Choosing the best name for your pet – Part 1

I grew up surrounded by pets that other people had named, and I always knew I would do better when it was my job. The white cat my siblings adopted from the neighborhood before I was born was called, predictably, Snowball (although later in life sometimes Slushball seemed more appropriate). We adopted a dog who was already named Plato – a strange name for a dog, and to my young ears (and those of my friends) it always sounded more like Play-Doh. When Snowball went to “the great litter box in the sky,” as my father put it, I invited my sister to name my new kitten that took his place, and she selected Biff.

Naming a pet is partially for the benefit of the animal, and partially for the humans the animal will be introduced to. When Biff died I found a gangly kitten that agreed I should take him home, and when we were driving back to my place from the house of the woman who rescued him from the shelter, we talked about names. I didn’t feel right just saddling him with a name without his input, after all:

“Astalot?” I asked, thinking of the unusual name of one of my friends’ cats. No response. “Binky?” Nothing. “Mungo? Charlie? Helios? Fatima? Tiger? Sekhmet? Nonsense? Merlin?” A loud meow emerged from the carrier, and I knew we had agreement. Because my new cat couldn’t spell and didn’t care, I decided to tell my vet that his name was Myrlyn. I’m still not sure if he was trying to be named for a wizard, or the bird that Arthur’s mentor was named for.

I lucked out with that name – not only did my cat like it, it fit another important consideration: brevity. If your pet is the sort to respond to a name, that sound will be like music coming from your mouth, and your beloved companion will love to hear it. However, if you want your human friends to remember it, you’d best keep it short, because they don’t have the attention span of cats and dogs.

I adopted a tiny fluffball of a female kitten to be Myrlyn’s cat. She wasn’t that talkative so I had to come up with a name for her without her help. K973F was what they knew her as at the vet’s office that handled adoptions for the city shelter, but that didn’t ring true to me. However, this young girl was already showing the regal bearing that cats with a strong Egyptian bloodline have due to centuries of being worshipped in temples, so I realized she deserved to be named for royalty. I quickly hit upon the elf-queen of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and, after again tinkering with the spelling, decided upon Galadryel.

Now the nay-sayers will tell you that a four-syllable name is too long for a cat, because she will never remember it. Well let me tell you, Galadryel knows and responds to her name just fine, thank you. It’s the humans that meet her that can’t wrap their minds around the name, in truth. She’s been called Gladys, Glad, Gallop, Kitty-kitty, Aw-she’s-cute, and Where’s-Your-Other-Cat? So I caution that if you want a name that is acceptable to the extremely short attention spans of other humans, use more than two syllables with caution.

I only have experience naming cats, but I have no reason to believe this techniques won’t work on dogs, as well. Get your pet involved. Find a name you both like, and that fits your pet’s personality. And pick one that the humans can remember, if possible.

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