Pet Talk: What's in a name?
T.S. Elliot wrote cats have three names: the one their mother gives them, the one their humans give them and their real name. The only name we ever know is the one we give to our favorite felines, and finding the perfect name can be quite challenging.
So I got in touch with several people I know who have adopted cats or who raise pedigreed cats and asked them to send me the perfect name for a specific cat and the story behind it.
When my husband and I first started rescuing, we kept our first 13 cats. We named No. 13 — an 8-year-old Siamese mix — Baker, for a baker’s dozen. It was the perfect name considering the circumstances. It was also at that time we realized we actually had to place the cats we rescued. For the next 10 years, whenever we saw Baker, we remembered our lesson and have adhered to it ever since.
More Than Chance
Every so often, Helping Paws will go into a city pound and take some of the cats whose time is up. One such time, I happened to see a beautiful little blue (gray) kitten, and even though I never take kittens, for some reason I was drawn to ask the pound to release him to me. I fully intended to place him through Helping Paws. Within 24 hours, this kitten came down with a serious disease and spent the next month at our vets. With a $1,000 bill I could not reconcile having Helping Paws pay, my husband and I paid personally and decided it was the kitten’s karma that made me take him out of the pound, knowing he would be euthanized if he had gotten sick there. Hence his perfect name, Karma, who is now a healthy 8-year-old cat.
Susan Hansen, an Oriental and Siamese breeder in Florida who also rescues, had a feral kitten born in her garage. As this kitten grew, she did nothing but hide, no matter what Hansen tried to entice her with. Hansen would go into the room at feeding time and call “Where are you hiding?” and the kitten (now a cat) would cautiously come to eat. Eventually, her name became Heidi. Another of her rescues was a stray found in the parking lot where she is employed — and because of where she was found, her name was ERISA (after the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974).
After a number of international winners, several people teased TICA president and All Breed judge Kay DeVilbiss that she had her Manx breeding program down pat. Her next kitten she chose to keep became Minusdetails Down Pat and went on to become TICA’s Best Cat internationally and highest-scoring cat ever. I guess that was the perfect name.
Abyssinian breeder Brenda Russo from Pennsylvania remembers a small kitten who was full of character and energy. This kitten could jump incredibly high, so high he seemed to defy gravity itself. Aradia’s Flying High Defying Gravity was an international winner last year.
TICA All Breed judge Vicki Jo Harrison from San Antonio is an Oriental and Siamese breeder. She was at a show and happened to see an adorable Tonkinese kitten. He had never thought of owning a Tonkinese but made an immediate decision to bring the kitten home. His name? Flash Decision, of course (she calls him Flash).
When Martha Kneen was about 7 years old living in Milford, her parents took her to pick out a kitten at a local farm. Martha remembers this group of kittens to be the homliest kittens she has ever seen (and that remains true some 60 years later). She didn’t want to hurt the people’s feelings, so she picked out a little black kitten with big bug eyes and named her Buggy. Buggy had a wonderful personality and turned out to be a great cat, but she always looked like a little black bug.
Harley DeVilbiss, TICA All Breed judge and British shorthair breeder from Austin, Texas, remembers his blue and white British shorthair female that sang in all the show rings, all the time. In fact, she never stopped singing. Her name? Etta James.
Ragdoll breeder Ken Staples from Woonsocket, R.I., told me the story of his cat, Nevaeh. Nevaeh seemed to appear one day out of nowhere because Staples did not have a pregnant cat (or so he thought). She was such a beautiful kitten, he considered her a gift from heaven (Nevaeh is heaven spelled backward).
Names are fun, and it is great when you find the perfect name that fits your pet. I loved hearing the stories and would like to do this column every three months or so. But for that I need your help. Please send me your stories about how you named your cat or dog (or fish or hamster) and why it is the perfect name. Send it to Rene Knapp, P.O. Box 476, Colchester, CT 06415. Include your name and city, and perhaps you will be in my next What’s in a Name column.
Contact Rene Knapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.