The naming of cats is a difficult matter.

Hello, all.  I am going to try to write this concisely and focus on names, but am in immense grief and it's difficult.  In mid-August, I took my beloved, precious, absolutely health and supremely happy 8-year-old cat Grendel to vet for a routine teeth cleaning. She did not recover normally from the anesthesthesia and died a week later from complications.  I am devastated.  This is especially hard to bear as my father died only a few months ago.  Just when I had found my bearing again this happened am I am in ground zero again.  And also totally not ready to get another cat.... except that my heartbroken little girl is absolutely desperate for a new kitten NOW.  I am not in a state to make good decisions, and she is just too young.  I am now absurdly fixated on not one but THREE cats (1 kitten, 2 adults) and am not sure what to do here.  I'm a happily single American mom who lives in Southeast Asia, and I've always said that I need to stick to 1 kid + 1 cat because that's what I can manage in an airport!  So this focus on three cats - I don't have the heart to choose one.  I know the sensible thing to do is let my six-year-old daughter pick out a kitten and name it, and/or unilaterally choose the adult cat that I know would be a total ragdoll (and again, let her name it), but my own emotions are running high.  I am a bit hung up on the name, in part because I have always been supremely smug that Grendel has the perfect cat name: it's the monster in Beowulf, and by coincidence is remarkably similar to the word for "mouse" in the country we live in.  So it's freaking hilarious on all levels.  I am also hung up on cat looks, but that's a tangent for this Forum.  I will say that my daughter wants a calico just like Grendel, and I absolutely cannot bear that.  The new cat must look different.  And I want a perfectly cleverly brilliant cat name, as opposed to kid cat names (a la Bubbles).

Like many of the regulars here, I have a medley of imaginary pets in my head, all with names: different names for different kinds of cats, that sort of thing.  For example, someday I will have a ginger cat named Fergus, but that name doesn't work on cats who are not orange because Fergus is a Scottish name and there are lots of redheads in Scotland that evokes ginger cats.  (None of my three cat candidates is orange.)  My friends are telling me that if it's important to me, I can manipulate and/or bribe my daughter on choosing cat, cat name, etc and that I need to take care of myself here.  They also vote for sensible choice rather than "let kid pick out kitten" scenario.  I have to pat myself on back for managing my father's death phenomenally well in regards to HER, and now with this cat situation I am so angry and want to be selfish.  I seem to be taking it harder than her, but partly that's because she is so freaking excited about getting a kitten.

On this Forum, there is a lot of discusson about about navigating name decisions with spouses, and often in-laws.  How about with a kid?  For the record, here are my cat candidates:

1. Lovely adult tortoiseshell who lives at a nearby Buddhist monastery.  Monks and nuns feed the pagoda cats their leftovers.  We go every weekend to "feed the poor cats" and have a longstanding special relationship with this tortoiseshell, and yesterday I asked around if anyone would mind if I took this one home and they gave me the go-ahead.  I want to name her Wookie, but can concede to child's insistence that her name is Shelly, because tortoiseshell.  This is name of my university roommate and lifelong partner-in- crime, so that's a bit hilarious. I had been very strongly thinking about bringing her home even before Grendel got sick, actually, and as Grendel's medical crisis progressed over the week all I could think about was that it was the tortoishell's time to come live with us.  My daughter and I have been special friends with this cat for over a year.

2. Homely, one-eyed tuxedo cat at an animal rescue place I know.  He is an intensely snuggly pansy and would probably be like Grendel who shockingly let my daughter dress up in clothes and carry around the house like a ragdoll.  I have seriously never heard of a more child-friendly cat than Grendel, and my daughter probably has unrealistic expectations  of what cats let her do.  My longstanding name for a tuxedo cat is Mr. Darcy.  This is the "sensible choice" cat as most like Grendel in terms of personality.

3. At the clinic where Grendel died, there is a little white kitten with a bit of yellow and black splotches.  It's a rescue and available for adoption.  Because it has all three calico colors, this may hit my daughter's fixation on a calico kitten, but because essentially a white cat it looks enough different that I can tolerate.  I am wildly focused on a white cat named Hanuman, from the ancient Indian epic (variants are all over Asia including here).  Hanuman is the white king of the monkeys, a massive hero, while also comical trickster figure and therefore wildly popular with children.  The name fixation is because my father was an Asian Studies professor and taught university courses on the Ramayana stories.  So now all my sadness about my father is turning into this hangup that this kitten must be named Hanuman.  My daughter hates that name, but I think she'd let me do it if I told her it's Grandpa's cat name and took her horseback riding.  ;)

Oh oh oh why can't kid wait until I pull myself together....




