The Naming of Cats

cat in the sun

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games. – T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot had it right in his famous poem: naming cats is a very important matter! Some of our cats come to us already named, and we keep the name because it suits, or because the cat already responds to it. Others come with names we don’t like,  so we choose a new name for them. Either way, most cat parents put a lot of thought into naming a cat.

And in addition to their given name, most cats have not just one, but a whole series of nicknames. Some of the nicknames may be so silly that we wouldn’t even admit to them in public, some are terms of endearment, and some are derived from a personality trait.

Allegra came to me with her name, and I chose to keep it because it fits her joyful and happy personality to a tee. She also has a number of nicknames: Allie, Allie-Bellie, Legra, Allegra Bellina, and Allie-Mouser.

Ruby’s name was Cinnamon when I first met her. There have to be a thousand torties named Cinnamon, and the name just didn’t seem special enough for her. I wanted another gemstone name to honor Amber’s memory, and initially I thought of naming Ruby Topaz for her gorgeous eyes, but it didn’t feel right. I chose Ruby because ruby is a heart chakra stone, and it reflects her exuberant loving spirit perfectly.  And of course, she, too, has a series of nicknames: Ruby Rubinski, Rubelina, Munchkin Kitten, and Monkey Cat.

How did your cat get his or her name? What are some of your cat’s nicknames?

The Naming Of Cats by T. S. Eliot

 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.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey–
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

50 Comments on The Naming of Cats

  1. Patricia
    June 23, 2019 at 3:33 am (4 months ago)

    Here are my cats names: Jasper, orange almost one year old, Milo, orange with growing tumors, Zeus, tuxseda, I TNR him as a kitten but he became a pet Depeche Mode, Grey and black striped, I had a calico named Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, orange 6 toe cat that recently died at age 15 and a half, two cats named Marcus, one died 4 years ago and current one I TNR, but he stay and became a pet, Onyz, a black feral cat and Mitsu another feral cat, both who live in my house. I had two cats named Leo because they were Leos. I had a white cat named Snowball as my first pet cat.

    Reply
  2. Shan
    September 19, 2014 at 9:33 pm (5 years ago)

    We named Priscilla because her brother was Elvis but I also call her Miss Priscilla Multiclaws (she has extra toes) and Stripey Pants (she has gray stripes). Bugsy is also Sir Bugs-a-lot or Buggy. Mamakitty responds to that name or MewMew. Gracie is also lovingly called Gracie Sue or Graceland. Tabby we named because she was due to get fixed and needed a name. Nothing suited her so we called her Tabby…TabTab, Tabby Cat.

    Reply
  3. MittensMom
    September 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm (5 years ago)

    Our kitties:

    Mittens (tortie) :
    Named because she’s polydactyl and, when her front paws are laid flat, they look just like mittens.
    Nicknames: Mitts, Mitt-mitts, Mitten-kitten, Love muffin, Monster-madness (I have no idea how that stuck)

    Lucifur (silver tabby):
    Named based on a personality trait. She’s a little demon; a furry tornado. She had a twin sister, who was sweet as pie and aptly named Angel (but lost at 5mos to FIP). 🙁
    Nicknames: Luci (which is what we use most of the time), Luci-Luce, Luce-monster, fur-monster.

    Francis (dove):
    Came already named after St. Francis (He named that, when found by a local catholic school on St. Francis’ day; then then asked us to take him in).
    Nicknames: France, Bird-brain

    Reply
  4. Christy
    September 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm (5 years ago)

    Our 17 year old black and white male was being called “cow” when we adopted him. He became O’Leary for the famous Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Nickname of course – King Lear. Our 13 year old brown tiger strip male was found in San Gabriel so he was named Gabriel. Nicknames – Gabe, Sir Gabriel, the Angel Gabriel, Gaby Baby. Our 9 year old brown tiger strip female came to us in the Spring at just 2 weeks of age. Since she was born right around Easter, we named her Lily.
    Nickname – Princess Tiger Lily of Beechworth. We have also had a Jazz which was just her personality, a MJ or Meg Jr. Because he reminded me of my childhood cat and Meggie after MJ. Allegra and Ruby are so beautiful. My Jazz was a from a tortie family, but had more of an orange shading.

