When it comes to questions fielded at Tabby’s Place, right up there with “don’t the cats fight?” and “how do you not adopt them all yourselves?” is this one: “Where do you come up with all of those names?”
Ah, there are as many answers to that question as there are quirks among the Tabby’s Place staff and volunteers. (And that’s a lot of answers.)
Actually, the overwhelming majority of our kitties come to us with their names already in place. These names have ranged from the quite accurate “Shy” to the colorful “Mango” to the inscrutable (yet adorable) “Mr. Silverman.” Most of the time, we’re no more inclined to change a cat’s name than we are to rename a new volunteer. After all, your name is your name, whatever your species. Plain or exotic, monosyllabic or quite musical, it’s your name.
Unless, of course, it’s too horrid to be worthy of you. From time to time, it’s necessary to intervene and rescue a feline from a name that is, quite simply, All Wrong.
Like “Cyclops” for a one-eyed sweetie.
Or “Grumpy” (despite its accuracy).
Or “Maggie”…for a male cat .
Then there’s the name-sharing dance. At one point last summer, if we didn’t do something, we would have had four Oreos. As anyone who’s ever been one of five Jennifers or Adams in a third-grade class can attest, this name-sharing is not much fun for anyone involved. And so, Oreo #3 became Reo, and Oreo #4 joined the Tabby’s Place witness protection program by becoming something else entirely.
We also try to avoid names that have passed through Tabby’s Place before, since each cat keeps a permanent place in our hearts and memories, name and all. That’s why the second cat named Magic became Mystic, and the second “Baby” became none other than our Grady.
All those pre-named lovies aside, we do get the chance to give many cats their first-ever names…and, truth be told, it’s a privilege we seize with gusto, and will even bicker over. (I distinctly remember a light-hearted-but-getting-heated recent argument over whether a certain kitten would become Maypo, Oatmeal, Cheerio or Waffle.)
T.S. Eliot wrote that every cat has no fewer than three names, but we’re humbly content to give our beloved residents just one. Besides, as Eliot said, the second name is known only to the cat. We’ll cede the giving of the third name to the cats’ forever families.
Naming the nameless is where our kookiness tends to come out, and nowhere is it more on display than with the “theme” litters of kittens. Now, we could do something cute and simple, like sticking to a letter of the alphabet and naming the kittens Aaron, Amy, Amber et al.
But no such simplicity is in store for the kittens of Tabby’s Place.
No, we’re more inclined to pick themes like…root vegetables (see last summer’s quartet of Parsnip, Turnip, Rutabaga and Butternut). Or Polish folks (Leon, Cyril, Paulina and Jacob), Italian food-related words (Rigatoni, Pesto, Tiramisu, Tortellini, Mangia and Meatball) or candy bars (Cadbury and Caramello). Or, my personal favorite, the Value Meal. I think it’s our affection for these sweethearts – okay, and our own oddness – that makes us lean towards the one-of-a-kind-wonderful in names.
I know this will come as a great shock, but some adopters would actually prefer that their new kitten not have such a quirky name as Turnip or Marmite. From these good folks, we often hear the anxious question, “Is it okay if I change his name?”
Of course it’s okay. The right name for your kitty is the name that will overflow with love from your heart, the name that will make his day as he hears it pour out of your mouth with affection. If that name is Kitty Cat or Grumpy or Oreo, more power to you.
Just know that, to us, he’ll always be Butternut, or Jodhpur, or Mr. French.