By Any Other Name

Sherlock did not stand out as any particular breed among catdom, but he manifested one unusual characteristic. He could find anything that was lost.

Cats are entertaining and extraordinary creatures. I know, we’ve had many of them. Ours was mostly an involuntary feline foster home, and an inordinate portion of our weekly food bill went for dietary necessities other than our own. However, this came under the budget heading of continuing entertainment.

Banshee: aka “Puss”, aka “Tigger”, aka “Tigger from Hell, surveying from his lordly overlook.

Because of their unique position in the world — human and animal — a cat’s name must naturally be just as unique and should be given much thought. They either grow into them by personality quirks, or they evolve, as with our late orange tabby, Banshee (aka “Puss”, aka “Tigger”, aka “Tigger from Hell” (see his memoirs entitled “By a Whisker”).

I was reminded of this when another blogger shared her experience in dubbing her own beloved feline extraordinaire, which she named “Chicago White Sox” because he had white paws. The name got shortened to “Chicago”, but, as she so aptly put it, “Have you ever tried calling ‘Here Chicago, here Chicago’? So they shortened his name to “Chico”, which, as she said, “rolled off the tongue better”.

Some of the most unique names our cats have inherited from their two-legged chattels belonged to those who exhibited almost human qualities. Take “Sherlock”, for instance. Sherlock did not stand out as any particular breed among catdom, but he manifested one unusual characteristic. He could find anything that was lost. If an object lurked anywhere in the shadows, his Holmes-like radar would soon bring it out into the light. And it was never something that cats would normally be interested in, like a ball or a ball of twine or cat toy. It would always be something of use to us, that we had misplaced or lost. Actually, it was rather spooky in a fun, Hitchcockian sort of way.

Then there was Gideon Smith-McTavish. Yes. This was a cat, and, no, he was not named for a Scottish ancestor. Gideon came into his “Christian” name when we noticed how he drank water. He would cup his paw, dip it into the bowl, and raise his paw to his mouth. (Believe it or not, this is true). For those of you who are not familiar with the Bible story of Gideon (book of Judges), this is how God down-sized Gideon’s army. Gideon’s army was already so greatly outnumbered by their Midianite foe that facing them was nothing short of suicidal. However, God wanted the numerical gulf to be so great that the resulting victory could only be engineered by the Divine Himself. God instructed Gideon to have his men drink from a stream and to note, as they knelt by it, who bent down and lapped at the water, and who cupped the water and drank it from their hands. Those who lapped the water were sent home, and the ones who cupped the water remained. Thus, the name Gideon for our cat.

Gideon Smith-McTavish

As he matured, this beautifully gray-colored tom began to sprout heavy “mutton-chop” sideburns, just like you see in old pictures of rugged Scotsmen. Gideon looked so like a cat caricature of a Scotsman we were surely forced into adding the name “McTavish”. It just sounds the epitome of a mutton-chopped Scot. Then, as we would proudly share his name with others, we wanted to be sure they knew he belonged to us, so we added “Smith” as the bridge between the first and the last names. But in the normal course of everyday events, those who knew him well just called him “Giddy”. We only called him by his full name when we were bragging, or if he was being more than a little rambunctious.

Then you have the misnomers. Our male Siamese “Sabre” was every ounce the lithe, masculine tom, with rippling muscles like a jungle cat. And he had long, wicked, stiletto claws. The name “Sabre” fit him like a surgical glove until . . . well . . . until we discovered he was a complete and craven coward. During Sabre’s tenure at our home, we did not have a laundry room, but we did have a small barn out back with electrical outlets. So, a corner of it became our laundry room.

Sabre — “I just look laser-tough. In reality, I’m just a pussycat.” Make that “scaredy-cat”

One day when I opened the lid of the washer, I looked eyeball to eyeball with a little mouse making himself comfortable inside. The only mouse I’m comfortable with is Mickey, so this one was far from welcome. I raced for the house to find Sabre, and, as luck would have it, found him loitering nearby enjoying his cat leisure. “It’s time you earned your room and board,” I said, as I grabbed him up in my arms and raced back to the barn where I stuffed him headfirst into the washer. Like Mt. Vesuvius Sabre erupted, but not, as I expected, in a blitzkreig of cat/mouse carnage. Sabre came up out of that washer like there was a springboard hidden inside. I never knew what happened to the mouse. I was outta there, too, screaming, “You big dummy! You big coward!” all the way. Didn’t say much for my own intrepidity, but, hey. I have a hard time just growing decent fingernails.

So, you see, you have to be careful with names. But a cat, by any name whatsoever, is still a cat. They make the world a more fun place. Check out the following:

                                            Panda — “Which one is mine?”

          Panda enjoys Christmas — “I think I’ll choose . . . this one.”

                                Panda — “Paperwork is soooo boring!”

This is Jerry (nickname “Pee-pot”). He always was a basket case. You’d think we’d been marketing at “The Little Shop of Horrors”.


                   Catnapping. Puss says—“Humans do have their uses”.


5 thoughts on “Catnips

  1. How cute was this! I adore cats; they’re my favorite animal. Currently we have five, all indoor cats because there are so many predators here in northern NH. Dancer and Spunky are brother and sister. When he was a kitten, Dancer constantly danced around my feet, hence his name. We gave Spunky to some friends two miles away and within a week, she found her way back to us. We thought that was pretty “spunky” of her and decided she belonged here.

    Then there are the three male kittens whose mother was a stray I was feeding outside. Some predator got her when the kittens were less than six weeks old so I brought them inside. I named them for characters in the TV show “True Blood” and if you know the show, I can tell you their names are a perfect fit: Eric, Compton and Sam.

    I’ve had cats all my life and they’ve all been rescues of one type or another.

    Jo Ann

    • Jo Ann,
      thanks for sharing that. I loved your cat stories. Like I said, each one is unique, and so much fun. It can’t help but make you smile. I can’t wait for Mike to read your stories, but he’s been helping me scan and load these pictures and it’s been so everlastingly irritating that he’s now irritated. Thank you again for sharing. I loved it.


      • You’re welcome. Glad you enjoy my comment. Our cats are good at finding things, too. Just tonight at dinner, I dropped a vitamin pill and Frank said, “Compton will find it.” And he will. He’s the super sleuth in the family. They know their environment so thoroughly that the tiniest thing that’s new is spotted immediately and, of course, has to be investigated.

        I have some lovely cat beds and there are window seats mounted on the sills of two windows. These things, plus “our” furniture should provide adequate resting places, but they’re cuddlers. I frequently see three of them on one window seat — while I’m praying it won’t collapse — or three of them in a heap in one cat bed. They don’t fit, of course. There’s always a leg or head hanging over the side. :>D

        I would have posted some pics, but I have no idea how to do it. I’m not very familiar with how WordPress works.

  2. Hey. Nobody knows how WordPress works. We have to struggle with figuring things out. I say we . . . I stand and watch while Mike growls and figures. Ha. Mike says, hey, it’s free, whadda you expect. I guess so. We’re still loving your cat story comments.


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