T.S. Elliott had it right in his famous poem: the naming cats is a difficult 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 some wonder whether it’s a good idea to change a cat’s name, especially if the cat is an adult who responds to her given name.

Allegra came to me with her name, but I changed Ruby’s.

I chose to keep Allegra’s name because it fits her joyful and happy personality to a tee.

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. I chose Ruby because ruby is a heart chakra stone, and it reflects her exuberant loving spirit perfectly. Ruby was about nine months old when I adopted her, and it didn’t take her long at all to respond to her new name.

I think changing a cat’s name is a very individual decision and depends entirely on the cat’s background and personality. I probably wouldn’t change a senior cat’s name, but I don’t think it’s a problem with a young adult cat, and definitely not with a kitten.

When you adopted your cats, did you change their names, or did you keep the names they came with?

52 Comments on Changing a Cat’s Name

  1. Please help!

    My mom is a veterinarian, and her client came in with a feral cat and her kittens. There were 4 kittens, and they were brought in for eye problems. The mother wouldn’t let them near her kittens, so they had to trap them.
    2 of the kittens were okay, so they were released with their mother.
    The other 2 had eye problems. Especially the tabby. A few of the workers would have them, but it was agreed that we could foster them.
    Of course, that was when we thought they were both girls. Oops.
    Anyways, we ended up fostering them, and my mom choose the name Helen, for Helen Kellar, and Homer, for the famous blind cat Homer.
    Helen is blind and Homer can see out of one eye. My mom choose these names, so I agreed. We knew it would be hard to foster them, as we always get attached. Seeing as we have 2 dogs and 4 cats, we couldn’t keep them. I’m not even sure it’s legal. Lol. Anyways, it was agreed that they would get into homes before school. But owners looked at them and they couldn’t. And we grew attached to them. Even if we wanted to keep them, we have a male cat, Simba, and seeing as Homer was a boy, there was no way!
    But the cats warmed up to them. Meggie in particular, a 3-4 year old Russian Blue, really grew attached. She’s like their mother!
    She eats their food, uses their litter box… She practically lives in their room. And Simba, to everyone’s Suprise, gets better with them everyday! I never thought he would be this good when they aren’t even spayed and neutered! The problem is Athena. She is our youngest member (Other then the kittens) and when we first introduced her, she seemed curious! She was meowing to hem, which we assumed was good. She is pretty skittish, so we didn’t expect her to warm up quickly.
    But we also didn’t expect her to get worse. While every cat got better, she just got more and more scared of them everyday. Of course, when they are spayed and neutered, especially Helen (because she’s a female), she might do better. She seems really curious, but she just gets terrified.
    Anyways, my mom stopped looking for homes. We started talking about them in the future. One thing led to another.
    They are Homer and Helen.
    They are a part of my life now.
    We don’t foster pets.

    And then my mom starts bothering me about their names. She says, “I hate the names Homer and Helen!”
    I say “Your the one who picked them!”
    She says that she didn’t know we would have them so long or she wouldn’t choose those names. Are they that bad? I like them! I don’t wanna change their names! Whenever I hear the word Homer or Helen, I think of them. The names are them.
    I don’t know what to do. She says that no one likes the names and their old fashioned or something, but I don’t care. I want to keep their names. Besides, their used to them now. I know, I could change their names if I wanted to. But I don’t.
    If she really didn’t like them, then she shouldn’t have chose them.

    What am I supposed to do? I honestly don’t know why I feel this way, but I do. Please help.

    Whoa. What did I just do? Sorry, I randomly spam my thoughts when I feel troubled by accident. I may as well post it. You can read it if you want! Anyways, thanx and bye!!!

  2. When I got my tortie she was a kitten, a stray with no name, wild and free spirited. I named her Athena the goddess of wisdom and courage. It fit till she passed away.

  3. Our black cat came to us as Bubbles. I looked at her and knew that wouldn’t fit her personality. Just something about it didn’t fit.

