What’s in a name?


Tim is a world traveler. He seems to have been everywhere. Many years ago he found himself in Yemen, where he had a young guide named Mohammed. In Yemen, in those days at least, people used to chew something called qat, pronounced “cat”, and according to Tim, Mohammed chewed a lot of it. Tim liked his guide so he told him if he ever got a cat he would name him Mohammed.

Which is how my first cat got his name. People tended to think he was named after Muhammed Ali, and it was too complicated to explain the real derivation of the name so I didn’t try.

Yeti was named by the two dear friends who gave her to me. She was Himalayan, so they thought, what else could she be named? Besides, it fit her perfectly. I called her “Yeti-Pooh”, or sometimes “The Pooh”. I couldn’t imagine her being anything else.

Then I started my foster-cat years, so I had to come up with quite a few names. Katie, who was only with me a few weeks was named after my beloved aunty Kay.

A friend of mine had a cat called “Luca” and I liked the name. It was also the name of the gorgeous doctor on the TV series “ER”, which was running at that time. So when I took in a little black cat with wonky legs, I decided he was “Luca”, not that Luca had wonky legs. It didn’t fit. For one thing, it didn’t feel right when I said it. And the new cat didn’t seem to approve either.

I don’t claim to be an animal communicator. I certainly believe that some people are, but I don’t have the experiences they describe. Sometimes I am pretty good at figuring out what is in a cat’s mind, but I don’t think it’s the same thing.

Anyway, a few days after the gimpy little cat moved in, we were looking at each other and I suddenly thought “he looks just like a black panther”. (Albeit a very small one.) Did he send me the name telepathically? I hardly think so, as he wouldn’t even have known what such an animal was…would he?

So thereafter, he was Panther, and I don’t know how I didn’t see it straight away. A small black cat that later on became my very best buddy.

Panther managed perfectly well with his wonky legs

Then came “orphan” Annie. Yeti was too old for games, so I adopted a companion for Panther to play with. Annie was a sweet little tortoiseshell kitty. Her name came to me the moment she was placed, drooling, in my lap and it suited her. The only problem was apparent when I got her home: she wanted to be an only cat, so my plans for Panther promptly fizzled out.

I wasn’t really recruiting cats. They just kept finding me… -with some help from the “cat rescuer” I had managed to get involved with. She called me one day about a kitten whose tail had been amputated after some other creature had tried to chew it off. I went to bail him out, and on the way home I was driving behind a Sysco truck.

The horse in Dances With Wolves was called Cisco. I liked the horse and I liked the film and I liked Kevin Costner. But what really mattered was that Cisco and Panther hit it off.

When I got the latest addition home, Yeti looked up as if to say “another one?” Panther plodded across the room to introduce himself, as he did with anyone, cat or human.

The next cat I named was Grisabel and I admit that I was totally responsible for acquiring her. A colleague had taken in a stray that was pregnant and the kittens were stunners. They were Maine Coon cats with long beautiful hair. Somehow I came home with one, and I named her after a cat I had known long ago.

When I lost 17 year-old Yeti, I became a little un-ravelled. She had been with me from the age of five weeks, and having her with me had kept me going through some rough times. I was bereft without her, and I felt guilty about having taken in other cats. In truth, I think I had taken them in as a sort of defense against the grief I knew was soon coming. I felt I had been cowardly and disloyal. I was doing a good job of beating myself up and my colleagues began to worry about me.

So they got together and surprised me with a Himalayan kitten for my birthday. I wanted him to have an appropriate name and I came up with “Thimphu” because it is the capital of the Himalayan country of Bhutan. And it is pronounced “Tim-Pooh”. Tim is my friend, of course, and Yeti had been a “Pooh”, so Thimphu was perfect!

I’ll cut it off here, but there is one more name I do have to explain. In fact, it was not one I created. I mentioned “M” recently, the cat that wanted to remain in the foster-home…

I guess everyone has their version of “cat-speak”? Where some people talk of “petting” a cat, Grant offers “mooshes”. The black and white, “tuxedo” cat that came to Grant’s door was very into being petted. As Grant said “he loves mooshes”, so he was called “Moosher-Man”, which became “M & M” but was then shortened to “M”.

M had the shortest name but he had a very big chunk of our hearts.

One thought on “What’s in a name?

  1. I love the way you pick names. I take my time until I find one that fits each one perfectly, too. My Minnie looks just like your Panther. She and her twin brother were her mom’s first litter and it took me awhile to realize they looked just like 2 tiny black mice, henceforth their names, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. Mickey wandered off, but Minnie is still here, 10 years later. The Mouse has been dropped from her name and she is simply Minnie now.

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