January 05, 2011
A Cat by Any Other Name

The kitten is adorable but nameless.

He is a five-and-a-half-pound fuzzball with white feet, a dark brown and white face split down the middle suggesting the two-faced mask of comedy and tragedy, a white flourish at the throat, and a dark gray-brown coat like something Aunt Bea sported in the fifties. From the back he looks as it he’s wearing his big brother’s pants. He is so beguiling that he has already charmed all of the many other animals that live in our house — three dogs, a three-legged cat and a demented bird. He may have sinister plans for the bird but that’s another story.

We are so hopelessly smitten by the little cat that we now live to be graced with a sign of his affection. He lives to eat and when not eating to leap about, roll on the floor, chase his catnip mouse, and break everything in sight including our hearts. The only problem is, he has no name.

Not that we haven’t tried to give him one. By now we have exhausted hours — weeks — in the effort. Agreement eludes us. Feelings have been hurt. Epithets have been traded. Violence has been threatened, despair proclaimed. So far, we can find no name to measure up to his superior self. And slowly, unavoidably, we draw closer to the conclusion that there may be no way to name the world’s most agreeable, most enchanting, most lovable, cat.

What would you have named Mozart if not Wolfgang Amadeus? How about Aristotle? Homer? Jesus? The name becomes the man. The man becomes the name. Can the same be true of a little cat? Days go by and a hundred names suggest themselves—all wrong.

Meanwhile, Little Anonymous has taken control of the household. He fears nothing and no one, especially humans, dogs and other cats. He partakes of everything with or without invitation. He is the self-appointed inspector general of all things. He has scrutinized, analyzed, tested, and tasted every object in the house, from stuffed pillows to frozen lasagna, from bougainvillea leaves to old slippers. Small things such as pens, pencils, silverware, peanuts, chopped carrots, and pearl onions are summarily batted to the floor where he feels they belong. They may be used later in a never-ending one-cat game of soccer/hockey, known to us as socky, or they may be consigned to dusty obscurity just out of reach under the sideboard.

We have tried a categorical approach to the naming challenge and this has proved no more productive than the random method. Just because the fur around his neck stands up from the rest of his coat and suggests an Elizabethan collar, it doesn’t mean that Marlowe, Macbeth or Faustus are good names for a cat. His peculiar ruff also acts as a divide between fur of two distinctly different colors, making it look as though he is two different cats, with the head of one screwed onto the body of the other. Somehow this oddity adds to his charm.

His bottomless appetite for mischief suggests another naming category and this has been extensively explored. Pestilence, Apocalypse, Gnat, Locust, Earwig, Rash, Plague, Scab, Abscess — all these names and many more have been considered and rejected as either over the top or not fully descriptive.

Yet another category considers the cat's appearance. Names like Freak, Beaver, Mink, Badger, Hedgehog, Rodent, and Scream, while charming, seem to fall short.

And so, the search goes on. We have observed that the lack of a permanent name does not seem to have affected the cat adversely, or in any way at all. His response to all the names we have tried has been the same: he does not respond; he does whatever he wants. We had the same problem with the dogs until we came up with the inspired idea to name them all Food.



Posted by Paul Duffy at January 05, 2011 04:37 PM
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Here's an idea from Anthony Burgess, Paul. It's from "Time for a Tiger:"

'She's a nice-looking dog,' said Fenella, patting the heavy matted black hair. 'What do you call her?'

'Her name's Cough,' said Nabby Adams apologetically. 'That's all she'll answer to. I suppose the other bloke was always telling her to get from under his feet, or something like that.'

'I don't quite see that,' Fenella said.

Crabbe explained in a quick whisper. Blushing, she saw.

Posted by: Aitch Jay on January 5, 2011 5:48 PM

"His bottomless appetite for mischief..."

I like Mischief!

Posted by: George on January 5, 2011 8:09 PM

I suggest "Yangyin".

Posted by: nameless coward on January 5, 2011 9:13 PM

i suggest Yasmin

Posted by: Old Vet on January 6, 2011 7:59 AM


Posted by: karen marie on January 6, 2011 8:41 AM

My suggestion is "Dionysia" as it seems to cover it all - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_of_ancient_Greece
The key to this are the masks on his face.

psst - we got cats here too... Fearless, Dottie, Inki & Clementine.

Posted by: darms on January 7, 2011 12:35 AM

Naming cats is a time wasting exercise - they never respond to their name. I suggest picking the word of something you're fond of - ie, a favorite: character, spice, food, color, season, sport, game, event, item, and so on. That way you'll always have a positive mental connection between the critter and something that pleases you.
Of course this goes directly in the toilet when you loose the critter, but that happens no matter how you name it.
Good luck. Sounds like a great cat.

Posted by: John Gall on January 7, 2011 12:19 PM

Name him Fuck or Shit or some other obscene word. Maybe an old name like Trollop or Strumpet. Then just call him cat except when you want to shock the neighbors or company. Beware of the animal rights folks though. They get offended at this.

Posted by: Buck on January 10, 2011 5:40 AM
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