    While my better half was recovering from a long illness we used to watch the show Charmed. One of the character’s name was Pipers. We started with that. Perfect for a black cat. We then wanted honor his first black cat, Samantha. But I wanted to also honor my first black cat that lived over 20 years. So we added to Piper and she became Piper Samantha Midnight. We continued to giggle when we thought about all those pedigree dogs with 6 names. So we decided to call Piper Samantha Midnight Began Jones I.

    Now that he is gone, not only is it one of my favorite memories of him but I think back on the times when I call her by her full name. Usually it’s when she’s done something that she isn’t supposed to be doing! I don’t have to raise my voice, all I have to do is say her full name, and she gives me that “Sorry Mom” look. 🙂

  4. We adopted a 8 yr old cat from a shelter last year named Patches, after a week we felt the name really did not suit her and had several ncknames for her but Midge just seemed to fit (she’s very small and cute). She responded quickly to it and seems to like it and it fits her so well. Our other cat came to us as Ida Mae and has always been Ida Mae. I find that it takes us a week or more to learn a cats personality and find a name that feels right, it maybe the name they came with it may not. Often I think that a cat comes when it feels like it anyway no matter what you call it :)!

  5. When I adopted Holly, she was 18 months old and I didn’t get to find out her other name since her owner had died. When I adopted Tigger, we just kept his name because his previous owner is a friend of mine. Holly has never really responded to her name any more than she responds to me calling her brother’s name.

  6. The cat I’ve had the longest I got from a breeder when she was 16 weeks. She’s a Snow Bengal with these pretty blue eyes and very stoic beauty. The breeder had her named Miley, which was not an ugly name, but not one I loved the sound of. So I named her Willow after the delicate looking yet strong and resilient Weeping Willow tree. It fits her better than I could ever imagine.

    My boyfriend came with two cats. Sam is a brown spotted Bengal and his name was chosen by Evan’s grandfather with whom Sam had lived with before he had to move to a nursing home. Its a good name and it suits him well.

    Tibby is a chocolate point Siamese who also came with my boyfriend. He was once Evan’s friend’s Grandmother’s cat until she passed away. His name is really Tibet, however My boyfriend doesn’t like it much so calls him Tibby and he responds to it just fine. Tibet is still what is on his vet documents, name tags etc.

    Kai is actually a Shiba Inu but since we were discussing renaming, I thought I’d throw her story into it. She was a rescue from an organization who named her Honey when they took her from the shelter euthanasia list. Since she’s an Japanese dog, we thought we’d choose a Japanese name and called her Kae-Dami which is the name for an extra ball of noodles when ordering ramen noodles at an traditional ramen house. We call her Kai for short spelled phonetically rather than traditionally since people have enough trouble just saying it (its pronounced like “hi” only with a k instead of a h).

    And last but not least is Autumn, a tortie calico cat who was originally named Ziva by her old owners, then christened Daphne by the rescue organization and finally named after the time of year with all the beautiful colors in her fur. She is slow at getting her new name but she didn’t respond to either of the other names she supposedly had so I never felt guilty.

    There you have it!

  7. Thank you! It will take time for them to get fully socialized to each other, but each day gets a little better. Really enjoying reading everyone’s posts here; so interesting how similar the process of choosing a pet name can be to choosing a human child’s, lol!

  8. I posted earlier about how my former shelter kitten got her name, Saffron. Saffie is the nickname of my lovely, smart, part-Bengal orange tabby girl. She’s two now, but was four months old when I adopted her from an excellent local shelter.

    Well, in the last week, my Saffie has acquired a little sister! She’s a beautiful little Siamese, a rescue under a year old. In her previous home, her name was Scout; a cute name, but in my mind more suited to a puppy, lol. I grew up with Siamese, and my mom’s tradition was to give Siamese an Asian name, as they are an Asian breed. I thought a lot about her new name, did some research, and decided to name her Aiko. In Japanese, Aiko is a female name, and literally translates to “love child”. A close interpretation is “beloved child”. The current Japanese royal family has a young daughter, a princess named Aiko! I feel it’s a perfect name for her, and my little princess is already getting used to it. As I did with her big sis Saffie, her former name is now her middle name, lol.

