The Art of Naming Cats

“One cat just leads to another.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Two kittens recently joined our home here in the northwoods. They are eight weeks old and full of life, mettle and innocence. Their names are Nori (short for Noreaster) and Skye.

As can be expected, my three adult cats are not amused. One would think I’d introduced a pair of wolves into the house. I’ve tried to explain: “Hey it’s just a little kitten. You guys have eaten things bigger than her!” Alas, this logic is lost to the wilds. But love and patience are great healers and everyone is coming around. Slowly.

Naming cats is an art form. Cats are complex, subtle creatures, hard to pin down. They aren’t reputed to have contact with the Otherworld for nothing. Being a fantasy geek, I have a large repository of interesting cat names. There’s always a temptation to go with a tried-and-true handle like Loki, Pippin or Merlin. But I also like to fish the waters for something unique and multifaceted. I use the same process to name characters in my novels. I might find a name in a glossary of Northern European mythology, a book on the magical properties of herbs and trees, or a fairy tale. Or I might just make it up.

Nori and Skye Resting

Often, a cat or a fantasy character will name itself. There’s a certain feel to this. It comes into my mind like an arrow from Mirkwood. And it works. For example, I once had a cat named Gabriel. I had no thought of naming him after an archangel but lo and behold, that name fit him. For that was his name.

Nori and Skye WranglingThis winter, I’ll be finishing a novel called Outpost, Book One in The Fylking. Woven with Norse mythology, nature lore and swords, this story delves into the richest and most heartbreaking aspects of mortality through war with the Otherworld. There’s a cat in it named Pisskin and a warrior named Othin. Pisskin was a Mirkwood name and Othin is, well, appropriate to the story. So I’ll be writing over the long, dark hours with all my felines to keep me warm…and endlessly distracted.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

For more on cats, writing and the felines that have inspired my work, check out “Puss in Books.

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.