By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)
Getting a new kitten or cat? How exciting! If you are already a kitty guardian then you already understand that bringing a kitten or cat for the first time into your home, you are embarking on one of the most amazing and fascinating adventures you will have in your entire life.
Cats simply are not little dogs. They are rapidly becoming the most popular pet in the United States. Felines are a totally different species who have completely different needs and, for the most part, have totally different personalities than canines.
One of my veterinarian friends who is an expert in feline behavior and who is passionate about the species recently told me that she considers cats as similar to small alien beings in our midst. She said, “It’s like meeting someone from outer space- a kind of “Star Trek” moment. They are indeed mysterious creatures.”
It goes without saying that you have already prepared your home to welcome your new permanent fur- family member. You have all the necessary accoutrements on hand to delight even the fussiest feline. You have provided kitty with two litter boxes (for one cat), or one for every kitty in your household, fragrance- free cat litter, pooper scooper, porcelain, glass or metal cat dishes, nutritious species-appropriate grainless cat food, a cat tree, scratching posts, and an assortment of attractive toys; both interactive feather toys and catnip mice or other alluring “prey” with which your kitty can play. You have set up a window box that has a blanket or cat bed on it in order to provide your feline with some fascinating kitty TV so she is able to watch birds, squirrels and other wildlife. This will prevent boredom since these “nature programs” can entertain your cat for hours on end. You have indeed created a feline-enriched environment.
Now that your house is “catified”, and your kitty is thrilled with her new digs, the next thing you will want to do is to give your new feline a name. Naming a cat is not a simple task. In fact it is an awesome responsibility. You may be tempted to ask your friends to help you name your cat; but based on my years of attempting to force a moniker on a feline, this is not a good idea. Cats will reveal their names to you when they are ready, and if you take the time to “listen” to them.
A few examples: Many years ago we were given a seal point Siamese kitten whose breeder gave him the registered name “Teerapat”. He refused to answer us. But his tongue was very long and he had an odd habit of starting to lick anyone who petted him. His real name came to us almost immediately. Since he was Siamese he told us his name was “Mousie- Tongue” (a humorous play on words for Chairman Mao Tse Tung). We called him Mousie and he instantly responded.
A white Oriental Short hair kitten was given to us and arrived with his registered name, “Moonraker.” However there was nothing about him that reminded us of James Bond, or this evil character building nuclear weapons. However, he was extremely mischievous and always getting into major predicaments. We named him Trouble. However, after thinking this through we didn’t want to jinx him, so we changed his name to Hubble. He hardly ever answered to that name. One day he was on my lap and my husband commented about his pink ears, nose and paw pads. His name came to me in a flash. It was Sir Hubble Pinkerton. If we use his formal name, he always responds.
So while it may be easier to seek naming advice; by just watching your cat’s behavior, her quirks, her funny antics, facial expression and how she shows you her affection, if you listen closely, and trust the process; your kitty will reveal her true name.
But if you are already living with felines, how did you arrive at their names? Do share your technique with a comment.