The Naming of Cats

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.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I have always loved “The Naming of Cats” by T.S. Eliot. (Click the link to read the entire poem.) In fact, the whole book, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” is something any cat owner will enjoy. I’ve had my copy for well over 30 years, but who knew it would someday become blog material?

It’s always hard to think of names for cats. Foster’s was pretty easy, because he was “going to be” a foster kitty. Of course, as I’ve said before, the minute I saw him, on August 2, 2016, the whole “foster” thing was out the window. No way was I going to give him to anybody else! So this morning I was thinking about blog ideas and it occurred to me to write about the names of different cats I’ve had or known about.

Obviously I never met this guy, since he was my mom’s cat when she was in high school. His name was Smokey. My mom used to tell us about a cat she and her sister had named Timothy Titus. I don’t think there’s a picture of him anywhere but I’m sure he was cute.

I’ve been told the cat in this photo wasn’t Timothy Titus, but whoever he was, he was about as big as my mom was at the time!

Maybe Smokey was one of Bear’s long-lost ancestors. Bear was a massive and very “chill” Maine Coon cat my dad found, or maybe we should say Bear found my dad. Daddy was in his classroom one rainy Sunday morning, working on lesson plans when he saw Bear at the back door of the room. He let him in, and when it was time to go home, Bear followed Daddy all the way down the hall and out to his pickup. He then jumped into the truck and invited himself to come live at his forever home.

Which he did, and promptly became one of the “epic” cats of our family.

Of course, he wasn’t a bit spoiled, but then none of our cats have been….

Proof positive that cats really are liquid.

This is Rags, so named because when she was born (I think I was in third grade) I was reading a book about a spotted puppy named Rags. Rags was pretty much the cat matriarch of the family. She was in the first litter of kittens born at our house as we were growing up. Her mother was a striped tabby whose name was simply “Mama Kitty”.

No, this isn’t the poppy field scene from “the Wizard of Oz,” but it could have been. Daddy’s poppy patch apparently had a sleep-inducing effect on Rags, and who knows how many other cats.

Believe it or not, Rags lived to be 21 years old, (possibly 21 and a half). This was taken later in her life, and you can see one of her ears was disfigured. I don’t remember what caused it. She was also completely deaf for the last part of her life, but that didn’t keep her from ruling the neighborhood with an iron paw.

You’ve seen Scamper in “Pets From the Past, Part 1”, but wasn’t he just so cute? He was, I think, the largest cat I’ve ever had. Definite Maine Coon genes if you ask me.

He was also the one cat I’ve ever had who was constantly getting hurt, either from fighting (though he was neutered at 6 months) or from a (fortunately) former neighbor who used to shoot cats with a pellet gun, but we won’t go there. The problem with him was that we would never get him in the cat carrier, so after that first trip to be neutered, he never went back to the vet in his entire 11-year life span. One of the main reasons Foster is an exclusively indoor cat.

This is Scout in the front window. Like Scamper, Scout was an indoor-outdoor cat, but she lived to be eighteen. We got her as a very tiny kitten in the summer of 1998. There’s some information about her way back at the beginning of this blog in “The Way of Things.”

I’ve always liked gray and white cats. Scout was one of various ones I’ve had.

The face of a cat who wants some of your McDonalds “Filet of Fish”. When Scout would no longer take a bite of a filet of fish, I knew she was approaching the end of her life.

Punkin was one of everyone’s favorite gray and white kitties. I found him in the early 1980s at some apartments where I lived.

Just look at that face!

Heidi was my other memorable gray and white kitty. We were never sure, but we always thought Punkin was her father. At the time we thought he was too young to be neutered, but when Kjersti had kittens and they were all gray and white, we called him the “teenage father”.

Kjersti, like Rags, got her name from a character in a book I was reading. If I remember right, it was “Giants in the Earth” by Ole Rolvaag.

