By Andrew Daniels
You’d never call your newborn kid something you thought of in 5 minutes, or even worse, simply use the hospital’s suggestion. So why should you do the same thing when you’re coming up with cat names? There are a lot of unoriginal names for cats out there, and the worst thing you could do to your new feline friend is give him or her a mediocre, unmemorable moniker.
So here’s a suggestion: When you’re coming up with kitten names, think retro—way retro, in fact. Old-timey names are back in vogue for babies and pets, says Frank Nuessel, Ph.D., a linguistics professor at the University of Louisville and editor of NAMES: A Journal of Omnastics. “Names have a popularity cycle,” he says. “There’s a kind of regular cycle every couple of decades where certain names enjoy a new popularity, usually triggered by well-known personalities.”
Emma, for example, was the most popular name for newborn girls in 2016, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). But you’ll also find that name way back on the SSA’s list of most popular girl names in the year 1887—a sign of its resurgent popularity, Nuessel says.
So here are 10 popular new names for cats that are actually old school. Sure, these kitten names could double for your grandparents or even great grandparents, but you have to respect your elders, after all.
Walter, which is German for “ruler of the Army,” consistently ranked in the top 15 for boys’ names from 1900 to 1922. The most famous Walter these days is probably Breaking Bad’s Walter White, so you better hope you don’t catch your kitty cooking up something strange in your kitchen.
Edna, the 12th most popular name for girls in 1900, means “pleasure” in Hebrew. Knit her a kitten sweater, just like your grandma Edna used to wear.
Ethel means “noble” in Old English, and was made famous here in America by the actress and singer Ethel Merman in the early 20th century.
Theodosia, a feminine version of the Greek male name Theodosius (“given to God”), has seen a small comeback thanks to the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Aaron Burr’s daughter was named Theodosia Burr—but your cat can be Theodosia Purr. Get it?
A nickname for Wilhelmina (itself a female form of the Germanic Wilhelm), Minnie would be a perfect name for the cat who loves chasing a stuffed mouse—and even better when paired with another cat named Mickey.
Louis C.K. recently brought back the 19th century name Horace—Latin for “timekeeper”—into the limelight, thanks to his 2016 show "Horace and Pete." (And now you know what to name Horace’s companion.)
Matilda comes from the Germanic name Mahthildis, which means “strength in battle.” But the name has enjoyed consistent popularity since Roald Dahl’s titular book (and subsequent movie and Broadway musical) came out in 1988.
Greek for “maiden,” Cora was popular in the early 20th century thanks to its inclusion in the novel The Last of The Mohicans. Ever since then, the name has slowly crept back up into the top 100 for girls’ names, reaching #87 in 2016.
Okay, so it’s more befitting of a big red dog. But Clifford (which literally means “ford of a cliff” in Old English) is a pretty great name for a small orange cat, too.
A variant of Dorothea (Greek for “gift of God”), Dorothy predictably exploded in popularity after the release of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. And there’ll be no place like home when you’re cuddled up on the couch with your own kitten named Dorothy. (Bonus points if you have a puppy named Toto.)