August 27, 2018 4:14 AM

I think Mr Darcy

so sorry for your losses,  big hugs

August 27, 2018 9:22 AM

I am so very sorry for your losses, that they have hit you in quick succession (and at least one so unexpected) must make it even more difficult and my heart goes out to you. I lost my own beloved cat three years ago this summer (he was 18 and I'd had him for over half my life, we lost his brother three years before that) and it was only about six months ago that I could even bear to think of getting another. Looking at cats/kittens I found that I was more drawn to the black and white ones-as he had been-but absolutely not if their markings reminded me of him so I understand that need to have the new cat be different. (If you're curious in the end we got two ginger and white kittens about a month ago.)

It sounds like you actually already have a name picked out for each cat, and at any rate that decision can be finalised after you bring them home, the bigger issue is which cat to pick. I can see arguments for and against each one, and don't think that any would be a bad choice, but on balance I would probably choose number 1. This is a cat that you and your daughter already know and get on with, moreover it's a cat you were already considering adopting her before you lost Grendel and I think gut instinct counts for something in these situations; if you felt like it was her time to come and live with you then maybe it still is. If your daughter insists on Shelly as a name you could always add a middle that you like more/is more clever as a compromise. I admit that cat number 2 is also a strong contender because an easy-going personality counts for a lot when adopting a cat for a home with young children but I assume cat 1 also has a pleasant personality or you would not have become special friends with her. While kittens are always tempting I feel like number 3 would actually be the least practical of your options; kittens are more work and really they need company during the day where an adult cat can be left, plus you have no real way of knowing how their personality will turn out. 

Having said that I feel it's important to take note of what you said near the start of your post: that you are totally not ready to have another cat and not in a place to make decisions. Under your circumstances I disagree that the "sensible thing" is just to let your daughter pick a kitten. Perhaps the reason you're so torn between the three is because you know getting any cat at the moment is not right for you and the indecision helps to delay. While I absolutely understand the need to help your daughter with her grief I am a strong believer that generally a pet should not be added to a household unless all members of the family want it. Perhaps you could have a discussion with your daughter and let her know that you are not saying no to a kitten/cat forever but that for the immediate future it is not something you can have, that you need more time to process. Six is old enough to understand the concept of waiting for a period of time and you could even set a specific time (either name a month or at christmas/easter/whatever occasion) to discuss it again and see how you feel so that she knows you are not brushing her off with vague promises of 'one day'.

It also might help if there's anywhere (like the rescue centre or monastery you mentioned) that you could visit without your daughter to meet/interact with some kittens/cats and try to properly asses your feelings on if it would help you to have a cat around or if it would make your grief worse. I know some people do better with having a new pet very quickly as it makes their grief stronger to have the emptiness in their home. Perhaps if you sit quietly with it for a while you would find the idea of it comforting. As I said for me it was something I could not even stand the thought of for a long time, although I did spend some time daydreaming of having a different type of pet and I feel like I could have handled that, the problem there was that no other pet would fit as easily with my lifestyle; it may be something to else to consider for you/your daughter though if circumstances allow.

I'm sorry if all this has been too roundabout or contradictory to be helpful, but I do think that you need to consider your own feelings as well as your daughter's. 

August 27, 2018 11:21 AM

I should totally have read responses before my own, this is brilliant.

Definitely the bit about not getting a kitten, but especially the bit about giving your daughter a timeline so that you have time take care of and heal if you need it. 

August 27, 2018 11:10 AM

First off, I'm so very sorry for your loss, the awful compounding plural loss. I think the awful freak accident nature of losing a cat in the prime of due to complications of a routine medical intervention makes it so much harder. I don't know how old your daughter is but our kids are all still expressing sadness about one of our cats who died almost two years ago, of a rapid decline in old age, and she got to die at home surrounded by love and heated tile floors and head scratches around the clock while parents were up with the baby, so it was a best case scenario in so many ways. When we moved a year ago the primary difficulty in adjustment was leaving the cat's grave behind.

I like the idea of cat #1. You can inform your daughter that the difference between tortoiseshell and calico is just the amount of white patches; they both have the amazing feature of being females with two different pigmentation genes on their two X chromosomes, and you can see which X chromosome is active in a patch of cells (and which one got inactivated to make the gene dosage of the X chromosome genes more like an XY cat). I love that you've had this cat in your sights since Grendel was with you: that's really my primary reasoning here. It just seems like the right thing, a match that Grendel would have smiled upon, and that it's  the right time for this cat to come home with you now, thanks to the tragic turn of events. Both Wookie and Shelley are great names, and I think they could happily coexist (Shelly the Wookie, just like Chewy the Wookie). I also love the idea of adult cat adoption as everyone always wants a kitten and adult cats are harder to find, but I like them better because you can get a sense of their personality much more. 

