By Monica Weymouth
There’s a lot to consider when naming a pet. Trendy or traditional? Light-hearted or literary? Pop culture or cultured? But naming a cat is especially tough—no matter which moniker you choose, you’ll always have the sneaky suspicion that Mr. Mittens disapproves. Before you’re on the receiving end of a feline eye-roll, check out these expert cat-naming tips.
First Things First: Name Your Cat
This likely goes without saying, but it’s important to give your cat a name and use it often. Unlike your houseplants, cats benefit from this personalized communication.
“Giving your cat a name and calling him by it provides common, consistent communication between you and your cat, which in turn helps to strengthen your bond, especially if you have created a positive association with the name,” says Billie Reynolds, a cat trainer and member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
To create a positive name association—and increase the chances that your cat will answer to his name—Reynolds suggests clicker training with tasty treats.
Start A Brainstorm List
As an adoption center manager for the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Philadelphia’s largest no-kill animal shelter, Ame Wiltzius and her staff name a lot of cats. If you’re considering a new feline friend, take a cue from her and keep a list of potential names in your phone—after all, inspiration can strike at any time.
“Whenever I think of a name that might be good I write it down, and we have a few shared documents that everyone can see,” she says. “Sometimes there are particularly unique names that will only fit a certain kind of cat—I've been saving ‘Mona Lisa’ for a perfectly split-face tortie!”
Think Outside The Box
Last year, according to a survey by Rover.com, the most popular names for male cats were Oliver, Leo and Charlie, while Luna, Bella and Chloe took top honors for female felines. Although there’s nothing wrong with being on-trend, consider something novelif you want your cat to make an impression.
According to Kristin Eissler, owner of Philadelphia’s Kawaii Kitty Café, a memorable moniker actually helps some hard-to-place kitties find homes. “Slap something hilarious and impossible to overlook on a rough-looking—or acting—cat and you've got yourself a whole market of interested adopters,” she says. “So far, the formula definitely aids in pairing adopters with some unlikely candidates.”
Crinkle Fry—named for her scruffy, crinkled fur—is one such kitty hoping to benefit from Kawaii’s creative naming strategy. Although we’re not sure they can ever top Celine "There Was Room On The Door for Jack" Dion, a sassy tabby who was gifted a Heart Of The Ocean necklace from one of her many admirers.
Take A Cue From Your Cat
Does your cat have any distinctive characteristics? If so, these might make for a great cat name. “We take into consideration the cat's physical appearance and temperament, but also their histories and the circumstances that lead them to the shelter,” says Kevin Thoder, a member of the kennel staff at PAWS. “Names that include a cat pun or tell a story about the cat are great ways to do this.”
Recent favorites at PAWS include the “Swan Lake”-inspired Demon Swan, a mischievous kitten who was adopted within a week, and Edgar, Earl of Nubbington, who sadly had to have his tail amputated—but gained a royal title in the process.
Shorten To Something Simple
There is, of course, one small problem with an elaborate, creative name: your cat probably won’t respond to it, cautions Reynolds.
“If you want to have a long name such as Sir Meowington of Mouseville, by all means, go for it!” she says. “But I recommend training your cat to a shorter version or a nickname. Don’t have the expectation they will respond to the longer name.”
As for the nickname, she suggests something short and easy to say that consists of happy, non-harsh tones. And remember—although many of us have 27 (and counting) nicknames for our cats, it’s best to settle on one if you want kitty to respond.