Cat Names 101

What do you call your feline friend? How did you come up with the name? After the great time with the Name That Dog and Cat for my upcoming thriller, I’m curious how more folks came up with your special pet names. My blog-pal over at Dakota’s Den asked this fun question about dog names and inspired me to ask y’all about kitty monikers.

PEDIGREE NAMES

Pedigree kitties are christened with a string of unique and entertaining names to designate the cattery, sometimes the breed or even the appearance. I still remember one of my all-time-fave cat names, “Celticurl’s Sinead O’Curler” for an American Curl feline.

THE HISTORICAL “CAT”

Did you know the words for “cat” seem surprisingly similar throughout the world. Historically, there appear to be three basic origins for the naming. The word for “cat” seems derived from sounds he makes, based on the actions of the animal, or associated with ancient cat-gods of the past.

Egyptians named the cat mau, which means “the seer” (from the word mau, “to see”). Perhaps these ancient people associated the cat’s unique eyes with an ability to view more than meets the eye.

Other historians speculate that the cat’s mewing vocalization inspired her to be called mau. In fact, China’s word for cat is miu–quite similar to the ancient Egyptian’s mau.

The powerful cat-headed gods of the times were alternately referred to as Bast, Bastet, Posht, or Pasht. Some people speculate that puss is a natural derivation of Posht or Pasht, while others believe “puss” evolved from the Latin words pusus and pusa, which mean “little boy” and “little girl.” Admit it–you sometimes call your cats by these endearments, don’t you?

Another version connects the French le puss to the Latin lepus, which means “hare.” In fact, “puss” was used in England to refer to both cats and hares well into the eighteenth century.

Romans called the cat felis from the root word felix, meaning “a good and auspicious omen” linked to magical divination. Later they used catta, the same name as the weasel, because both cats and weasels were used to catch rodents. Other words may come from the root word ghad which means “to grasp or catch.” Seems a perfect fit for our felines.

“CAT” AROUND THE WORLD

For fun, here are a few more words for “cat” from around the world:

Arabic, kittah; Armenian, gatz; Basque, catua; Cornish, kath; French, chat; German, katze, katti or ket; Greek, kata or catta; Italian, gatto; Polish, kot or gatto; Portuguese, gato; Russian, kots or koshka; Spanish, gato; Turkish, kedi; Welsh, kath.

SHARE YOUR MONIKER!

So what do you call your cat? Coat color inspires names like Rusty, Pumpkin or Ginger, Snowball, Cotton, Tabby and Midnight. If a cat is called Suede, Fluffy or Big Foot, what image does that conjure?

Attitude often prompts telling names as well. But don’t name him “Demon-Seed” or “Stupid” unless you want him to fulfill that prediction! Cats given positive names tend to have more positive relationships with their people.

Picking a great cat name can be fun. My little Siamese wannabe is Seren—short for Serendipity because it was such a happy accident we found each other. But I suspect cats also have a “secret name” we humans can’t pronounce.

Maybe that’s why they never come when called.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Comments

Cat Names 101 — 36 Comments

  1. There was so much info in this post that I never knew!
    My first cat Bobo, was named after my ex-husband’s cat that he had adored and had been killed by a car. When we found our Bobo he said he was identical to the cat he had loved and lost. I saw photos and he was.
    For Cody , when I adopted him his name was “Prince”….I love names that begin with a “C” hmmm I wonder why? lol and wanted to name him Cody, a name I had always liked. Cody’s foster Mom begged me NOT to name him Cody because she said “all Cody’s she knew were crazy” I didn’t listen, named him Cody and yep….he IS crazy but a GREAT kind of crazy. Alas, my husband thinks his name should have remained “Prince” because of his love of sitting high up or on our regal looking chairs. So, his name is “Cody, the cat formerly known as PRINCE” :)

    • Hi Caren, that’s hilarious about “crazy” Cody! Sort of that self-fulfilling prophecy, eh? My mom tells about her childhood cat who was soooo smart (used to get into the cooling pies on the windowsill!), she named him Einstein–but her brothers instead called him Frankenstein, LOL! Became shortened to “Frankie.”

      • amy, the reason i ended up here so long after this topic was written is because one of the kindle daily specials today is a sci fi book called “stranded.” i looked at the first page, and a couple of sentences in, the character Serendipity appeared. i said to m’self, said i, “why, that’s amy’s cat’s name!” but i had to come and make sure i wasn’t having having reverse oldtimer’s, where ya remember stuff that never was. [g]

  2. Fun post, Amy! My one cat growing up hitched a ride home under the car from the Vet’s office. 6 miles this kitten hung on! We kept him and approprately named him Hobo. The two brother cats we have now are rescues and came with their names. Funny – they fit. Gregory is fat, slow and lumbering like his name and Star is a lean, lion who zips around like a shooting star. Funny! We also named our son, Joshua, after the cat. LOL!

    • Donna, I love the Hobo story! And “lucky” might have been appropriate, too, whew! You named Joshua after the cat? What an honor for them both! Yay!

  3. Well, Simba is so named because she looked like a newborn lion cub when she was born, all spotty.

    We also once had a cat named Shoeby, so named because he would come up and sit on our shoes as a kitten. One of Shoeby’s brothers was named “Jack” by my dad – short for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – I believe that one was because he was the first to start jumping out of the box they were all born in. LOL Of course, we also had Teddy-Bear (I think you can guess on that one), Fearless (because as a kitten she was scared of everything – she grew up to growl at strange dogs and hunt rabbits twice her size)… and more recently, George (because, as my dad put it, “she does not watch out for that tree”). There’s also the recently passed Timbit, originally known as Tiny Tim – my parents spent their entire time with her trying to keep her weight up.