I worry about #2 because of my own experiences. Some cats put up with the kid shenanigans because they just seem to recognize kids as tiny baby mammals (and it sounds like Grendel was one), but some cats put up with the shenanigans because they are just not sure how to escape or extricate themselves from the attentions of overzealous kids without boundaries. We had one failed adoption with a cat that was in the latter category - the shelter and we thought he was sweet and gentle and permissive, purring up a storm, and we didn't realize until our kid got mobile that he was all these things but that he was terrified by kids and not smart enough to realize that he could just leave and go to the parts of the house that were cat but not kid accessible. He was just too gentle and permissive to even think about swatting the kid to teach them a lesson; instead he just retaliated by peeing on all the kid's things. It was very sad to give up this sweet, darling gentle soul, but he was just not the right home for a household with so many kids. To be clear I've also had cats who appear to cheerfully put themselves into the path of the shenanigans and appear to have a good time having diapers changed on top of them, and we have one of those right now... but it took surprisingly long to tell the difference between that model of cat and the cat who was just deer-in-the-headlights terrified. I also think that it might be good to teach your daughter about the range of cats in the world and give her realistic expectations. 

I love your white cat name but I think that this isn't quiiiite a white cat like I'd envision a Hanuman and more importantly I'd worry that the sadness about your father's passing might be made more fresh by the cat having a name so linked to his memory... and I also worry that it will be harder to have another calico this close to Grendel’s passing. If you think it would be healing and positive then you can disregard this advice.

I think YOU should chose the cat without guilt as the primary caregiver here. Your daughter will love the cat because it will be a cat coming into her home. I think it's your turn to do something for you that makes you feel good, too. 

Lastly, I think it might be worth thinking about whether you have room for two cats, at least in the long run. I think that flying with cats is not problematic if you have a number of cats that is equal to the number of human airline tickets, as you can put the soft sided carriers under the seat in front of you. It only gets hard when you have to put a cat into the cargo hold because you have more cats than people seats. If your daughter is old enough not to be a lap infant anymore, then you could maybe have room for two. Cats are often social animals who greatly benefit from a second feline as companionship, especially if you leave the house for work, so I think that two cats seems like less work than one cat in so many ways. I have an only cat right now due to death of The Irreplacably Awesome Cat We All Still Mourn, and it feels vaguely wrong (and he's definitely not getting as much exercise as he used to). Something to think about once your daughter reaches an age where she can start to carry more airplane amusements and snacks with her so you could focus on toting the duffles with the cats. 

Anyway, I'm keeping you in my thoughts and I await your cat update. May the getting of a new cat be a bright spot for you in this hard dark time.

August 27, 2018 11:30 AM

Lastly, out of curiosity. My eldest recently tore through a series of youth graphic novels about Sun Wu Kong, the Chinese monkey king. Do you have thoughts about whether this myth shares origins with the Indian Hanuman, or whether one is an incarnation of the other? As an outsider to both cultures I only realized I had the two conflated in my head until very recently when the books started littering every surface in my house. (I definitely recommend the books, by Wei Dong Chen, when your daughter gets just a little older.)

August 27, 2018 4:56 PM

I did also wonder if having the white kitten so bound up with your father's memory would be more painful not less, but obviously this is something only you can judge and if you feel it would be an extra comfort then that's a point in its favour although I would probably still go with the older cat.

By mk
August 27, 2018 12:46 PM

I am sorry for your loss.

#1-sounds great since you and your daughter have had a special relationship with her for a year, and you already were thinking of bringing her home.

#2-sounds good, but I personally prefer to have cats that have more obviously different personalities than the cat I lost. If his is "close but not quite" or ends up having a different personality than what you expect once you bring him home, would it bother you? Or would there be too many comparisons?

#3-kittens are a ton of work. Are you ready to handle it? Shelters near me try to have kittens go to homes in pairs as much as possible, so they can play with each other.

I think that it is also absolutely fine to explain to your daughter that you need time to grieve Grendel before getting another cat. I assume cat #1 will still be there in a few months, and there are always more kittens.

August 27, 2018 4:23 PM

I'm so sorry for your losses.

I want to encourage you to take as much time as you need to grieve for Grendel.  And I think it's a good lesson for your daughter to learn that animals (like people) aren't replaceable.  If you don't feel ready to get a new cat Right Now, then don't get one.  You'll know when the time is right-and your daughter will wait, even if she's less than happy about it.  I think some age-appropriate conversations about grief could help her to understand.

If now, or sometime in the near future, is the right time, I think my preference is for cat #1.  You already have a relationship with the cat & were thinking about adopting her anyway.  This feels less like trying to replace Grendel.  I would vote for the name Shelly-the connection to your BFF is hysterical and exactly the type of thing I would do.

My 2nd choice for you would be Mr. Darcy (awesome name for a cat BTW) because he is older and you know he has a gentle nature.  Kittens can be a bit much for young children, especially young children used to an older and apparently very patient cat.  

By EVie
August 27, 2018 10:20 PM

I'm so sorry about poor Grendel. And that's such a fantastic name for a cat, what a great idea.

I can totally commiserate with your situation. We lost one of our cats, Wiggles, about five years ago after he was diagnosed with large cell lymphoma, a super aggressive cancer in felines. He was only four, and he was the BEST cat. Looked a little like a Maine Coon, but tiny, only about nine pounds, with big goofy polydactyl feet and these huge cartoon cat eyes. He was also the smartest cat I've ever known. He would play fetch like a dog, and actively solve problems like opening latched doors, and prank us by dropping his toys in his water bowl and then scattering them across the floor for us to step on. 

