Friday, November 4, 2016

The Naming of Beasts

The names people give to their pets are often interesting. My cats’ names are mostly rather ordinary, though there is a reason for that. The only cat of all those whom I adopted and also named was Tungsten.

Tungsten is my favourite element. If I’d had a dog, I could have named him Wolfram, which is another name for tungsten. I had long thought that if I had a pet, Tungsten would be a good name for either a male or a female. So, when I adopted my first cat, I re-named her Tungsten. She had been called Presley. Long afterward, even after her death, I realised the fitting significance of the name I had given her. As I have written before, she was small and thin, and brought light and warmth to my life, but for only a relatively short time. Tungsten is the element that comprises the glowing wire in incandescent light bulbs.


The other cats in my life were named by rescue-groups from whom they came. All those I have adopted but Josie came to me as foster-cats. Even my Chubs was a trial-adoption, to see how well she and Tungsten got along. As it turned out, they didn’t; I decided to keep her anyway. I suppose I could have changed her name then - there was, in fact, another Josie in the Lethbridge PAW Society awaiting adoption; she was black, mine was white - but as mine had been with me for several months already, I retained her name. I figured that, as she was used to me calling her ‘Josie’, switching to something else would have confused her too much. Coming to a novel situation and having strangers call you a new name is one thing. Having someone who has always called you ‘Josie’ suddenly start calling you ‘Fillibuster’ - or whatever was chosen - would have been puzzling.

The Great White became Josefina in official correspondence: Josefina von Chubs.


Renn and Tucker were also named by the PAW Society. The names chosen by rescue-groups may seem arbitrary but one must realise that they have many animals to name, and these names cannot make people wary. I’ve seen dogs and cats for adoption who are called ‘Jaws’ or ‘Pounder’, ‘Mischief’ and ‘Trouble’. Inoffensive names convey an inoffensive character - there’s plenty of time to discover the real nature of your new family member later.

Renn initially had just one ’n’ in his name. I don’t know from where he acquired the second. It is more a syllable than a name, so I decided that his name was short for Renfrew - Renfrew Foster, which is what he had once been. As my big boy came to me as a foster-cat, I could not change his name; by the time I had adopted him, he had been with me too long to inflict such confusion on him - the same situation as with Josie.


‘Tucker’ is a common name for cats, I’ve found - as common as one name can be, at least. Another member of the PAW Society had a cat named Tucker, and I have come across several others, as well as a dog with the same name. Again, I felt I could not alter his name once I adopted him. He had been ‘Tucker’ for five years with one family, and so he remained with me: Tucker R. Poly.


I was a part of Cammie’s rescue. I argued for ‘Beulah’, the name applied to Jerusalem after the Israelites returned from their Captivity. I think she would have made a good Beulah. However, Cammie she became, and from the first, she seemed to be a princess, disdaining the more plebeian care given to her roommates - also disdained - and demanding greater service. Her attitude has become much warmer toward me, but the demands are still there. So, while she remains ‘Cammie’ for everyday use, her official designation is Princess Cammerouska Albigensia of Siam.


Others have passed through my life, including my foster-cat Kola, whom I named, partially: he was originally Lola. His people thought he was a girl and, though still a kitten when they discovered their mistake, they did not re-name him. I thought Kola (spelled like the Russian peninsula, rather than the beverage) would suit him better.


I named Faber, a found-cat who was returned to the people who had lost him, and regained his name of Frodo.


Then there was Bear-Bear, notable for his gentle nature, his long, lean frame and his unusual name. He came from a different rescue-group than the one to which I belong; his name did not suit either his shape or his character, but it is engraved on the wooden casket that holds his ashes.


From Wixie to Noah, the names come and go. The cats arrive; some stay, some leave. Some leave after they stay longer than was intended. But each has a name, a name that becomes his own, a name that defines him, at least to me. Names are important; they help us remember and, if there is something after this life, they will help us call once more to those we have missed.

22 comments:

  1. Wonderful post. Beautiful tribute to Tungsten. I often wondered why you had named her that. We always gave our pets full names too. Recently with all our visiting cats I have had to think up names for them as only one had a collar and tags on.
    Beautiful last line….you had me in tears.

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    1. There are cat-fostering blogs I follow on here, and the people behind them have trouble sometimes coming up with names, they foster so many. Choosing just the right name can be tough.