    • Karyl, what a great list! Shoeby is my fav, I think, that’s so unique and quirky fun. Oh, and I used to howl at the George Of The Jungle cartoons, LOL!

      • Well, that would make my mom happy. He and Shoebed (formerly Shoebette until we realize she was a he – oops!) were mom’s faves. Shoebed named after the older brother he was almost identical to. There was only a TINY bit of variation in their spot patterns, and Shoebed was smaller. And, unlike Shoeby, had a breastbone (Shoeby was born without one – just looked like he had a hole in his chest, and poor little guy’s heart just kinda flopped wherever it wanted to, wasn’t really anchored onto anything… oddly that wasn’t what killed him. Vet said it looked like a snakebite.)

  4. Pulitzer chose his name. He was our office kitty at my newspaper office. We held a contest to name him, 85 entries were submitted! Each of us chose two that we like, put them on the floor and the first one he stepped on was his new name. Hence, Pulitzer. Rather a dignified name for a cat who’s a bit of a dufuss. Of course, when the office moved, he came home to live with me.

    • Sally, to me that’s one of the best cat names ever–since kitties do inspire writers. So glad Pulitzer landed in your house!

    • we had a newspaper-related kitty, too! my husband is a journalist, but it had nothing to do with that. one blustery blizzardy winter day in northern illinois i went out to get the newspaper. no paper. there was, however, a shivering kitten. he got named Wally..short for what i had expected to find at the curb, the Wall Street Journal.

      • Cats and newspapers have a long partnership…they used to keep the Kitties around to keep mice from getting into the paper supplies so that’s very appropriate.

  5. What fun cat history! I didn’t know most of the info on this post. We call our cat ‘Frostbite’ because that’s what she was named when given to my son. Generally we name our animals after characters in Zelda (a video game), so we had to be creative in finding a ‘Frostbite’ in the game. Fortunately, there is a creature called that – an ice wolf. We’ll just pretend it’s really an ice cat and be done with it.

    Thanks for the great lesson in catology.

    • Given I just started playing Twilight Princess, I’m going to give the Zelda names my seal of approval. :)

      …..though if I meet a cat named Midna I MIGHT have to run the other way. Bad enough with ONE cat in the house that pesters you for something every 30 seconds. LOL If Midna-cat took after its namesake… oh man…

    • Frostbite is a great name! And you’re so creative to find a place to make it fit your naming system. :) Our latest 3 critters have new orleans chefs/restaurants theme. very silly of us.

      • minou means kitty/cat/pussycat/etc. in french. it’s used both to refer to our furry friends and also as a term of endearment, if i recall correctly.

        random note 1: you mentioned pedigreed cats had various traditions..Birman cats are named each year with names starting with that year’s letter, going thru the alphabet in order. my birman was born in a “J” year, and was named Jai [hard J-eye, not like jai alai], a thai word i got from my racquetball partner, who was from thailand,who told me it meant “heart and soul, without jai, you are nothing.”

        random note 2: favorite kitty names of some other bridgekids: Tapestry for a dilute tortoiseshell, Pounce de Lion/Leon for a lively tuxedo, and the Maine Coon cat, Bloomingtail.

  6. I was labeled a female when Mom adopted me at the animal shelter. They’d already knocked me out to be spayed when the vet realized I was a neutered mancat. Thankyouverymuch. So, for a minute there, Mom had named me Annie. Luckily we all made it through that and I ended up with Cokie Kokopelli the Kitty Kachina. =^..^= Much better I think. Though for some reason, Dad keeps calling me Boy Band. :

    • Cokie Cat, my Seren-kitty is properly shocked at your story! Your name is quite stylish and suitable for a mancat. Thanks so much for visiting the blog.

  7. Hey Amy. Your posts are always teaching me so much. A wealth of information on the origin of the word cat :-). My first cat was named tiger because she had stripes and an intense look just like a tiger. The funniest names of feline patients I have dealt with included: Jesus & Darcy. I named a very special kitten I handraised Zeba and re-homed her to great owners and they have kept her name as she has Zebra-like stripes :-).

    • Jesus for a cat–well, that’s a popular name here in Texas, too, but for people. I’ve never heard of a pet named Jesus! Zebra makes a lot of sense, too.

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  9. The kiddos named their cats Lilah and Lorenzo when we adopted them. I have no idea where the names came from. I only asked them to avoid names like “Fluffy” and “Spot.” My mom says the names sound like soap characters. LOL. It’s true.

  10. Fascinating! We’ve named four cats. Our oldest, Shadow, was so named because he followed me everywhere as a kitten and he’s charcoal gray, like a shadow. Then we had a cat my son named Pinkie because “she’s as big as a giant’s pinkie.” That’s kid logic, of course, but I thought it was awesome. Then there is Eclipse, whose tortoise shell coat looks like light peeking through shadows. Finally, we have a stray we’ve adopted who kept stealing our other cat’s food, so we named him Hermes after the Greek god of thieves.

    • You can’t argue with kid-logic, for sure. I love these names! There’s got to be a book in there somewhere about the naming of the cat. Eclipse…that’s pure poetry. Thanks for visiting and sharing!