We got the diagnosis about a week before my sister's wedding, in which I was the maid of honor. I also had a three-month-old baby. The wedding was about two hours away from where we lived, so we had to board Wiggles at the hospital for the weekend, where he would also do his second round of chemo. Initially they had told us that he would have maybe three to six months, but of course we get a call the morning of the wedding telling us that he's going into shock and we were out of time. I had to make the excruciating decision of whether to drive two hours home to say goodbye and then two hours back with a nursing baby in tow, and risk getting caught in traffic and not being there for my sister. I decided to stay and sent my husband to take care of the cat, and had to say goodbye over FaceTime. I can't say I was in a good emotional state for that wedding, and I maaaaay have thrown a temper tantrum about the stupid bridesmaid dress, not being able to nurse the baby in it without getting completely undressed to the waist and not having a private place to do so.

Anyway, my husband was more interested in getting a replacement cat than I was. (We still had another at home—still do, he's nine now—and he was being super needy without his buddy to keep him busy). We were also regular volunteers at our local SPCA at the time, and so we scoped out the available cats and ended up bringing one home. I wasn't super confident in the decision to begin with, and after a couple of weeks it became clear that she wasn't a good fit. Our other cat hadn't taken to her and was still acting skittish, and neither of us felt we had really bonded with her (it wasn't her fault—she was just a more aloof and independent cat than we needed, and between the loss and the new baby, I just didn't have emotional room for another creature). After much agonizing, we decided to return her to the SPCA, which I felt terrible about, but we at least knew the staff well and knew they would understand (and they encourage people to return pets that aren't a good fit, because the alternatives are much worse. We also were able to keep track of her and know that she was adopted again soon afterward). We went a year after that before we accidentally stumbled upon our next cat, who ended up being exactly what we needed—a big, sweet goofball who lives for cuddles, tolerates small children's attempts at petting and is as friendly to strangers as any dog.

All this is to say that I recommend waiting until you feel emotionally ready to take on another cat. I know it's tough what with having to manage your daughter's emotional needs as well, but you're the one who needs to care for the cat and feel good about doing so without developing any feelings of resentment (something that I was starting to feel before we made the decision to return the first cat), so I think this is a secure-your-own-oxygen-mask-first situation, you know? The exception might be Shelly/Wookie—if you already feel an emotional bond with her then she might be able to integrate into your life more smoothly than the others. And hopefully if your daughter is already familiar with her, she'll have more reasonable expectations for her interactions with this cat. Maybe keep visiting her at the monastery for a few weeks and see how you feel? (And I would totally expand Shelly into Mary Shelley, whom I think would be a fun namesake for a cat).

I also totally understand your one cat airport rule, having moved cross country with two cats in tow twice now. Both times we had to remove the cats from their carriers to carry them through security while the carriers went through the x-ray machine. Don't know how I would have done it alone—I was already having nightmare visions of the cat squirming away from me and getting lost at the airport. 

August 28, 2018 3:23 PM

The voice of multi-cat airtravel experience says that cats get put in the carriers on a harness so you can clip a leash on them for their trip through the security checkpoint. You do have to carry them through the metal detector, but the leash allows you to feel confident that your cat cannot make a run for it, because they will remain attached to you no matter what. If they are cooperative they can have the leash removed when they get stuffed back into the carrier, not to be opened again until you're in your final destination. :) 

My last flight with cats involved taking a really psychotic shenanigan-prone kitten through security, one who would regularly lead vets on merry chases (and get stuffed back in after a long period of escaping the towel-burrito the techs/vet were trying to trap her in). We were worried that she'd be difficult, but she took one look at the amount of chaos and the largeness of the room and clung to me like a wide-eyed koala for the trip through the detector. (This is the cat that eventually mellowed out into the cat that we are still mourning... but she was a semi-feral handful as a young one.)

Anyway, seconding the suggestion that you wait until you feel ready to get another cat.

By EVie
August 28, 2018 7:20 PM

That harness and leash idea is brilliant, I can't believe none of our vets ever suggested it to us. I will remember that if we ever have to do that kind of move again (hopefully not until we reach retirement age, I've had enough with moving for a few decades). We did get prescription sedatives to give them for the trip, which helped keep them manageable through security (either that or they were catatonic from fear), but I was still nervous about it. 

August 28, 2018 4:47 PM

Sending so much love! Last fall, I lost the cat of my heart, Koukouy (I got her when I was living in Haiti; "koukouy" is the Kreyol word for firefly), who'd I'd had all of my adult life, after a gradual decline -- she was 17 -- and just 2 weeks after one of my other two cats (Yoshi, a beautiful pain in the butt 7yo) was hit by a car and killed. I was sure I needed time to grieve, but the one remaining cat in my household, Bumblebee, was a very playful 2yo, and it was immediately clear that she needed a buddy. So, about a month after I lost Kou, I brought home a kitten that one of my friends had been fostering, Ducky, who's now 10 months or so. It was hard, in part because I felt some guilt for "replacing" Koukouy and Yoshi "so easily." But it wasn't easy, just an unavoidable part of life. And Ducky is 100% unlike either of them, so it's been okay. I still miss them like crazy, Kou especially.

