Naming a cat is serious business.
When I was a kid growing up my mother refused to allow us kids to have a pet. “Animals belong out in the wilderness, not near humans and certainly not inside a human home” she said. She always strived to maintain a perfectly sterile, germ-free home and, to her, animals were covered with germs.
Because of this the pet I had growing up was an imaginary pet. It was not your typical pet. It was a full-grown Bengal tiger. I named it Raja — probably because I saw that word in some library book about tigers that I had read. I was a voracious reader as a child and I read every book the library had about all the big cats; lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, mountain lions, leopards, bobcats, lynx….
I was nineteen years old the first time I had a pet. But it really was not my pet. You see, I married a woman who had a kitty cat. So I got a pet by default. She had named the cat, Snuggy. What a stupid, stupid, stupid name! It did not fit the cat at all. It was a silly generic little-girl name.
The marriage was a huge mistake and only lasted a couple of years. The one good thing to come out of it, though, was a love for kitty cats which has remained with me my whole life. Snuggy went the way of the wife and after the last time I saw her I made a pact with God that I would personally name all the cats who would come into my life.
And there have been numerous cats in my life. Once, a friend came over with two young male cats saying that she was moving and could not keep the cats. I agreed to take them and named them Simon and Schuster. Being a writer it somehow seemed appropriate to name the cats after a major publishing company. The two cats turned out to be extraordinarily destructive and not at all fun so after just a few weeks I found a new home for them. I decided that from then on I would only have female cats. Male cats suck.
It was a while later that I got a female cat. She was a long-haired jet-black cat with beautiful yellow eyes. I named her Kudra, after a character in Tom Robbins’ novel, Jitterbug Perfume. The character in the novel was from India and had long jet-black hair.
It was soon after Kudra moved in with me that an old girlfriend showed up at my door one day. I invited her in and three days later we were married. She did not have a cat but I did so it was the opposite of my first marriage. (It was opposite in so many others ways, too.)
I had been meaning to get Kudra fixed but I just did not have the money. Well, Kudra went into heat and went out onto the balcony of our second floor apartment. She jumped up onto the hand railing and sat there waiting. It was not long before a male cat showed up and serenaded her from the ground under the balcony. So Kudra jumped all the way down from the balcony and promptly proceeded to get pregnant.
Since Kudra was named after a character in a Tom Robbins novel we decided to name all four of her kittens after characters in Tom Robbins novels. There was Alobar (also from Jitterbug Perfume), Bernard (from Still Life With Woodpecker), Amanda (from Another Roadside Attraction), and the cutest kitten we named Bingo Pajamas (from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues).
It may be noticed that I had a bit of a literary theme going when naming cats but that ended with those four cute kittens. We ended up giving the kittens away, along with their mother, when my new bride and I decided to go on a long adventurous journey together which we would not have been able to do with cats.
Oh, I forgot the story about the mysterious cat who materialized out of thin air. That was really weird. At one point between the two aforementioned marriages I had just moved into a new apartment. For the first two weeks in the new apartment I was convinced that there was a ghost living in the apartment. I kept hearing noises and objects seemed to move of their own accord. Once, in the middle of the night I was awakened by a thunderous crash coming from the kitchen. I got up and went into the kitchen to find a dinner plate that had been sitting on the counter by the sink on the floor broken into several pieces. I knew that dinner plate did not just jump off the counter by itself. Surely it was a ghost!
But it turned out to be a cat. There was a cat living in my new apartment and for two weeks I never saw her. I finally learned that she was living behind the washing machine. She came out only when I was gone or asleep. I had no idea where she came from. Was she living there before I moved in? Then I remembered that while I was moving in I had kept the front door open for a long time as I moved my stuff into the apartment. Maybe she snuck in then.
Anyway, I told her that she did not have to hide. She could come out and hang out with me. Apparently, she understood what I said because that is exactly what she did. I suddenly had a cat living with me.
She was an adult (and rather fat) Siamese cat with the bluest eyes I had ever seen. I named her Atso, which is the Tibetan word for ocean. I don’t remember exactly but I think I many have been reading some book on Tibetan Buddhism at the time.
