One of the first things you have to do when adopting a new cat is choose a name for your new feline friend. The new name will be with the little furball for many years to come, so it's time to put your thinking cap on and find the best possible name for your cat.
Why your cat's name matters
You may be wondering whether a cat can recognize his or her own name. That's actually a good question.
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It's hard to tell for sure what cats make of our speech patterns in general and of their names in particular. Many members of our site report that their cats do in fact recognize their individual names, even in a multi-cat household. They may not run to the owner when called - although some certainly do! - but subtle changes in their posture and focus of attention show that the cat has indeed heard and recognized his or her own name.
Of course, this does not mean that a cat perceives the name as a part of his or her sense of self-identity. More likely than not, your cat learns to recognize the name as the word you use when you want to draw his or her attention.
Moreover, your cat has no idea as to what that "name word" means in human language. There is zero risk of Kitty being offended by the meaning of any name you may choose.
So why does your cat's name matter?
It matters to you and to the people around you. Your cat's name can be an expression of your imagination and ingenuity as well as of the way you feel about your cat. And don't worry about choosing a funny and even slightly derogatory name. Depending on your own personality and the people around you, it's likely to be taken as what it is - an illustration of your sense of humor.
What makes a good cat name?
There are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best name for your new cat.
- Shorter is often better
Many owners recommend a shorter name - with only one or two syllables - as it's going to be easier for the cat to recognize.
A shorter name (or at least a short version of the name) might be a better fit for the cat's name tag or collar. While the important piece of information is always your phone number, many owners like to have the pet's name on the collar or tag. "Whiskerus Maximus" may be a tad too long for that.
- Ending the name with the "ee" sound A name that ends in an open sound - preferably "ee" - is probably easier for cats to recognize. There's not science to back this up though, but this nugget of folk wisdom is probably the reason for the generic "Kitty" name.
- Multi-cat household? Choose a unique sounding name If you have more than one cat try to keep things less confusing by choosing names with different sounds. Different sounds would make it easier for each cat to recognize his or her name.
- You should feel comfortable about the name Choose a name you'll feel comfortable sharing with your friends, co-workers, veterinarian and family members (including your Grandma!)
- Names are for the long term While you will likely create nicknames for your cat, it's best not to change the actual name down the road. So if you're naming a kitten, keep in mind he or she will grow up to be a larger cat. If you choose the name "Tiny" for your 3-week-old rescued orphan, remember that this baby could end up weighing 10 pounds (or more!). If you'll still be happy with a tongue-in-cheek Tiny, that's just fine!
What if your cat already has a name?
Unfortunately, some cats lose a home before they are adopted by another person. With a stray, the previous name may be forever unknown. However, if you adopt a cat from a shelter or from a current home, there may be a name attached to that cat already, a name which you may or may not like. So, is it ok to change that name?
Judging by discussions held in our cat forums, the cats themselves are perfectly ok with a name change.
When an adult cat is removed from his/her former home and put in a new setting, they need to adjust to many changes. The fact that their new human uses a different word when seeking their attention is usually not much of an issue. Members who adopted an older feline report that the cat usually picks up the new name within a few weeks.
If you're keeping in touch with whoever gave you the cat, you may consider asking for their permission or at least letting them know about the change. Not all previous owners will be happy about a name change, but you can try and explain your reasons. After all, as the new owner, you're the one who needs to feel comfortable with your cat's name. TCS members suggest keeping the old name as a middle name as a way to make the previous owner happy. Of course, it all depends on your relationship with that person.
Where to find inspiration for choosing a cat name
When naming your cat, pretty much anything goes. Feline names can reflect a cat's appearance or personality or perhaps your own taste in art, literature or even gourmet food. Junk food works too - Donut, KitKat or Oreo! Whatever takes your fancy - and you think you'll enjoy calling your cat down the road - can make a good name.
Let's take a look at some options suggested by our members. You can check this discussion to see even more suggestions.
By coat color/pattern
Many of the classic cat names are descriptive of feline coat patterns. Here are some ideas -
- Tabby (or Tabitha) for a striped tabby
- Freckles for a spotted coat pattern
- Cinnamon for a red or brown cat
- Mittens or Socks for a tuxedo coat pattern with white paws
- Patches for a calico patched cat
- Bianca or Blanche for a white female cat
- Smudge for a cat with a distinctive patch on its face or body
After a famous cat (real or fictional)
Many of our members have cats that were named after famous cats. Some are fictional, while others belonged to famous cat lovers.
- Sylvester (Looney Toons)
- Tom (Tom & Jerry cartoons)
- Crookshanks (Hermione's cat in Harry Potter)
- Victoria, Grizabella, Jellylorum and more (from the musical Cats, based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats)
- Catarina (Edgar Allen Poe's cat)
- Choupette (Karl Lagerfeld's cat)
- Delilah (Freddy Mercury's cat)
Quite a few of our members suggest names that follow a literary streak, whether the name of an author or a fictional literary character. Hemingway, Twain and Dickens were all famous cat lovers whose names would be fitting for a cat. Or just go with your own favorite author!
Many cat names celebrate the beauty and elegance of our feline friends. Here are some suggestions.
- Rani - queen in Hindu
- Bastet or Bast - the cat-headed Egyptian goddess
- Tarifa - treasure in Arabic
- Sundar (or Sundari for a female cat) - beautiful in Hindu
An International Take
Why not call a cat: "cat"? And to make it more interesting and exotic, just choose the word cat in a different language. Here are some popular options -
- Gatito in Spanish
- Matou in French
- Neko in Japanese
- Kedi in Turkish
- Kissa in Finnish
- Koshka in Russian
Names related to your cat's temperament/character
Choosing a name based on your cat's character could be tricky. After all, you may not know Kitty well enough right after adopting him or her. And with kittens, you can expect major behavior changes within months. Still, the name could stay as a reminder of your precious early days together. Here are some ideas for names based on a cat's characteristic or special trait.
- Hunter (hey, hunting toys counts too!)
- Tigger (for an extra bouncy kitten!)
Why not take a word and play with it to emphasis the feline element? Suggestions include -
So, how to choose the best name for your cat?
Just like parents to a new baby, you could soon find yourself overwhelmed with options! There are web pages out there listing hundreds and even thousands of potential cat names. Not to mention your own ideas and thoughts.
So what can you do?
Here's a suggestion - Get feedback from other cat lovers! Tell us about yourself and your kitten or cat in the cat forums and ask members to help you choose the purrfect name for your new feline friend! You can get suggestions or even post a poll with your favorite options!