I used to have a rule that I couldn't have more than 2 cats (1 per person in your household plus 1) because anything more would me a crazy cat lady. I'm still trying to keep the crazy to a bare minimum, but I've had up to 4 cats at once, and I think 2 is a totally reasonable number *when you're ready*. Don't force it, even for your kiddo. She's having to do some hard work learning about grief too, I'm guessing, and helping her understand that everyone grieves differently and that time is part of grieving for most people, that's a valuable (if hard) lesson for her.

August 30, 2018 11:44 AM

Oh, thank you all for such kind words and thoughtfulness about the tragic passing of a random global name nerd's fur-baby. Like an good student: thesis sentence first --is my new cat's name SHELLY or WOOKIE??? See backstory below!

Y'all have lots of good advice - including that, yes, I was trying to choose a cat not a name, but my emotional paralysis about which cat was heavily wrapped up in my fantasy pet names.  It's also funny that you all took my original post comment about "I can navigate an international airport with exactly one kid + one cat" so seriously.... when I wrote it I had basically made up my mind that I could not live without all three cats.  But then it's like YO, I am a global nomad who works in international affairs and lives in rented apartments which I may not be able to rent at all if I have three freaking cats in tow.  My mom and my friends agreed that on the one-cat (two max) scenario, which says a lot because as a rule my mom and my friends are never on the same page.  Because my mother's advice is always awful, but that's quite a spectacular tangent.

Update: I adopted the tortoiseshell pagoda cat. I had decided to take her in for checkups etc before making decision, because there were a range of reasons that might make it impossible to keep her.  For example, while I am personally okay with a special needs cat, it is impossible to take one with certain health conditions across international borders. I noticed last weekend that her eartip was clipped - sign that she'd been spayed - and I took her to an animal welfare place that covers that pagoda.  Beep beep beep! Microchip!  And that means health records!  She had already been spayed, shotted, all that, in fact had last gotten a health check on August 10.  They ran a few more tests (negative for FIV, feline leukemia, and everything else that would make her impossible to travel with).  She is in perfect health.  A few more shots and a deworming tablet later and they handed her to me to take home.  I was gobsmacked and unprepared - I thought she would need spaying, quarantine, all that but no. It was only 6 days since Grendel's shocking and untimely death and I was absolutely unprepared for this.  But.... it's been the right thing to do, actually.  While *I* am not ready for a new cat, my daughter is over the moon with excitement, and it's easier for me to take care of myself and grieve if my little girl is happy again.  We have been special friends with this cat for over a year so she trusts us, and she immediately figured out that she had totally won the pagoda cat lottery and was going to spend the rest of her life as a jetsetting expat princess cat.  Super affectionate, neat and fastidious about the litter box, all that. 

Okay, now I am genuinely in the throes of a major name dilemma!!!!  As per my original post, my six-year-old daughter insists that her name is Shelly, becuase she is a tortoiseshell.  I am like...... SHELLY?  What kind of cat name is Shelly?  I have been vigorously lobbying for Wookie but failing utterly, and in the meantime making peace with having a cat named Shelly.  And then an 11th-hour bribe worked, and now I don't know what to do actually!  I think it's because I actually think of this cat as Shelly already.  Here are the issues, and the bribe.

1. First-grade kid thinks the cat's name should be Shelly because she is a tortoiseshell.  Kid also breaks mama's heart with disinterest in Star Wars.  How many expensive light saber toys collect dust in our flat?  You don't wanna know.  (Kid does like Dr Who, so that's something.  I have also come around on the My Little Pony front, actually.)  Kid's naming style can be termed as "literal" (a yellow cat!  Name it Goldie!) with a strong My Little Pony influence, except of course lacking the many levels of genius grown-up adult irony that makes My Little Pony so worth watching if you have both a little girl and a beer.

2. My cat naming style is more or less: cat names are NOT people names (Alice is a lovely name but NOT a cat name), cat names should be charming, clever, and include intellectual snob or at least nerdy literary and/or science fiction references.

I had come around to Shelly becuase:

- My initial bribe of "I'll take you horseback riding" failed which meant the kid was absolutely deadset on the name Shelly

- I actually like the name Shelly

- It's SO not a cat name that is funny (a la a dog I know named Greg)

-My BFF is named Shelly so there's a random hilarious inside joke operating which kid is oblivious to

- And if I get a cat named Shelly my friend Shelly is going to get a cat and name it after me (and I also have a name that is so not a cat name that it's funny)

- If I let the kid name the cat Shelly, if we get another cat I can claim that it is my naming turn.  Whereas if I name it Wookie and we end up with #2, kid will totally give it a dreadful kid-name.  "Bubbles Two" is one of her top cat name contenders (because her friend has a cat named Bubbles). 