And then I saw it. There was a flyer stapled to a nearby telephone pole. In large letters at the top of the flyer was, “LOST CAT.” Below that was a picture of Atso and below the picture was the name, “Fluffy.” And below that was a phone number. I almost did not make the call, thinking that it would be a humane act to spare Atso a life of being called, Fluffy. But I did the right thing and called to say I had found their cat. My apartment was very, very quiet after that.
Now let me fast-forward several years. My second wife and I, along with our five year old daughter are living in a house in New Mexico. We are packing everything up to move to Colorado. Like all kids, our daughter liked to play out in the back yard….
The woman who lived next door to us had a mother cat with five six-week-old kittens. Whenever our daughter went outside to play in the back yard those kittens would crawl under the fence and come play with our daughter. This happened to piss off the neighbor woman because she would come out of her back door to gather the kittens to bring inside and they would be nowhere to be seen and they did not come when she called them. They were too busy having fun with our daughter. The neighbor woman did not find her cats until she looked over the fence into our yard and saw our daughter playing with them.
So one evening I took a break from packing to cook dinner. It was taco night. While I was cooking someone knocked at our front door. I went to answer the door.
It was the neighbor woman and she was holding a kitten in her hands. As soon as the door was fully open she thrust the kitten towards me, “Here!”
“Here!” she thrust the kitten towards me again. “Take it!”
I took the kitten.
“Now your little girl has a kitten to play with and maybe she’ll leave my cats alone!” With this she turned and stomped off towards her house.
I stood there for a long moment with a kitten in my hands. We were in the process of moving. This was the very worst time to get a cat. What the hell just happened?
I closed the door and turned around to see my wife and daughter staring at me. Our daughter let out one of those extremely high-pitched girl screams then ran towards me and took the kitten out of my hands, saying, “Oh thank God! I finally have my own kitten. This is the most wonderful day ever!”
I looked at my wife who was speechless. I had no idea what to say either. I simply shrugged my shoulders and went back into the kitchen to finish cooking dinner.
While I was standing at the stove cooking my wife and daughter sat at the kitchen table playing with the kitten and thinking of a name for her.
“How about Fluffy?” I heard.
“No!” I roared.
“How about Puffy?”
“How about snuggly?”
"How about Cuddly?"
This went on and on as they came up with one silly generic cat name after another.
Finally I turned around and laid down the law, “Absolutely no silly stupid generic girlie name! No name that millions upon millions of other cats have. It has to be original and unique and different and fun.” I looked at my daughter, “We picked a name for you that no other girl in the entire world has. Why? Because you’re unique and special and because we wanted you to have a beautiful name that was unique to you. So let’s pick something that the cat will be proud of for years to come and which we are proud to call her.”
My wife turned her head to the side and gave me that WTF look, “Well, we’ve been coming up with a lot of different names but you haven’t made a single suggestion. What do you think we should name the cat?”
“Uh…. Uh….” I waved the spatula I was holding around in the air but that did not help. “Uh…. give me a minute.”
I turned around and stirred the taco meat. And that is when it hit me. I put the spatula down and turned around to face the females in the room, “I’ve got it. I’ve got the perfect name for the kitty cat.”
I paused for effect then said, “Taco.”
My wife and daughter burst out in uncontrollable laughter. That is when I realized that I had come up with the perfect name.
We named the kitten Taco and she ended up living with us for eighteen years. It really was the perfect name and I cannot imagine her having any other name. To this day whenever I hear someone say the word, taco, I immediately think of that cat. It is only after I stop and pause to re-calibrate my thinking processes that I realize that they most likely were talking about the Mexican food item. The name always brings up warm fuzzy feelings in me as I remember the best cat there ever was.
For anyone trying to name a cat I have some advice. First of all, do not even consider any hokey, retarded, moronic, boring, generic name. No cat deserves that. Be original. And try to limit the name to no more than three syllables. Remember, you will be calling out that name for years to come. You do not want to over-burden yourself with excessive syllables and you do not want people to hear you call out some stupid name. Perhaps most importantly, do not overthink it. Sometimes it is best to clear your mind of all thought and just look around you. The perfect name might very well be staring you in the face.
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