  9. When I adopted my 12-year-old purebred Siamese he was called Hoover – apparently because he ate a lot and was a little fat. I changed his name to Benedict which is much more suited to the little prince that he is. Although I only call him that when he’s been naughty, he has a hundred other nicknames too!

  10. I’ve always picked the names for my cats – whether wandering strays, adoptions, or cats I have gotten from a breeder. I think probably the only time I would not change a cat’s name is if it was an elder senior that came to me for whatever circumstances.

    I love Ruby’s name and the story behind it!

  11. I kept Wilson’s name. He was about a year old when I adopted him. He knew it, I liked it, and it fit him. Amara was originally Rexie. I didn’t really care for it and she was just a kitten who came from a fairly large shelter. She was responding to her new name in no time.

  12. I recently took in a foster cat and a volunteer had already given him a name. Since he’d only had the name for a day, I changed it to something I thought suited him better. And like you said, my husband and I spent a lot of time on choosing the right name! We wanted something that would fit his personality and be appealing to adopters.

    We settled on Tumbler. He’s a big guy and spends time rolling around on his back asking for tummy rubs. We think the name fits him perfectly. Hopefully he finds a home soon. He’s an awesome cat!

  13. I re-name all animals with impunity if the name they come with doesn’t suit them. I haven’t had any complaints. I’m out in the country and sometimes the animals just show up — young, adult, or old, and in those cases I have no idea what the original name was in the first place. It doesn’t seem to phase the cats or dogs at all. They are happy to have a new home.

  14. Princess, my calico, was named Samantha before I adopted her. I adopted her from my vet. As I was waiting to pay the adoption fee the lady ahead of us said she looked like a princess (as all calicos do). We already had a Queenie cat so we decided to go with the lady’s recommendation and named our calico Princess We even bought her a pink collar with fake rhinestones after we adopted her. She has been our Princess ever since. We are ruled by royalty. 🙂

  15. When I rescued my babies from the pound, the male (over 1 year old and all black) was Pacino and the female (probably around 8 months and also black) was something because I can’t even remember her name. I had always wanted an animal named Fizgig so she became Fizgig and he was Max and it just wasn’t really doing it for me. After a week, he became Fizgig because he would walk around the house chirping for her. She became Twitch because for the first week, she would sleep on my chest at night and she would twitch while she dreamed.

  16. I agree if it is an older cat not to change a name. I have changed names on my rescue cats with no problems. They weren’t really responding to the name, so the point was moot to me. That, and I liked my choices better. Currently we have Bixby, named for Bill Bixby, who is 15lbs of muscle and love. We also have our very dainty and sinuous, Brianna. Both are solid black. Easy to tell apart. Bixby stalks the house looking like a panther, while Brianna is poetry in motion. I have never had such a graceful as well as loving cat before. To paraphrase a quote, ” if you wish to see true ballet: watch a cat in motion.”

  17. I was the only cat that had a name before the mom adopted me. At the shelter, my name was Mister. But the mom liked more human names (like Wally…Zoey). I’m a polydactyl, so the mom named me after Ernest Hemmingway who was known to have lots of poly cats. The mom thought “Ernie” fit me purrfectly! And it didn’t take me long to learn my new name.


  18. I’ve never adopted a cat from a shelter because somehow strays and ferals always find me first, and they come to me nameless. 🙂

    However. . .I once named a cat Shelley and then later changed it to Bambi because Shelley didn’t fit her.

    AND, I had to re-name another cat that I was calling “Aretha” when I found out he was a male. Now his name is RuPawl because he did a good job of hiding his boy parts when he came into my life. 🙂

  19. This is such a fun topic!

    Katie & Waffles both came to us as kittens. Katie’s shelter name was Misty. I really wanted her to have a human name. A girly name because she’s so pretty and ladylike. Gloman thought of Caterina (spoken with a Russian accent) so it became Katie for short.

    Waffles’ shelter name was Jackson. Some people already know that I had fallen in love with a “character” cat I named Waffles on my blog. So much so that I desperately wanted a REAL Waffles. I guess it was meant to be because the little guy I adopted is goofy, silly, and full of trouble. He is SO Waffles.

    And for both, it only took a few weeks for them to learn their names.