So I made peace with having a cat named Shelly rather than Wookie.  I think of the cat as Shelly. I call her Shelly.  And then, out of nowhere, my little girl struck a bargain.  The name Wookie in exchange for LPS!!!!!  My daughter will gladly sell her soul for LPS!  Even more exciting than riding a horse for 2 hours!!!!  For the uninitiated, LPS = Littlest Pet Shop, i.e., outrageously overpriced cutesy plastic animal figurines. The girls covet, collect, trade them endlessly.  We are talking total obsession.  And the more LPS you are, the more compelling you are to other first-grade girls.  Or something.  I don't get it, actually, but then I'm a middle-aged nerd with like, a dorky job and stuff.  But she's all of a sudden whatever on the Star Wars name, if the exchange will catapult her status vis-a-vis other little girls.

So here is my dilemma: do I spend like $100 on LPS and seize the opportunity to name the cat Wookie (mwa ha ha ha ha as I will absolutely certainly blow that money on LPS anyway sooner or later) ...... or continue to captitulate to Shelly, a name that seems to already be sticking and wierdly feels right?

Meanwhile, what are your favorite cat names?  I have an imaginary stable of pet names in my head, and I get totally jealous when other people think of better cat names than I have.  My top two cat acquaintances that I did NOT name but so wish I had are Mr. Coffee and Catticus Maximus.



August 30, 2018 1:00 PM

Twofer: name the cat Mary W. Shelley -- with the W. standing for Wookie instead of Wollstonecraft. Cats can deal with having multiple names almost as well as children can.

I've mostly had cat-named cats; the exceptions were Blanka (though my dad insisted on calling her Szöszi "Blondie") and Bence (/BEN-tseh/, originates as a form of Vincent, nowadays used as a nickname for Benedek = Benedict and Benjamin). (The latter was due to a children's song where Little Bence gets in trouble for climbing into the _kemence_ [bread-oven] and getting all sooty.) None of the names are at all creative, really: Bütyök ("knob"), Mici/Mica (rhyming nicknames based on _cica_ "cat"), Gombi (diminutive of "button"), Nyavi (based on the verb "to meow"), Buksi (endearment meaning "big head", like a baby), Buddy/Öcsi ("little brother"), Missy/Hugi ("little sister"), and Zap (a Lois McMaster Bujold reference). My husband had Smudge (a tiny black cat) and Amber (a very large pale orange tomcat).

By mk
August 30, 2018 1:43 PM

Glad it worked out with the pagoda cat. I much prefer human names for cats, so vastly prefer Shelly to Wookie. Sorry!

I like mythical/literary names for cats.

August 30, 2018 1:58 PM

I am so happy that this sweet kitty hit the pagoda cat lottery! May you all enjoy a happy long life of international jet-setting together. 

I think when it comes to rentals I agree that 1 cat is different from 2+ cats, so I encourage you to listen to the voices of reason, and not internet cat-enablers like me.

I like Mary Wookie Shelley. I like Shelley the Wookie. I like just-Shelley, as I think this is in fact a very clever name in the circumstances. Save the plastic crap for when you really need to turn the bribery up to 11. I have a chicken currently being called Baby Beardis (Beerdis?) rather than my excellent suggestion of Barbarella so you should clearly not listen to me there either... my daughter goes limp and shrieky when anyone calls the chicken anything else in her earshot, and we can talk about nicknames until we're blue in the face, it makes no difference. (The worst is actually that I just found out that she STOLE this name from her friend who came up with "Chickie Beardis" for the bearded chicken that she wants someday to get. Then my daughter went and GOT a bearded chicken and named it THAT, which is totally name-stealing of the worst kind. I know, I know, names are not single use items, but this one was a custom creation so I think in this case it IS name-stealing.) 

I like people names for cats, especially if they are over-the-top and literary/mythological enough so as not to be usable on actual people, but I also appreciate good non-people names. My main concern is winning your daughter over to Star Wars, actually. ;)

August 30, 2018 2:06 PM

The more I think about it, the more I think we may need a "naming with uncooperative children as co-namers" sub forum. Yeesh.


By rfb
August 30, 2018 2:03 PM

I also thought of Mary Shelley! I'll second that suggestion. And I'm sorry for your loss.

I always promised myself that if I'd ever have a cat, I'd name it Bastet, after the Ancient Egyptian deity depicted with a cat's head. Of course, that was before I met my now-husband, Basti@n.

Then I came up with Astrophy, as in "Meet my cat, Astrophy!". Luckily I never had a cat to match that name.

My current cats a called George and Martha, as the day before we got them we went to see Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf. Luckily, they don't live up to their inspiration, either.

August 30, 2018 3:15 PM

Hmm, I think I would probably just go with Shelly, since it's feeling right to you, though "Shelly the Wookie" does have a ring to it.

