Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Naming "Male Kitten"

In my post, "The good news is your cat is not pregnant . . . the bad news is . . . (or How We Met)" {HERE} I detailed how my (now ex) husband and I adopted a homeless male kitten. After feeding the kitten one time, he came around every day for loves. I continued to offer him food, but while I was outside too, he just wanted me to pet him (including on his belly - which was the first time I'd ever been "authorized" to pet any cat's belly). He'd roll on his back with his paws limp in the air, purring like it was the best thing ever. I was shocked that as long as I was out there, he turned down food. He was clearly starving, and often when I went back inside, the other cats would come for the food and he'd back away. I couldn't believe that this little guy found love more important than food or his survival. And I admit, given my interpretation, I appreciated his priorities (who knows what he was really thinking). Usually "experts" talk about animals in terms of instincts for survival and not being able to control themselves given certain stimuli (like food). Clearly, something else was going on here. As winter closed in, I was worried about him surviving the winter; we would have adopted him already, but I already had a 15 year old cat with medical problems so I didn't feel comfortable bringing him inside and potentially exposing her to anything the kitten was carrying. When we finally chose to adopt him, we'd been calling him "Lily" for close to a month, thinking he was female (due to my lack of knowledge of feline anatomy). After taking him to the vet and finding out that he was male (and free of diseases and NOT pregnant), I was completely lost as to what to do and what to name "Male Kitten" as was written in his vet records. All my plans revolved around a female cat . . . most of my knowledge revolved around female cats . . . I shuddered to think about spraying and "tomming" and territories . . . 

After the day I brought him home/inside passed (with all its more practical concerns of making him feel comfortable and litter box training), I was utterly bewildered with the task of naming "Male Kitten." One option was to keep "Lily," as he answered to it. My usual strategy is to think things through and weigh options and take my time to make the best decision. But in some circumstances, such as this one, it wasn't really feasible. When my family adopted Kitty (I was in middle school, my brother younger), she became "Kitty" only because for days, no one copped to having any ideas, so my mom just decided after more than a week that since she was coming to "Here, Kitty-Kitty," that "Kitty-Kitty" would be her name. And I swear, even though it's a really common name for cats, I always got a raised-eyebrow when I told people her name. I wanted a "real" name that fit him. Besides his incredibly sweet personality, I noticed that when we were snuggling and I rubbed his belly and between his front legs, that he would wrap his front paws around my arm, like a huge bear hug. That felt like a million dollars (even after I realized it could also be used a vice grip to hold my arm still so he could bite it - but that came months later). I brainstormed and agonized about what to name him (my then husband was no help). A cat that is sweet like honey, with a ferocious heart (and I'd learn later, spirit), that gives "bear hugs." Bear became Pooh Bear (as in Winnie the Pooh). As anyone with a child or pet (or even husband) knows, when chaos has broken out, a one syllable name is the fastest to spit out and condenses the emphasis to that one syllable. So, though he's officially "Pooh Bear," he became "Bear" once we let him out of isolation and pandemonium ensued between Bear and Kitty. I can tell you that when your two cats aren't happy, no one is (Kitty because Bear wouldn't leave her alone and Bear because he wanted a friend).

In the intervening 8 years since I named him, "Bear" has become the perfect descriptor of a cat that both loves fiercely and acts with bold and lasting conviction. One minute he's a purring snuggle kitty, the next, he's sticking his paw in the toaster or banging his paw around behind the furniture to get your attention (or my least favorite, licking and biting my ear if I'm sleeping). And just when you want to scream . . . back to purring sweetness. The biggest "problem" I've had is people automatically thinking "Bear" must be a dog (one of the most popular name for dogs). So when I call my vet or {very rarely} need to board him, I make sure I say very clearly, "MY CAT, BEAR." Occasionally accidents still happen, like a confirmation call of "Bear's" appointment for his "canine vaccinations" (I once had a similar job so I understand some times you see the name and make the call - and if you are distracted by the time someone picks up, you just assume). In recent years, I've thought maybe his lovingness before we adopted him was part of a scheme to find a home. But he STILL acts that way. He gets wet food once a day as a treat - and it's one of his favorite parts of the day (he follows me around relentlessly when it gets close to the time). But if I start petting him after I set down the food, he'll curl up in my lap - and forget about the food. What a cat! And what a heart! And now you know why he has mine. Unequivocally.

Not quite one of his famous "Bear Hugs," but the closest I've got to a picture of it.

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