    : ) Glogirly

  20. My very first cat was named squeeky. She was rescued at a shelter and was an older cat so we did not change her name. I did not like the name but just found nicknames that were just perfect for Squeeky.

    Since then I picked my cats names. I have only had four cats that were adopted when they were older. The rest have all been kittens of different ages.

    Out of 14 cats three were mine alone. The other 11 have been Tom and my cats together During this period with all of those cats we only change one cats name together. We had adopted a four month kitten from a no kill shelter who was named cry baby. We agreed right away that this was not a good name for him in any way. It did not take long and we decided that Tiger was an approperate name for him. It was based on his looks and how he just responded so well to the name when we were trying out names.

    He was must loved till the day he died at age 14.

    Mary Beth, Tom, and our fur kids.

  21. Aloha! Lauren here again. I gave Rajah his name when he came to me. His previous name was cheese whiz! I was not about to use it. It didn’t fit his personality. And besides, he had the tiger stripes. It only took him a few days before he started answering to Rajah. Once more, he knows where his name comes from! I can’t say Aladdin without him getting all excited! And he absolutely loves Jasmine! LOL!

  22. Magic came to us quite unexpectedly & was named by my son. Kiana Marie was named Betty when Erin got her, which was too plain for our sleek black kitten. Tank was renamed because his daddy was a Marine in the Tank division. At 16 pounds he has certainly grown into his name. Willow is a long hair torti with a graceful stride. Rescue called her Queenie…never knew her actual first name. The latest two kittens are Bell & Cassie previously known as Layla & Lelu.

  23. My dogs and cats are all rescues. Of those who came with names, I can only think of one I changed (from Sparky to Charlie). I’ve named quite a few who didn’t have names or whose name was unknown. We tend to give our companion animals people names, which I guess says a lot about how we feel about them.

    Names should all be positive. I think creative names are part of the package that promotes adoption of a shelter animal. I cringe at some of the names of animals that are surrendered to the shelter. They’re often very sad and reflect so much about how the animals were probably treated (and valued).

  24. Minnie was actually named Mini when I adopted her, because she was the runt of the litter. I was planning to change it but after I brought her home, I realized she already responded to Mini – so, she became Minnie Minette Minerva Minneapolis Minnehaha. And at just over a year old, she’s no longer so mini, but somehow Minnie still fits 🙂

  25. When my Husband & I were dating we adopted a 9 week old Calico kitten as a gift for me. The first day we had her I named her Spicer because that was the name of his beloved cat my hubby had years before. I thought I was being nice by naming her after his special baby. turns out it made him kind of sad. So.. our favorite TV show at the time was Charmed and his favorite character was Phoebe played by Alissa Milano. So Phoebe it has been for 6 years now. Since then we have 3 more kitties totaling 4. We named the other 2 girls Paige & Piper and then our male is Cody Bear. But the girls are all named from the Charmed show about 3 sisters that are good witches.. Phoebe,Paige & Piper 🙂

  26. I think Ruby is a better name for her. My female, Princess, came from the humane society. They said she came there with that name so I decided to keep it. It does fit her. She is tiny and acts like a princess, not wanting to play with my one cat Cisco. She hisses at him when he comes near her, lol. She is a love.

  27. Lucy was originally Dixie since she was found in back of a Winn Dixie store. It just didn’t fit her and I always liked the name Lucy. Rikki was originally Claudia. Pretty name but seemed so formal and elegant. I wasn’t planning on going with the I Love Lucy theme,. But she was such a little spitfire I changed it to Rikki which suited her better.

    Lucy was a young kitten and Rikki was a baby kitten when changed.


  28. The tuxedo kittens from Smudge’s litter that spring were originally distinguished by their noses : Schwarzenase (Schwarzie) with a black nose, Pinky with a pink nose, Booger with a black nose and black fur off one side of it. I then decided Booger needed a better name, so he became Butler. At the same time, Pinky became Parker.

    Smudge’s next litter featured two grey kittens, who were originally Whiteneck and Greyneck. That became too hard to tell apart, so they became Friendly Cat and Pretty Lady. Friendly Cat knew his name, and when I was asking another kitten “Where’s your grey friend?”, Friendly Cat showed up.