Then again, I had a cat called Cat when I was growing up. (long story involving me being 5 (and having firm beliefs both about changing a cat's name (no!!!!) and the difference between "girl" and "boy" names) and a temporarily mistaken kitten sex. I insisted Bobby was not a girl's name so the kitten had to be named Bobbyetta. (We're not from the south, so I didn't know we could just call her Bobbi.) Finding the name awful, we proceeded to never ever use it again. I'm not sure anyone else in my family remembers the cat, who I adored and who made it to 15 despite being effectively nameless, was "officially" named Bobbyetta.)

Cats I've named: Koukouy (firefly), Wocket (Dr. Seuss reference), Bumblebee (because when I started fostering her at 3 weeks old, she used to bumble around in circles in the most adorable way)

Cats who already had names: Yoshi (he was a long-haired oriental/ragdoll look, the only one in a litter of black and white siblings, and was named by my friend who said, to my disbelief, "you know, like the green dragon"--umm, dinosaur!), Ducky, Squeak

Cat names I've wanted to use: Anathema Device (because Pratchett+Gaiman=double genius; I'm just barely suppressing my urge to use this on an actual child--it's a literary reference, after all!), Marigold & Tansy (a pair of tortoiseshells for some reason), Pickle (orange tabby, because that was the name of the kitten in The Little Kitten book that I adored when I was little), Pamplemousse (orange tabby; French word for grapefruit, that I just think sounds cool), Zap the cat (great minds think alike).

Cats named after me: when I was about 15, I started babysitting for this family who had an 11yo girl and two younger boys. The 11yo didn't really need "babysitting" so I became more of a big sister/mentor/friend to her while I was watching her brothers. They got a cat and the girl decided to name her Rebecca (my name) but call her Becca (I've always been Becky). It was a weird mix of flattering and insulting!

August 30, 2018 5:46 PM

Oh I'm glad you ended up with a cat that is right for you and I love that she won the pagoda cat lottery! 

In terms of names I would probably save your money and keep her as Shelly seeing as that seems to already be sticking anyway (although as a side note props to your daughter for trying that as a bargain!) plus all the pro points you listed seem solid. I do like the suggestions of both Shelly the Wookie and Mary W(ookie) Shelly if you want to get the Wookie in there plus a reference to something more nerdy, but I don't think I would actually change her name to just Wookie at this point. 

We have a tradition of naming our cats/pets after food or drinks so no names that clever. However I have a friend who actually has a cat named Mr Darcy (her other one is Weevil) and the lady who was fostering our kittens was telling us how she only keeps the evil cats nobody will take, she had 12 and I can't remember all of the names but to give you a flavour of the style she had Chairman Meow, Pussolini and Kitler. I also know people with cats named Whitney Mewston and CatBot 3000.

August 30, 2018 6:37 PM

I prefer Shelly over Wookie, as cat names go.


But how about finding a 3rd option that appeals to both of you?  You could use her tortoiseshell idea but try playing off of the tortoise/turtle part instead.  Franklene (the feminine of Franklin, of course!), Galapagos, Raphaella.


Did the microchip not identify the cat's owner?  I was under the impression that locating the homes of lost animals was their primary purpose.

August 31, 2018 10:39 AM

People or charities that manage feral cat populations also use microchips (in addition to the ear clip to signal "already spayed/neutered"). That way they can keep the cats at least mostly up-to-date on rabies shots.

By EVie
August 31, 2018 4:20 PM

Aw, I'm so glad you reached a decision that you feel good about! I feel like between Shelly and Wookie, it would depend very much for me on the cat's personality. Shelly strikes me as a sweeter, milder, more cuddly name, whereas Wookie has more attitude to it. 

We're not very original cat namers, in part because my husband is pretty set on pets being named typical pet names. So our first cat together was (is) an orange and white tabby named Tigger, frequently called Big Tig even though he's not particularly large. He's a very serious guy who paces around the house grumbling about how he disapproves of everything, but also very loyal and affectionate.

Our second cat was Wiggles, also called Mr. Wiggles, Wigglebug, Wiggies and the Weegs, who kind of named himself. We tried a couple other names on him that never felt right, until eventually we just fell into calling him Wiggles and it stuck.

Our third cat is Scampi. For some reason my husband was really fixated on food names when we named her, and that was the only one of his suggestions that I thought fit at all. It turned out to be a kind of hilarious name, because she grew from a shrimpy kitten into a 15-pound monster. She still has the personality for it, though, so it works. The cat that we returned before her we briefly named Sassy, which I really liked, and I would have wanted to use it instead of Scampi if I didn't feel like it was kind of already used. 

I also named a couple of cats when I was in high school. I was into Greek mythology then, so the female was Kirke, and the one we were told was male was Icarus. Shortly thereafter, the vet told us that Icarus was actually female, but we stuck with the name anyway. Icarus ended up being called Boo-boo more than anything else, though.

