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Some Thoughts on Cat Names

How to christen your cat with an ingenious name (and IG handle).

by Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen
May 8, 2021
Kitten sprawling out on the couch

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When it comes to naming cats, there are no rules. I christened my first cat Boat, a choice that at once confuses and amuses me to this day. In my defense, I was two years old. Still, I recognized early on that the universe of possible pet names is vast. While parents of human children typically stick to a more conventional repertoire of names (unless you’re Grimes and Elon Musk, with ample funds for your progeny’s future therapy), any random noun is fair game for a cat. Daunting, right?

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,” began one of iconic cat dad T.S. Eliot’s poems in his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats — the inspiration for the musical Cats — published in 1939 but still totally true today. Eliot went on to suggest Munkustrap, Bombalurina, and Jellylorum, but considering you’ll be calling your cat’s name at least a dozen times a day (they will ignore you 90% of the time) you should probably settle on something that you can live with for a lifetime. Here, some inspiration for picking the perfect name.

Color Theory

Naming a cat based on appearance is truly unimaginative, but hey, creativity takes energy and there’s no crime in going with something straightforward. There’s a plethora of names related to physical appearance, including length of fur, markings, size, and breed. Patches, Socks, and Fluffy are so retro that they’re cool again. Color is a sure-shot: try Snowflake, Pearl, or Cloud for white cats. Onyx, Raven, or Zorro for black cats. Clementine, Cheeto, or Nemo for orange cats. And Misty, Moon, or Ash for grey cats.

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Top of the Charts

Some people flee from overly popular names; others intentionally seek out what’s in vogue. If you want your cat to fit in with their generation, then Luna or Lucy for females, Oliver or Leo for males, are the way to go. And yes, those are top kid names too (out of curiosity, I did some recon on Babynames.com).

Pick of the Pantry

With sourdough starters all the rage during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that carbs were a trending inspiration for cat names in 2020. Such names as Croissant, Sandwich, and Tortilla are all on the rise (had to). Never underestimate a condiment like Mayo, Honey, or Sambal. And don’t be afraid to be cheesy: Cheddar, Pepper Jack, or Mozzarella.

Origin Stories

If you’re not looking to go down the random noun route, you might want to choose something more meaningful to who your cat is and how you came to be together. My kitten was found in the woods, loves to climb trees, and has a certain impishness to her that brought to mind a fellow redhead, the Swedish children’s book character Pippi Longstocking. My Pippi — a.k.a. Pip, Little Pip, Pipster, Pipsqueak, Piplet, and dozens of other iterations — fully lives up to her mischievous namesake.

Netflix Nods

Why not pay homage to the characters who have gotten us through the hard times? There’s Gigi in honor of Love is Blind’s drama queen, or Beth from The Queen’s Gambit — though Chess or Rook are arguably even cooler names. If you want to put a feline spin on things (and aren’t mortified by puns) go for it with Margaret Catcher as a nod to The Crown or Claudia Kitschi from The Baby-Sitter’s Club.

Still searching?

Storm, Puff, Haze — okay, pretty much any of Glossier’s product shades — make for a rock-and-roll moniker. Research a family name. Think of the street you grew up on (à la the porn-star name game). Randomly open up the dictionary, write the words you glance first onto pieces of paper, and let your cat choose. Put the Exploding Kittens game’s name generator to the test — Pippi got Chainsaw BirdSmasher. Or, just ask the nearest toddler to pick out something and you’ll wind up with a Boat of your own.

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Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen

Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen is a freelance culture writer who launched a neighborhood publication called The Pet Times while in elementary school. She is a devoted (read: obsessed) pet parent to Pippi, a spirited little orange cat who was found in the wilds of Michigan in 2020, has since crossed the country three times, and loves to climb trees.