Here is Foster and Panda’s “cousin” Inky, who had a bit part in “Fun at Yosemite”. If you go back and read “Parallel Universe” you will see some amazing similarities between Foster and Inky’s lives.

This is “cousin” Tom Cat. Tom Cat met with a harrowing experience, which you can read about in “Cousin Tom Cat’s Adventure”. Aunt Gail has had many other cats over the years, most with very distinctive names. You do have to remember that she didn’t have all of them at the same time.

There was U-Haul, who was found by my brother-in-law at the U-Haul rental place once when they were moving. He got to ride to his forever home in the moving truck. No Toes had been declawed when he was found in a tree at a bus stop, hence the name.

This is Bellybutton, who had an umbilical hernia when they found him, and had to get it fixed by the vet. He later had to have part of his tail amputated due to an unknown injury.

Neighbor Buster was really a neighbor cat who liked to hang around in their yard.

I think Bubba and Little Guy were super cute.

Calvin kind of looks like Bubba at first glance.

Fena doesn’t look too happy here.

These might look like two photos of the same cat, but they aren’t. Look carefully: it’s Jasmine on the left, Maggie on the right.

According to the poem, you are responsible for giving your cat two 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.” Then you have to give them a special name: “A name that’s particular, and more dignified. Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular, or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?” But then, unbeknownst to you, your cat has a third name: “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.”

And in case you’ve ever wondered…

“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.”

13 thoughts on “The Naming of Cats

  1. What a lot of lovely cats! The naming of cats is certainly a serious business. Like characters, I find I have to wait for them to whisper their names to me. Luna could be the third ‘pea in a pod’ with Jasmine and Maggie. When we got her at about 4 weeks old, her colouring spoke of the moon and her nature seemed a little like Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter books!

  2. I LOVE this! Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful poem! I love all the cats in your gallery but wow, Bear, is the appropriate name for the Maine Coon, huh? And my Annie almost made to 21 just like Rags! Foster is the most adorable, of course, I wonder what his ‘real’ cat name is?

  3. All of them beautiful cats, I have no cat at the moment but I can tell you I am worried because when and if I walk into an animal shelter I just might walk out with a dozen cats but how would I feed them all? Anyway, I am considering adopting as soon as I can. Special hugs to Foster,

    1. Thanks, Sandra! I know what you mean about the animal shelter. I feel the same way. This is one of the few times I’ve been down to one cat myself, but I think I have my hands full with Foster (and Panda😂) Pets are so important for our emotional well being! 🐱🐼

  4. Bob Thompson

    Your collection of cats is really interesting! says Bob Thompson. Our family cats usually head only ONE name: Puff, Mittens with seven toes on all four feet, Junior her son, Tickie, my black Burmese and my brother’s white cat, Tockie (Tic and Toc).

    Re multiple names, we named our adolescent male Muscovy duck “William Dougly Drake” . . . “Billy” for short since he had a ‘bill’, not a ‘beak’, and, in honor of his kin “The Ugly Duckling”, “Dougly”, to boost his self esteem after someone abandoned him in the nextdoor ponding basin . . . just so he could adopt US by deceiving us by dragging his ‘broken’ (NOT) wing up the basin slope. And Drake . . . after Sir Francis Drake, of course, because he was often in ‘attack mode’ wanting to always to be picked up to sit on our lap.

    How ‘bout dat?

  5. Charlee: “So many cats! A life surrounded by purring is a life well lived indeed!”
    Chaplin: “Hey, Charlee, do we have two names?”
    Charlee: “I’m not sure. I mean, I know one of my names is Charlee, but do I have another one?”
    Chaplin: “Well rumor has it that your nickname is Skunk, so—”
    Charlee: “NOBODY CALLS ME SKUNK!!!”

    1. 🐼Panda: Uh-oh, looks like we started something in Oceanside…
      🐱Foster: Well, I don’t know if nicknames count as actual names. But, I can see where they get “Skunk”, because of they are black and white.
      🐼Panda: Don’t go there, dude!

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