Choosing a name for another living creature is a challenge. While the thought of naming a child is daunting, there are at least some parameters to guide the choice. Perhaps there is a traditional family name handed down through generations. Maybe you’ll be naming the child after a cherished family member or friend. In any event, unless you are a celebrity trying to be trendy, you’ll be choosing a human name for your child. Naming a pet is an entirely different situation. Sure, you can use human names, but you don’t have to. You can choose any word you want without fear that the other pets in the neighborhood will tease your furry child about a strange name.
On the ride to Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary, to meet a cat named Oolong, Oregano and I began discussing potential names for the soon to be newest member of our family.
“Oolong is kind of cute,” I said, “but, I think it would be a better name for a Siamese cat, not a tabby. He’s only been Oolong since he arrived at Tabby’s Place six weeks ago. I doubt he’s attached to the name.”
Oregano agreed with me and suggested Earl Grey.
“I like the idea that we’re sticking with the tea theme, but that’s not going to work. We’ll wind up calling him Earl which makes me think of a moonshine sipping, banjo strumming man sitting on his porch somewhere deep in the Appalachians.” I said.
“That was pretty specific. Do you know someone named Earl?” he asked laughing at my reasoning. “We’ll wait until he decides if he wants to adopt us. If he does, we’ll see what his personality is like and then we’ll be able to figure out a name.” He sounded confident that we’d come up with the right name.
When we entered the suite where Oolong was living, he came right over to us and immediately began the interviewing process by rubbing our legs. Once we were comfortably seated on the floor, he made sure to investigate both of us thoroughly by climbing into our laps. He tested our reactions by playing with toys. When he started purring, we knew we had been adopted.
On the ride home, Oolong sat quietly in the back seat while we resumed our naming discussion.
“We already have a cat named Linus. It might be fun to use another Peanuts character and name him Schroeder, Linus’s piano playing friend,” I suggested.
“I doubt he can play the piano,” Oregano said.
“Me, too, but it’s a cute idea to have Linus and Schroeder,” I said. “Let’s give it a day and see how we like it.”
Whatever name we choose, it must be a name we won’t mind saying a hundred times a day. I like to try it out in sample sentences I’m destined to say, “Schroeder, don’t drink out of the toilet.” “Get down from the top of the refrigerator, Schroeder.” “Schroeder just had a hairball. Whose turn is it to clean it up?
It was a weird name for a cat and didn’t even last for the full 24 hours. Back to the drawing board we went. We scrolled through lists and lists of baby names on-line. That wasn’t working. His markings and charm had an undefinable quality, so undefinable in fact that we weren’t able to name him.
Oregano noticed that the cat looked like he was wearing glasses. “Maybe we can think of a literary name for him,” he suggested.
And so we began searching on-line for famous literary cats. You’d be surprised how many cats are in literature, but their names were horrible!
When friends asked for the name of our new furry family member, I didn’t have an answer for them and kept referring to him as, “He who shall not be named.” This was how the characters in the Harry Potter books referred to the evil Voldemort, but our little tabby was definitely not evil. I tried to think of a way to make the name less threatening.
I approached Oregano with a new name suggestion, “How about Mortie?” I explained how I arrived at this name. “It’s literary and sounds cute.”
“Mortie? Hmm… sounds like some old Jewish guy in Florida with white shoes and a white belt. I’m not sure I like it,” he said crinkling his nose at the name, “but, we can try it out for 24 hours and see if it suits him.”
During the 24 hours of Mortie, Oregano brainstormed names that meant calm, peaceful and easy-going to match our new kitty’s personality. He compiled an eight page list as a Word document and presented it to me.
“Manfred?! Alastair?! Paxton?! Are you serious? They’re a bit pretentious for a tabby, don’t you think? Those are names for a butler, not a cat,” I said in disgust as I continued flipping through the sheaf of papers he had handed me.
“Finn, Brodie and Zen? Sounds like he is destined to become a professional surfer,” I said putting the kibosh on those names.
“Yeah, some of those names don’t really work for a cat. I was just brainstorming and listing all the names I came across hoping one would work,” he admitted.
“Calum?! Wasn’t that Superman’s real name?” I asked.
“No. That was Kal-El,” he shook his head and continued, “Calum means dove – a symbol of peace. He’s a calm, peaceful cat. I thought it might work.”
I didn’t agree. The brainstorming continued and we began referring to our nameless cat as new guy.
Helpful friends called each day to ask the nombre du jour and offer suggestions. After four days and three different names, we were worried our little guy was going to develop an identity crisis. Oregano suggested using a funny old man name. Back to the baby name websites we went only this time we were searching for names that were popular 100 years ago.
Oregano looked up from the screen, “What about Otis?”
“Otis? You thought Mortie was bad, but you like Otis? Are we naming him after the elevator company, the singer or the Greek word for one who hears well?” I asked.
“Greek word? What? No. None of the above,” he just looks like an Otis.
“Exactly what makes him is Otis-esque?” I asked.
“Otis-esque. That’s not even a word.” He rolled his eyes at me.
“It’s not, but you know what I mean.” I needed to be convinced about the name Otis.
Just then, the cats came tearing through the room chasing each other at full speed. We both yelled, “Otis, stop chasing Linus.”
We looked at each other, “Yep, that works. Otis it is!”