    Reply
  5. Stephanie
    September 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm (5 years ago)

    My first girl is Emilie Lemoncake, her middle name is after my favorite sweet treat. I’ve always felt like cats should have proper first names, and I like older sounding names. I was going to name her Evelyn, but when I was begging my mom to let me bring the parking lot kitten home, she finally suggested Emilie and I knew I had sealed the kitten deal when she suggested a name, so it stuck.

    Babycat’s name sounds much more average, but it’s stuck now more than her given name. My brother brought home a kitten named Gidget, but he’s not a cat guy, so she became mine. I swore to my mother that I would only call her the Baby Cat so I didn’t get too attached while I (pretended) to find her a new home. 8 years later, Babycat is still with me 🙂

    Reply
  6. laura h.
    June 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm (6 years ago)

    I had no idea what I was getting into with my tortie a few weeks ago. She’s three months old now and was rescued. The shelter claimed to be out of space when an acquaintance attempted dropping her off; their only option was euthanization. I said I would take her, but it’s more like she’s taken me! What a ride. I named her within a few days — when she was still nervous and sad. She’d never been named so she’s been Calamity since week 10. How fitting it’s been! I adore her, the handful that she is. My roommate calls her “Callie” for short and I call her “Lamb” when I’m not using her full name.

    Reply
  7. Jeanie
    April 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm (7 years ago)

    My mature girl, a vibrant tortie, is named Teeka. When I adopted her she was so tiny she fit in the palm of my hand. I commented she was my “little tea cup” and the name Teeka came from that. My youngest is a fiery ball of energy…thus the name Raidon…Greek god of thunder and lightning. By the way…his nickname is Spaz…very fitting. My middle child came with the name Heaven. She is the sweetest kitty…a little slice of Heaven…so I kept that name. I often call her “Hebie”.

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth
    October 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm (8 years ago)

    My girls names are Two Face and Batman, with their alter ego names being Harley Dent and Beatrice Wayne. Two Face was named for her two colored face, and she was brought home because of it. When my boyfriend was a kid he had found a picture of a tortie with a two colored face that he would not part with. When he showed my the picture of the cat, which his mother kept and taped to one of his photos, he told me that he one day hoped to find a cat just like it. My friend actually called me and asked if I was interested in a kitten and Two Face just so happened to fit the bill.

    As for Batman, she was the runt of the litter Two Face was in. I would have felt awful for leaving her alone so she came home along with us! The reason she was named Batman was because of her Christian Bale sort of glare, she tends to use it everytime she’s upset.

    Their alter ego names were kind of a joke for a while before we went ahead and took them seriously. Because they’re girls we wanted the names to be girly but still stick with the Batman theme we had going on so we went with Beatrice instead of Bruce and Harley instead of Harvey. (Harvey Dent is Two Face in the Batman comics for those who don’t know) Also, as an added bonus, Harley is the name of the Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn which we felt worked out great, because of the two sisters, Two Face is a brat who tends to push Batman around a lot.

    The nicknames I call them by when they’re being cute with me are Boo and Boog, Batman is my Boo kitty while Two Face is my little Boog.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm (8 years ago)

      Great stories behind the names, Elizabeth, and I love the nicknames, too.

      Reply
      • Elizabeth
        October 17, 2011 at 3:45 am (8 years ago)

        Thank you :] I had another cat before my two girls named October, because it is my favorite month of the year seeing as it’s my birthday month and Halloween falls on it. He was a gift to me from my uncle and aunt. I loved him with all my heart and still do, but he’s off to bigger and better places now! Two Face actually wears his collar because she reminds me of him a little too much haha. They always gotta have their way.

        Reply
  9. Tammy
    October 13, 2011 at 11:27 am (8 years ago)

    I guess I’m not alone! I LOVE names -always have. When I was a kid, I played school with all my dolls. My favorite part was making up my roster of students. First, middle, last names for all! 🙂 So choosing names for pets has been a fun task for me over the years. (No kids other than fur ones for me)

    Our one kitty that was a problem to name was our little Miss Girl. She was called Bailey when my husband rescued her, but it didn’t fit at all. So we set out to find a new name for her. Her brother then Cody, easily became Ben which fits him.

