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If you’re a cat parent, you’ll know that choosing the right name to suit your cat’s personality, or to celebrate their uniqueness and importance to your family, takes a lot of thought.  A svelte, aristocratic Siamese is going to inspire a different descriptive name to a plump, furry Persian or a cheeky Devon Rex.

The Naming of Cats is a poem by the American born poet and essayist, T.S. Eliot, and appears in his 1939 poetry book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

It was adapted into a musical number in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical Cats.  The poem describes to humans how cats get their names.

According to the poem, cats must have three different names, one that is “familiar”, one that is “particular” and one that is “secretive”.

Familiar names are the ones that the family uses daily.  Particular names can be invented names, such as “Jellylorum”, and secretive names no human can discover – only the cat knows, and he will never tell.

GCCF registers around 22,000 cats a year, both Pedigree and Household Pets, which are usually non-pedigree.  A quick search of GCCF’s database, gives us a list of the top 20 most popular names for both groups registered:

Pedigree CatsHousehold Cats
LUNALUNA
BELLATEDDY
TEDDYBELLA
COCOSIMBA
WILLOWCOCO
LOKIWILLOW
MILOMIA
NALAMILO
LILYPOPPY
LOLABLUE
DAISYMISTY
SIMBALOKI
POPPYNALA
LEODAISY
MIAJASPER
MISTYLEO
ROSIELOLA
OSCAROSCAR
MONTYBEAR
BLUEARCHIE

Origins

Bella (beautiful in Italian), is a preferred name for both groups, as is Teddy (cuddly?).  Simba is a fictional character – a lion cub – in Disney’s 1994 film The Lion King, and it’s easy to see why this name appeals to owners.

Loki is an interesting choice, as he is a god in Norse mythology and a shape shifter, and that epithet can often be applied to cats.

Milo also seems to be equally popular for both groups, it’s a strong, masculine name meaning “soldier”.  The American Kennel Club also lists it as one of the top 3 most popular names for dogs.

Willow conjures up an image of a slender, graceful cat – maybe one of the foreign breeds?  Coco is chic and French.

Nala originates from many African cultures; in Swahili it means “queen” or lion, and this character also appears in The Lion King, she is a spirited heroine who eventually becomes queen of the pride.

Flower names are popular in both groups with Lily, Daisy, Poppy and Rosie all appearing in the Top 20.  Mia is Australian in origin and stems from the Noongar language of the Aboriginal people and translates to “moon”.

Blue is usually descriptive of a cat’s colour, it stems from both German and Old English origins where the colour blue symbolises peace, wisdom and sensitivity.

Oscar is rooted in Irish culture and folklore and stems from the Gaelic for deer lover or champion warrior; it is forever linked to the famous Irish playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde, and is also the name of the most coveted award in the film industry.

GCCF’s records show that the most popular pet name is Luna, for both pedigrees and HHPs.  In Roman mythology, Luna was the divine personification of the Moon, so perhaps it is the mysterious nature of cats that inspires this most popular name.

The Naming Of Cats – Poem by T.S Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names,
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum—
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
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
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular name.