:38 am
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    R mom calls uz what ever her mood iz…like what kinda centz iz THAT huh…hope everee one haza grate week oh end 🙂 !!

    Reply
    • May 3, 2013 at 11:42 am
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      I don’t know how my cats have ever known their names I call them so many things! Have a lovely weekend!

      Reply

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