    But Miss Girl refused to accept any name we tried for her. Initially we called her Joon to match Ben (from the movie Benny and Joon). It didn’t stick. We then tried a number of names (most of which I can’t even remember!) The only one that came close to sticking was Plie. She stood with her front feet in what looked like a plie ballet stance. We tried, but it just didn’t wind up sticking. So, we went with Miss Girl. She was Miss G, Girly, Miss… any number of variations.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm (8 years ago)

      Isn’t that interesting how nothing seemed to fit Miss Girl except Miss Girl! Clearly, that’s who she was meant to be.

      Reply
  10. Karin
    October 13, 2011 at 12:25 am (8 years ago)

    Hello Ingrid, I have a beautiful kitten torties with only one ear: her name is Graziela Flavia, but also I say to him Brujita, Bicha, Nessy, Nessyta…

    Your web site is beautiful!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm (8 years ago)

      Graziela Flavia is such a pretty name, Karin! I’m glad you like my website.

      Reply
  11. Pam
    October 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm (8 years ago)

    I named my (now departed) beloved girl Shelley. (When I adopted her, her name was Little Bit.) At the time I was trying to decide on her name, I began to notice that she really responded to the sound “psh, psh, psh.” It always seemed to make her do the zoomies! That transformed into Shelley … my special girl! I always emphasized the SH sound when saying her name. Her most frequently used nicknames were Shelley-el, Shelley-bean, and Baby Cat.

    The cat I have now is named Jack. I got Jack as a kitten when Shelley was still with me, and I experimented for a few days on what names had a good “ring” in combination with Shelley’s name. So, Shelley and Jack were my two.

    Jack has several nicknames … Jackster, Jackie, Jack Man, Jackie Cat, Big Kitty … he is 16 lbs of panther-like muscle! People never fail to gasp and say, “What a big cat!” when they meet him.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm (8 years ago)

      Shelley is such a pretty name, Pam. Jack sounds gorgeous!

      Reply
  12. caren gittleman
    October 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm (8 years ago)

    I sooo enjoyed this post!
    When I adopted Cody his name was “Prince” I didn’t care for the name. I have always liked the name “Cody” so I named him that. One of his nicknames is “The Cat Formerly Known As Prince” lol, he is also called “Codalicious”, “Co-Dependent”, “Jelly Belly”, “Belly Boy”, “Cody Bodey”, “Codester” etc.

    He is drawn to sitting on high places so my husband thinks we should have left his name as “Prince” or “Prince Cody” because of his regal resting places.

    For my first cat, Bobo, he was named Bobo because he looked identical to a cat my ex husband had that was hit by a car. That cat was named Bobo. My main names for him were “Baby Bobo”, “Bobo La Mobo”, “Peanut Face”…I used to always sing him a song that I had made up with his name in it 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm (8 years ago)

      I love it: “the cat formerly known as Prince.” That’s great!

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks for sharing the link to your post, Daniela!

      Reply
  13. Montana
    October 12, 2011 at 11:10 am (8 years ago)

    Our Montana was named after the greatest NFL quarterback ever, Joe Montana. His Dad and I obviousy are big football fans. He has lots of nicknames, Tana,Tanable, Tan, Montana-Banana,Short-Man and Pooka-Dooka.
    He knows his name and nicknames really well and always comes when we call him.

    Joanne

    Reply
    • Heather
      October 12, 2011 at 11:44 am (8 years ago)

      My first cat was Kalamazoo but we called him Kallie. His name came from a country song that was popular when I was around 3 which is when I named him. The next cat I named was Autumn. She was a calico stray that we took in for awhile until she had her litter of six kittens. She came to us in the fall and with her being a calico it seemed to fit. I named part of her kittens but two of them did not get names because I knew they were not all going to get to stay at our house. I named a black and white male kitten Moonlight and a female all black cat Velvet. I wanted to keep Velvet and my Mom wanted Moonlight. We didn’t get to keep either because Dad thought we should be a two cat household. So we kept the “first two choices” (that is so hard to do when you want them all!). Tiger a female kitten that looked just like Kallie, grey tabby with stripes and Garfield, an orange and white male. I’m not sure why now I settled on the name Tiger for the little girl cat. I remember really well why I named Garfield what I did. He was the first kitten to eat solid food and nursed until we sent Autumn to her new home! He was always all about eating and with him having some orange he looked the name too. Most of the time Garfield was shortened to Gar (think scar). I had Gar until he was almost 18 and he was the best cat ever! I’ve posted about him before. I miss him all the time….