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  2. I named Boo Boo because she was mostly black and well Halloween. Jinx was named after a James Bond girl (Played by Hallie Berry) and Ping came because of a commercial on at the time and Ping was the name of man in the commercial and I just liked it. Abby was already named Abby and had been Abby for nearly 6 years so I just kept that name and Gracie was such a sweet girly name for our sweet angel tabby. So that leaves Annabelle. I wanted another manx and to honor her never known sister Abby I chose another "A" name. She is such a girly girl Annabelle it was thank goodness because she was known as Fritzy. How anyone could call her that I don't know. She is definitely no fritzy. Names are important.

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    1. I've always liked Ping's name. It reminds me of a fairy, like Puck, knowing and mischievous.

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  3. What a beautiful post, John. I've had 11 cats in my life, and I've named all of them after either a character in a book or a character on a TV show. I've tried to match the personality of the cat with the personality of the character. Sometimes I was accurate, but other times the name didn't fit the cat's personality at all.

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    1. It's no wonder some people believe the cats devise their own names.

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  4. guys....we troo lee N joyed yur storeez bout yur namez.... !!!!! ☺☺☺

    me ...tuna ...& sauce...was named: tuna N sauce... afturr gram paw dude died; in hiz honor ... coz hiz fave o rite food waz.... tuna IN sauce

    we haz even named de community cats we see pass bye; just ...sew they haza name ~~~~~~~ ♥

    happee fryday & heerz two a zebra tilapia kinda week oh end ~~~~~~~~ ♥♥♥

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    1. I figured your names were after a favourite food, but I didn't know it was in honour of your grandpa.

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  5. Ri like ordinary names too..
    Our dogs are called William, George, Winnifred and Mary
    Our cat is called
    Wait for it

    ALBERT

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    1. Albert the Cat. I like that; he sounds as though he should wear an apron and manage a corner grocer's.

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  6. I always thought Cammie was short for Cameo , the prized piece of Victorian jewelry with a carving of a classically styled beautiful woman, because she was so beautiful..

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  7. Poppy was the nickname of my last cat Puss, so it seemed to fit. Her nicknames are monkey and button. My last cat Puss, she arrived by jumping in through my open lounge window and deciding to stay. Everytime I would call her Puss she would run over and purr, so she seemed to choose her own name.

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    1. Yes, sometimes they do choose it themselves.

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  8. Oh goodness, yes, that last line has me crying too. Jeepers.

    You've written another wonderful post. And so we realize just how aptly named Tungsten was, and forever will be.

    "Chumley" was the only shelter name I kept, of the four felines who have graced my life. The others didn't suit, for instance, Derry's shelter name was "Rock." (His brother was "Roll".) I'd have to look at Nicki's adoption papers to recall his shelter name, but it, too, didn't suit, nor did Annie's.

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    1. I can't see Derry as 'Rock'. Derry and Nicki fit them so well, I think.

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  9. This is a lovely post, and I agree that Tungsten's name suited her so well. I remember you telling before why you named her so. I believe it was in your tribute to her.
    Strictly speaking, Eric and Flynn were not rescues and we named them when we got them at 5 1/2 weeks old. Although they didn't come from a shelter they came from a farm where they would have to fend for themselves. Most of the kittens there were lucky to reach a year old due to being killed by other tom cats, trampled by the bulls when they slept in the straw or getting run over by tractors. I don't think they have any cats there any more and I hope it stays that way.
    I seem to have got side-tracked! I joked to Ivor that we should call them Eric and Derek. He decided he liked the name Eric, and I chose Flynn's name because it is Irish for flame haired.

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    1. I knew the brothers had been born on a farm, but had no idea how dangerous it could be for a cat there. I'm glad they came to live with you.

      I always thought they were named after the actor, Eric Flynn, who had died not long before your boys were born. But the actor was pretty minor as actors go, and couldn't think why you would name the boys after him. It turns out - you didn't!

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  10. Nice to learn about how your cats got their names.

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    1. Their names' origins can be interesting sometimes.

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  11. I have always dreamed of names for cats. I wanted A Daphne and this was to have been Holly's name. But just as you spoke of it seemed odd to change her name when her foster family called her Holly. I had fallen for her and had come to thinking of her as Holly before I even adopted her. So Hollybher name has remained. But I do call her Holly-Daphne. Jessica had found me as a young stray or lost kitten. I was working with street kids - many of whom were named Jessica so Jessica she was named. Cats grow into their names.

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    1. You're quite right: cats grow into their names, and sometimes we can't imagine them having any other, even if we didn't think we'd like the names at first.

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