  29. My prior cat Sashi was 9 years old and was brought to the shelter by her prior owners so she had had that name her whole life. I loved it’s uniqueness and kept it.

    Tara was a stray and the shelter named her Kelly. There was no way that was special enough a name for such a beautiful tortie so I named her Tara because of my love for Gone with the Wind…and I liked the sound of Tara the Tortie 🙂

  30. Oh – and there’s the situation I had last year adopting a cat who came with the name Shadow. When I was a child, my first cat’s name was Shadow. I imagine a number of grey cats are named Shadow…

    This cat had clearly been loved and cared for (his owner went into the military and her father couldn’t care for her two cats – the other was all white and called Snowball). I don’t know how associated he was with his name, but I couldn’t have a second Shadow, so we thought about it for a long time and talked it over with the cat. The final verdict was Clifford. But he likes to be called Cliffy.

  31. As a shelter volunteer, I can tell you that often times the vet techs pick a name off a list to name a cat or dog. It normally has nothing to do with the personality, just sheer volume and the animal needs a name. Lets see of my 7: Heffernan was Jupiter (adopted at 30 lbs–he was big as a planet). Murphy was our first foster failure–adopted at 10 and had know his name all his life–he’s an orange persian and it suits him. Junior was Chester–didn’t like the name at all for him. He’s a Junebug for sure. Zosia (Zo-sha) was never given a name at the shelter she was at–she was just a number. 🙁 She’s an exotic shorthair and needed a fancy name! Lennon was another foster failure–the shelter named him and we had no intention of keeping him, so never thought to change it. 7 months later we adopted him and he was a Lennon! Randolph came to us in December. His mom never intended to keep him, named him after the street he was found on. We rehomed him for her, and he’s 2 now and knows his name. Finally there’s Bessie Lou. She was 1 of a litter of 4 foster kittens–her 3 siblings didn’t survive. She wore more of her food than she ingested and had chronic tummy trouble. She was filthy–she was a messy Bessie! Somehow that morphed to Bessie Lou (aka Bessie Lou who!).

    • I was standing under a kennel in my local shelter four years ago, when a long, white
      front paw reached out and pulled my hair. I looked up and saw only pure white.
      It reminded me of the scene in the movie “Dr. Zhivago” when the snowstorm
      is raging. So, needless to say, shelter Patrick, a Russian White by the way, became
      Zhivago on the spot.

      The technique I used to “change” his name at 6 months was to whisper it in his
      ear while he was eating and or purring in addition to saying it each time he received
      a treat. It worked quickly!

  32. I have no problem changing a cat’s name at any age – especially if they come from less than wonderful circumstances or were just named at the shelter and have no association with that given name.

    A name should fit (or be empowering for the cat, if needed). And the cat should like it. And I think the human should make an effort to teach the cat their name – too many people don’t bother with that last step, I find.

    I was talking to a rescuer about names and she was of the opinion that “new home, new name, new start, all good”. Ha. I just realized that my mother legally changed her name some decades ago because she had come from an abusive home and had actually been named after one of her father’s girlfriends (by her mother – some kind of attempt to punish her husband. These were not pleasant people). The name had always rankled her and was never associated with love and family, so she chose her own and divorced that part of her life entirely. Perhaps a new name helps some cats more forward, too?

  33. Of the current kitties, the oldest was named Bootsie by the rescue because she had white paws. I changed her name to Leah before I took her home. No cat of mine has a pedestrian name like Bootsie and I love the name Leah. The next one was named Lemma by the rescue (where do they get these names?) and I was afraid she was used to it so I shortened it a bit to Emma. The next little waif was off the street and had no name. She was called Tweety for a brief time by her rescuer. When I knew I was going to keep her I thought for a long time and decided to name her Madelon, a beautiful name for a beautiful cat. The next one is another street waif and I named her Elinor. The youngest was named Lili by the people who had her and I expanded it to LiliBeth.

    I think I agree that a cat who is used to a name should either keep the name or some part of it.