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        October 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm (8 years ago)

        I love the names Moonlight and Velvet, Heather. Too bad you couldn’t keep them all, but it sounds like Tiger and Garfield were meant to be with you.

        Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm (8 years ago)

      What an honor to be named after Joe Montana!

      Reply
  14. Ellen
    October 12, 2011 at 11:05 am (8 years ago)

    We got our tabby cat, Rocky, from a shelter about a year ago. They had named him “Turtle” as he had been injured across his back and was bandaged there for a while, thus a turtle shell. When we got him, he was under a year old and full of energy (his wounds had healed well), so for lack of a better idea, I started calling him “The Rocket.” That turned into “Rocky” and then “Rocky Raccoon” (after the Beatles song) and then a bit later, transposing the letters, “Rocky Rangoon.” And he remains Rocky, although I admit to occasionally calling him “That Bad Cat.” 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm (8 years ago)

      I think Rocky is a great cat name, Ellen.

      Reply
  15. Layla Morgan Wilde
    October 12, 2011 at 10:57 am (8 years ago)

    I’m writing a book about naming cats using numerology. It’s rare for cats not to have nicknames. Merlin who is often Merlie has recently become Mur Mur, Murry and Merlie Moo Moo Bearskin. Odin is often Odilicious because he’s so yummy.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm (8 years ago)

      I can’t wait for your book to come out, Layla. And Odin is definitely Odilicious!

      Reply
    • caren gittleman
      October 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm (8 years ago)

      Layla I just saw your comment and I CAN’T WAIT for that book to come out! I love reading about numerology, etc. and this sounds right up my alley!

      Reply
  16. maru
    October 12, 2011 at 10:54 am (8 years ago)

    For naming cats, I usually follow my heart. I tried to name them during their first 24 hours with me, usually I don’t regret the choice.
    I have lived with cats since I was a child, and there have been a bunch of “Tigres” (Tigers, Spanish speaking people here, remember) (the tabby ones) and “Negritos” (Blackies)… and others less common as “Peppina”.
    Lately, I have found more interesting to give them a combination of at least two names, names that are usual for humans… in unusual, but appealing to me, combinations.
    The eldest at home is Señor Woods (Mr Woods)… that came from a familiar anecdote related to the golf player Tiger Woods. We also call him Gordo (fat, cause he has always been overwheight) and I call him ‘my love’ pretty often.
    The middle one in my little pack is “Filiberto Mariano”, Fili for short.
    The little one is “Teodoro Ignacio”, Teo for short.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm (8 years ago)

      Great names, Maru. Following your heart is definitely the way to go.

      Reply
  17. Nancy
    October 12, 2011 at 10:20 am (8 years ago)

    So I thought I was quite clever when i named my grey kitten Silver Belle…however, I seem to be the only one who figured that out. She goes by Belle or Bellarella or fluffkin these days.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm (8 years ago)

      I never knew that’s how Belle got her name, Nancy. Of course!

      Reply
  18. Rachel
    October 12, 2011 at 10:08 am (8 years ago)

    So my two cats came with names I disliked (Ranga, which I found difficult to say, and Charlie Murphy, which I thought was just dumb for a girl cat), so I changed them.

    Tiger is my creamsicle man cat. He also goes by Tigery-Tig and Kitty-Bits and Cute Boy. Actually he mostly goes by Kitty-Bits.

    Miss Nubbins is my black tripod cat. She also goes by Nubby, Nubbilish, and Nubbikins (although that is really just too cutesy to use in public).

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm (8 years ago)

      I love the name Miss Nubbins – so cute!

      Reply
  19. Amy Sikes
    October 12, 2011 at 9:25 am (8 years ago)

    Casey was originally KC – for Kitty Cat (of course). But everyone kept spelling it wrong, so we just gave in. Her nicknames are Bunny (she has such soft fur, people kept saying, “She’s as soft as a bunny!”), Bun-bun, Kitten, Bug, and Booga-cat (from when we used to chase each other around the house).

    Squeaker got his name because, well, he squeaks! His nicknames are Eeper, Chirpy-boy, Squeaker-doodle, and Nutjob.