If we ever get a tuxedo cat of either sex, it will probably be called Nibbler, from Futurama. Any other male cat will most likely be Buster, from Arrested Development. We have the most trouble with female cat names, but I think I would now be willing to reuse Sassy, now that I have more distance from the first one.

I have never named a dog and probably never will, as I'm mildly allergic to them and also they're too much work for my lifestyle preferences, but I do really enjoy the dog naming strategy of using unusual names or vocabulary from the breed's country of origin—something German for a German Shepherd, Russian for a Siberian Husky, Welsh for a corgi, etc. I think it would be really fun to name a dog.

August 31, 2018 3:53 PM

Congrats on the new cat!  I'm glad you figured out something that works for everyone (and I love that a kitty got to win the pagoda cat lottery).

I actually really like Shelly for a cat.  I like it because it is such an ordinary person name.  Animals with ordinary people names are fantastic, especially if the ordinary name sounds like it should belong to a middle-age person or is simply too fusty to use on a real baby.  I also love the inside joke of you and your BFF each naming pets after each other.  

At the same time, I do appreciate a good nerdy cat name, or something with a particular pop-culture reference.  If anyone has read the Bloggess' blog, her animals all have nerdy/pop culture inspired names (that are also ordinary people names).  She has a cat named Ferris Mewler and a dog named Dorothy (Dottie) Barker.  Something like the previous suggestion of Mary W. Shelley, called Shelley would be perfect.  I also think Shelley the Wookie is a nice compromise, thought it would probably rule out a future cat called Wookie.

FWIW, my dog is named Rory, after the Doctor Who character.  My sons have already declared if we get another cat, it must be named Amy.  But our cat of passed away last summer at the very old age of 19 and I'm still not quite ready for another cat.  

August 31, 2018 4:39 PM

It's lovely to hear that you have chosen your beautiful new cat. If it were me, I think I'd call her Wookie the Tortoiseshell, aka Wookie the Shelly, and then use both names interchangeably (the cats I've had have always been known by multiple names). That way both you and your daughter get the names you want.


I tend to like cat-names for cats, or descriptive ones, rather than people names. I don't mind people names for dogs, but funny/ironic ones - it annoys me when you can't tell which are the kids and which are the pets in a family because they all have names like Sophie, Baxter, Lily or Max.


September 21, 2018 2:58 AM

Hello All!  I'm usually a regular on this site, but I've been wrapped up with work and more and not logging in. An update is overdue.... my cat is officially Shelly the Wookie.  Long version: I ended up buying my daughter her stupid LPS dolls and she conceded to name the cat Wookie, except that by then we were both already calling her Shelly (and had been for months, as we have been buddies with this cat long before bringing her in to join our family).  My idea was that I would call cat "Wookie" and kid could call her Shelly but this has actually flopped.  If I'm actually saying her name, it's almost always because I am talking to my daughter.  So as always, KID WINS ALL (got her name AND the dolls!).  But if I have to have a cat with a random human-name, the college best friend factor is indeed hilarious.  This is what kind of friend Shelly is: not only have I been her maid of honor twice, when she sensibly eloped for her third marriage and I called her up and went "I can't believe you got married without me" she responded "Oh, husbands come and go but best friends are forever."

I really, really, really liked the Mary Shelley ideas to make the cat name a bit more.... literary.  Especially since she's a tortoiseshell, i.e., black and orange = Halloween colors, and that brings us back to Frankenstein!  But to me, the name Shelly is forever the BFF.  Nobody else named Shell(e)y can possibly encroach that territory.  It is the name of lifelong buddy hijinks.  She OWNS that name.

And YO!!!! WOOKIE IS A FANTASTIC CAT NAME!!!!  I was surprised at how few of you rose in defense of the name Wookie which is a fine and perfect cat name for me.  I think a lot of it though, was that I wrote the post in a bit of a making-peace-with-cat-named-Shelly and it was already of epic length already, so I quit before writing an equivalent spiel  on how brilliantly awesome and superior the name Wookie is, and then you reflected back to me my own written theme.  Reasons why Wookie is so much better includes that multiple branches and generations of my family have a sci-fi (sometimes encroaching into fantasy / mythology) cat name tradition encompassing Alien, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, a couple of ancient legends and pantheons, etc but strangely not one Star Wars name yet.  This is very  odd because we're about two-thirds sci-fi cat names over several households and decades.

Most importantly, the cat has settled in beautifully.  Adult strays often don't adjust well to apartment / family life, but Shelly the Wookie is blissfully happy to have a real home at last, and very affectionate.

Finally, in case you didn't recognize the source of the thread title - here is TS Eliot's poem "The Naming of Cats."


The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

September 26, 2018 12:32 PM

Thank you for including the poem! I was unfamiliar with it. How wonderful. And congratulations on discerning Shelly the Wookie's name. 

September 26, 2018 5:16 PM

Wonderful poem. I have a friend trying to sell her boyfriend on Electra, and getting nowhere. Maybe Demeter will be more his style.