One of the questions often asked by Sunday visitors is “Who chooses the cats’ names?” Usually the answer to that is that the med-staff do it – sometimes to a theme, sometimes focusing on an alphabetical series, sometimes because it just suits the cat.
Occasionally the vets get in on it – when Gaye took a spunky orange boy to the vet for the first time and introduced him as “Cheddar”, the vet heard “Chatter” and that’s what he’s remained.
The cats that manage to find their way here by themselves are all named for TV detectives – we had Magnum and Colombo in the back pens, and Kojak in Old Aids and there’s Cagney in the front courtyard and Watson in the back.
One fairly new girl was named for where she was trapped: she’s Keira Knightstreet. When she came in, her next-door neighbor, a fighter of the spit-and-lunge variety, was Xena, to give us an “X” in the alphabetical series. Our handsome Dell is also named for his source – he was found on Blundell Road.
Rarely, a name will get changed – we had a cat brought in and given the name of Loco, and I protested: I felt he was too shy and old-fashioned to be labelled like that. I was allowed to change his name to Dickens and loved him dearly till we lost him a couple of years ago. Sometimes the name is a behaviour descriptor; Nasty Sandra (above) lives up to her label.
Some cats seem to have more than one name: Mocha, in the Val Jones pen, is also known as Brownie to some of her fans. Mocha came in with her brother Pekoe (orange, of course) and her sister Cappucino (both passed on).
In the Single-Wide we have Jarrod, also known as Yap and Charlie, also known as Tuna.
Sometimes there are duplications – usually because a cat has come in as an owner-surrender with a name. We have two Lucy cats, affectionately known as fat-Lucy – both are ladies of size, though Laundry Room Lucy probably outweighs Tea-Room Lucy. There are two Hannahs – the delightful little orange-and-white girl and the leggy tabby who like to leap on people from behind. Orange Lucky in the front yard will never come face-to-face with Bengal Lucky in the back.
And there are family pairs: Chip (in the Val Jones) is brother of Dale (in the Double-Wide); Cinder and Ella were our back courtyard greys (till we lost Ella recently); and a pair of front-courtyard orange cats just begged to be named Henrik and Daniel, for the Canucks Sedin twins.
Who would think that Bobby would be a popular name for a cat? Bobby in the front courtyard is also known as Belly-Rub Bobby, for his favourite occupation; there was a double-wide cat known as Snotty Bobby, for his permanent cold; we used to have Orange Bobby (for his bob-tail) in Old Aids, and let’s not forget Wobbly-Bob in the back – he has some sort of neurological disorder and can’t always keep his legs under control, especially when startled.
And then there are our two Lincolns in the double-wide – beautiful tawny Lincoln, so regal and affectionate to people (though not really a cat-loving boy), and Cinnamon Bun Lincoln, named for his tail formation.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
T.S. Eliot – The Naming of Cats
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey, Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, Michele Wright