    Lucky is so named because he was VERY lucky as a stray, feral kitten that a pair of wonderful people saw him get hit by a van and took him (all the way across a toll bridge) to the emergency vet. Where I happened to be with Squeaker (and why he is no longer allowed outside). I kept telling the little kitten how lucky he was, then said, “That’s what whoever gets you should name you! Lucky!” Long story short, I wound up with the little guy, so the name stuck. His nicknames are Luckness Monster and Monster. And occasionally – ahem – Monster Cat Rally. (Yes, I’m very strange.)

    Zanzibar got his name from his former family, who at least had the sense to give him a dignified name. I call him Z-bear, Zanzi-bear, or just Z.

    I recently saw an article about a cat who was named Anikita, which apparently means “unconquered”. I thought that would be a great name to use for my next rescue kitty, assuming that’s a female.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm (8 years ago)

      I’m laughing about some of the nicknames, Amy – they’re wonderful! Nutjob and Luckness Monster are my favorites.

      Reply
  20. Vicki Cook
    October 12, 2011 at 8:51 am (8 years ago)

    I’ve always had difficulty naming my cats. If a cat comes with a name, I tend to keep it. Otherwise, I live with them for a bit and wait to see what sticks. Right now I have 4 cats: KC, Zelda, Boyzie and Sugar. I also have 4 kittens: Travis, Callie, Fluff and Albus.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm (8 years ago)

      I love all of these names, Vicki – for someone who has a difficult time naming cats, you did good!

      Reply
  21. Barb
    October 12, 2011 at 8:22 am (8 years ago)

    Avi’s given name was Avatar.
    If we had gotten a boy for our second cat, DH wanted to name him Jethro. As in Jethro Gibbs from NCIS. LOL
    So I named HER Ziva. (Another character from the show.)

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm (8 years ago)

      Great names, Barb!

      Reply
  22. Deborah Julian
    October 12, 2011 at 8:05 am (8 years ago)

    Our three cats were adopted from rescue organizations. We kept the names George and Billy. We were sure our adventurous George was named after Curious George.

    As a young cat Billy would eat just about anything he could find including such yummy things as paper and vitamin pills. We joked that he must be part billy goat.

    Our cat Sammy was found in Animal Control and was named Stretch by his rescuer because he flops down and stretches out in front of people when he greets them. We decided he needed a name as cute and sweet as he is and chose Sammy, keeping the S in recognition of his rescuer.

    How lucky was I to find these three boys!

    Deborah Julian
    http://www.DeborahJulian.etsy.com

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm (8 years ago)

      Wonderful stories. I especially love the billy goat origin!

      Reply
  23. Max the Quilt Cat
    October 12, 2011 at 7:44 am (8 years ago)

    Great post…. Did you ever see that book with TS Elliott and illustrated by Edward Gorey… Great illustrations.

    pawhugs, max

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm (8 years ago)

      I’ll have to check that book out, Max!

      Reply
  24. JaneA
    October 12, 2011 at 6:52 am (8 years ago)

    I named my first two adopted cats Sinéad O’Kitty and Siouxsie Mew, after two of my favorite female singers. From the day I brought them home, they were very talkative kitties (and their names fit the singers’ personalities, too) so the names just seemed to fit.

    My tabby boy Thomas came from the shelter with that name. He was three years old, so I figured he was used to it, so I embellished it a bit and now his full name is Thomas T. Bombadil, after the Lord o the Rings trilogy character Tom Bombadil.

    Dahlia came from the shelter with the name Blackie. How creative: a black cat named Blackie. (They’d also said she was a male.) After trying out different names associated with black, I went with Black Jack Davy, after a Gypsy character in an English folk song. But after she put her butt in my face and I realized she was definitely a girl, I went with Dahlia, vaguely after the character the Black Dahlia. That then turned into Dahlia P. Kittenface.

    Other cats I’ve had in my life with cool names were a pair of Siamese cross brothers named Donegal and Fitzpatrick; a giant love-muffin of a Maine Coon cross named Purr Bear; and my first cat teacher, a tiny calico named Iris, whose name was initially inspired by a black spot on top of her head that was shaped like an I.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm (8 years ago)

      Great stories, Jana. I especially loved hearing the story behind Siouxsie’s name, I’d been wondering about the origin!

      Reply

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