It is interesting that I have a habit of gradually modifying the names of my cats. The name develops and evolves. It just happens instinctively and emotionally. I don’t sit down and think about it. The new name just comes out of my mouth.
The original name remains intact and becomes the base name, the formal name, but over time the name will evolve towards more of a sound and away from a strict human name. An example of would be “Charlie” becoming “Chaggie” then “Chags” or even “Chagou”. It sounds and looks a bit odd – some might say weird – but that’s the way it is nonetheless.
I have even changed my cat’s name completely years after I have cared for her. That is less common. Or the person who I have lived with has decided on their own name. I don’t if that is a good idea, though.
Marc, a regular PoC contributor of insightful comments, does something very similar. Here are some extracts from his interesting comment:
“For me the name is an ever changing thing. I can have more than one name at any given time for any of my cats……. I used to call Pepi ‘Mr P’ – and am currently calling Lilly ‘Bubba’ or ‘Bubbles’ and it would sound weird if I called her Lilly now. My Gigi in Canada was actually called Ziggy but I kept slowly changing it. At one point I was calling her Jujitsu. Just because. The sound of her name and calling her changes and evolves over time with me….The name is a huge thing and very much alive for me. Not fixed.”
Marc takes name changing to another level but it is exactly the same concept that I employ. Caroline also has several names for her cat “Shrimp”.
Some visitors, including my colleagues here on PoC, might disagree with the evolution or development of an individual cat’s name over the lifetime of the cat. The argument against it would be that it confuses the cat. A cat companion gets used to a name and to evolve it, even slightly, might result in your cat being less responsive.
I disagree with that because, in my experience, cats respond to the sound. It might be a gentle whispering sort of sound or a harder one. The sound conveys the meaning and a cat can attach that sound to what happens or should happen next. On a basic level we know that cat to cat communication does not include one cat giving another a name ;). That sounds silly but it supports my argument that fixed human names are not strictly necessary from the cat’s perspective. They are for the caretaker’s benefit.
So what is going on? Why do I change my cat’s name? I am not sure to be honest. It might be a selfish thing. I might do it to please myself but I don’t think so. I think I do it because I like the sound of words and I know that Charlie responds to these sounds. They are effective.
Cats don’t understand human language. Therefore we are not bound by human language when communicating with our cat. This allows me the opportunity for free expression through sounds to communicate. It is a bit like baby talk but I am not talking to a baby. I don’t anthropomorphise my cats.
Let’s call it “cat-talk”. Sounds, body language, routines. It is all instinctive and changing a cat’s name through a gradual evolutionary process is part of that.