  34. When we adopted Sanchez from a friend, we kept her name despite my dislike for its origins! We don’t know what our Senior stray was named, but Anakin quickly came to fit him for a number of reasons. As he’s virtually deaf it doesn’t matter what we call him as long as we feed and love him!

  35. My first cat, “Bobo”, came to me as a stray (he was about 6 months old at the time), so I don’t know what his name had been before.

    When I adopted Cody (he was about 11 wks old) his name was “Prince”….I didn’t love the name and had always loved the name “Cody” and I have a “thing” for names that begin with the letter “C” (gee, I wonder why? lol)….I named him Cody. My husband thinks I should have left his name “Prince” because we have super “regal looking” dining chairs that Cody has ALWAYS sat on, he is a “tree dweller” who looks down on his “Kingdom”…….so…..I call him “Cody, The Cat Formerly Known As PRINCE” 🙂

  36. I change a pet’s name the first time I meet/see them….especially if they are rescues or come from abusive situations. I don’t want them associating me with their past life experiences. Often my friends call my cats by different names as well and they recognize these numerous names as their own.
    I really think they respond to our voices more than the combinations of sounds that make up their names. One of my cats responds to anything ‘food related’… ‘Dinner’ and ‘butterball’ are two examples of names where she’ll appear from the furthest closet like a genie from a bottle.

    • Totally agree! I think they are the way you just describe 🙂 I call mine by nicknames all the time and they always come! Purrsss to you, Dorothy!

  37. The boys did not have names when they came to live with me. No change of name for the three of them.
    The eldest was living with his mom and sisters in a foster home, and no one has given him a name. I found the middle one under a bench near where I lived, he was a tiny black thing that followed me the moment I got close to him. I found the youngest in a shelter, but they did not give names to the ‘refugees’.

  38. Kitshka was named Marshmallow when the humans adopted her. Of course everyone thought Little K was a male but still, the human thought it wasn’t her real name. They had much difficulty to find a male name, until they decided for Frisco.
    Of course, a visit to the vet and they found out K was a mademoiselle kitty so… they changed it and found her real name, Kitshka =^.^=

  39. Most of my cats have been strays and didn’t come with a name – although one neighborhood cat I named Breckin and later found out that his “real” family had named him Gucci. However, he will always be Breckin to me.

  40. I adopted my female orange tabby/part Bengal from a local shelter when she was four months old. Her shelter name was Shell. I felt a more apt name for her was Saffron, as her lovely, soft fur is the color of the spice. But I kept Shell as her middle name, to honor the great shelter she came from, and her time there in their care. 🙂

  41. I only changed the name of one of my cats. Josh came with the name Schroeder. He is so NOT a Schroeder. But, I kept the “sh” sound in case he was used to it. He’s definitely Josh.

  42. Raleigh was 7 when I adopted her. She had enough adjustments to make without adjusting to a new name. Coco’s name suited her, so I kept it. Calypso’s shelter name was Callie, but it was too plain for such an exotic little girl.

  43. I personally wouldn’t change a cat’s (or dog’s) name if they are over 1 years old when I get them, no matter how much I hate the name. That’s just how I was brought up. I might however tweak the name. IE: A few years ago I almost adopted a dog named Beux. If I had adopted him I would’ve changed the spelling to BO because I believe in spelling names like they sound lol!

  44. Pippy the Feline Yogini was originally named Baby Girl when she was rescued from the shelter. Then her named was changed to Adelie by the rescue group that rescued her. After we fostered her for about 10 mintues, we decided to keep her and started calling her Pippy. That name has stayed with her till this day! Meow and Namaste! Paige ~ Pippy’s human

    • I think they know we’re calling them, no matter the name is! LOL! A friend of mine (who I gave a kitten to, borned from my own cats) calls hers by different names, nicknames in fact, and her cat always knows she is the who her momma is calling! 🙂 And when she doesn’t want to come, only thing she have to say is “tuna” or the short for tuna, and she comes right away! 🙂

      That’s why I think they, being so clever, they always know when someone is talking about them, or calling them. I sometimes call mine by nicknames too and… they know I’m talking to one of them three. Have a nice day!

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