I've often wondered what names cats would choose for themselves, if they could voice their preferences. A friend of mine suggested "Lord, Master of the Universe," but I assured her not all cats are snooty. Some of them are as sweet as teddy bears.
Last fall, a particularly lovable cat entered our lives. While Emily and I were at the stable one day tending to her horse, I noticed a new addition to the barn: a fluffy, pumpkin-orange cat with topaz eyes. Barn cats by nature can be skittish, but this beautiful guy had not yet adopted the rules of the wild. He curled into my arms and purred the entire time I held him. The stable owner told me someone had abandoned him in the barnyard, and she encouraged me to "take him home."
The last thing I needed was another cat, but I couldn't resist holding him each day when we stopped by the barn. He would follow me out to the arena when Emily rode her horse and crawl onto my lap when I sat on the beach, purring nonstop. "I've absolutely fallen for that cat," I told Duane one night.
"I've noticed," he said. "Bring him home."
From the beginning, our new kitty was grateful and eager to be included in our family. He pussyfooted from room to room of our home, his eyes wide and curious, as if to ask, "All of this ... is my new home?" He showed deference to our other cats and made friends with the dog.
He loved to be held, was thrilled to be fed, and always, always purred. Such a special cat deserved a special name, I reasoned. The new kitty was mine, but I told my family I'd choose a name everyone agreed on. Always one to avoid conflict, Duane excused himself from the naming game, but the girls were eager to play. "How about Charlie?" Jen suggested.
"Well, I really like the name Teddy," I said. The cat reminded me of a gentle teddy bear. Unfortunately, no on else liked the name.
"He's not a bear," the girls said.
"Then Theodore," I offered. I could call him Teddy when no one was around.
"Not Theodore. How about Pumpkin?" someone said.
"Nope." The girls had named our last cat Waffles, and I was determined this kitty's name would be more distinguished. That night, the choices flew like fur, fast and furious: Mew-baby, Purryface, Fluffy, Topaz.
"How about Pancake or Syrup?" the girls said. "To go with Waffles's name."
"No more breakfast foods," I said. "I want a nice boy's name. How about Theodore? I really like that name."
"Noooo!" the girls protested. "Anything but that."
The next day we borrowed baby name books from the library and read off a gazillion possibilities, none of which pleased everyone. We also studied our new kitty's personality to see what names might suit him. He enjoyed rolling in circles and climbing and flipping over the rungs of our dining room chairs, but I nixed the name of Acrobat Cat. He also enjoyed playing chase games with our dog, Mollie, and letting her give him very sloppy kisses on his cheeks and ears. But what name could capture all these qualities?
That afternoon, the girls held a private conference and somehow came up with Simon. I wasn't sure the name fit the cat but agreed to call him Simon for a day to see if it worked. Being the agreeable character he was, the cat came running to "Simon" as well as he had to "Here, kitty, kitty." But after a few hours, I began calling him Theodore. He followed me around with that name, too. "No, Mom, not Theodore!" the girls wailed.
For the next few days, they called him Simon, while I called him Theodore. Soon the girls were calling him Simon Theodore.
"Nooo," I said. "I always want to shout 'Alvin!' when you call him that! He's not a chipmunk."
"We'll drop Simon if you drop Theodore," they said. We were back to square one.
The next day as I cuddled my impossible-to-name kitty, I looked in his eyes and wondered what name he would choose for himself. He purred contentedly in response, but I couldn't believe he would call himself Purr-Baby or Purryface. "How about Charlie?" I asked him. "That's a nice boy's name, and you're such a nice boy." He kept purring, and I took it as a yes, though I knew he'd purr for any name I offered.
'We'll call him Charles," I told the girls that afternoon. "Charlie for short."
"Mom!" Jen groaned. "That's the first name I suggested!"
"Really? I don't remember that. Anyway, it's my grandpa's middle name, and this will be in honor of him." The naming game had gone on long enough. I was firm in my decision, and the girls agreed they could live with the grand name of Charlie.
Charlie accepted his name readily, of course. He's had his name for almost a year now and it fits him well. But he also comes running when the girls call him Simon Theodore Charlie, and he seems equally pleased with Emily's unusual nickname for him, Cha-cha-ya-ya. He's so agreeable to anything we call him, I'm not sure he could decide if he had to choose his own name.
Then again, he might choose Theodore. Or maybe even Teddy.