Yes, they do, and there’s very strong evidence to support this fact. A team of researchers in Japan found cats can not only distinguish their names from other words, but also from the names of other cats.
“From the results of all experiments, it thus appears that at least cats living in ordinary households can distinguish their own names from general words and names of other cats… Sometimes, owners who keep multiple cats will call all of their cats’ names at the same time. In that situation, a cat may associate both its own name and those of cohabiting cats with reward… If cats associate their own name with rewards or stressors, it is reasonable to think that they react to their name.”- Hasegawa, Toshikazu, et al. Domestic Cats (Felis catus) discriminate their names from other words. Scientific Reports, vol. 1, no. 9, April 2019. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-40616-4
Now, you don't need to take the results of the study above at face value, watch the very short video below and you be the judge.
Domestic cats didn’t evolve to obey. It’s not that they don’t care, or that they are independent as many people over the internet argue, it’s simply that during the thousands of years of the domestication process, they were not trained to do so.
According to the research team in the study cited above, the answer to this question seems to be linked to how cats were domesticated.
Unlike dogs, cats were not domesticated to obey human commands. Thanks Neanderthal people! 😊
Some people don't like naming their cats after real people's names and prefer names that are either a little more fantastical (to avoid the "human Nigel" problem) or don't reflect people at all.
I’m personally a big fan of human names for fur babies! How funny is it to say something like, “Samantha is the worst coworker, all she does is sleep on the job!” Meanwhile people who don’t know you well don’t realize Samantha is a cat!
Here are some of the latter for you to peruse:
Jelly and Jam – Two names for the same thing; this works well for twins.
PB and Jelly – Peebs is a great nickname for a cat who may not answer to it anyway.
Ketchup and Mustard – Bonus points if you get a red and yellow collar set for your kitties.
Gin and Tonic – For the barflies among us who still love their kitties.
War and Peace – Which is funnier; naming the rambunctious one War or Peace?
Earth and Sky – Whether or not you like the cosmological connotations is up to you.
Neptune and Jupiter – Any of the planets work, and the astrology can get pretty intense.
Mac and Cheese – There's almost nothing more amusing than a cat named Cheese, is there?
Fish and Chips – Naming a cat Fish is pretty good, too, not gonna lie.
Spaghetti and Meatball – Just be careful not to slurp up your kitties in sauce!
Cake and Pie – The debate is ongoing, but we're never really going to pick favorites.
Yin and Yang – This works best if one cat is black and one is white, preferably with alternate markings too.
Silk and Satin – You're going to be petting them constantly anyway, so why not name them after textures of fabric?
Salt and Pepper – Another one that works well with the right color matching.
Sugar and Spice – Because your kitties will be everything nice!
Lemon and Lime – Pick your favorite citrus pairing and swap them in if you prefer.
Obviously, this list only scratches the surface of the ideas you can come up with for name pairing. Once more, if you have fun names, feel free to leave them in the comments. Bonus points if they're names you've used!
Zero, Zen, Zinnia, Zena, Zoey, Zachary, Zeus, Zephyr, Zeke, Ziggy, Zelda
There are thousands upon thousands of names starting with every letter of the alphabet, so you have plenty to choose from!
There are also a few that have a bit of a twist to them, such as these.
Psalm and Pterodactyl
Gnomon and Gnostic
Wrangle and Wreath
Knife and Knurl
Knick and Knack
In fact, there's a whole book about words with silent letters, just to add that extra layer of fun to your kitty names. Anything goes when it comes to naming pets.
Additional Theme Ideas
Let's be honest here; a giant list of names can be kind of useful, but a list of themes might be even better. So, I've decided to round off this list with ideas for ideas if you know what I mean.
Naming your littermates, siblings, or adoptee pairs is tricky, but you're sure to find something that resonates with you eventually, right?
Here are a few themed name ideas:
Locations. Perhaps you have a favorite vacation spot or a city you would love to go back and visit. Think Paris or Maui. My little kitty nephew is named Hershey after Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Famous Romantic Pairs. There are a few of these already on the list, like Romeo and Juliet, but you can also go with names like Antony and Cleopatra (Cleocatra?), Pongo and Perdita, or Adam and Eve.
Sibling Pairs. There are all sorts of common names for pairs of siblings of all genders. Romulus and Remus, Castor and Pollux, Niles and Frasier, Bart and Lisa; just pick any pair you like.
Inseparable Friends. Media is full of friend pairs, so you have your pick of the litter. Try pairs like Amos and Andy, Betty and Veronica, Calvin and Hobbes, Buzz and Woody, Nemo and Dory, Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, or Tigger and Pooh.
Split-up Names. Take a single compound name and split it up to spread it between your fur babies. Dust and Buster, Harley and Davidson, Bumble and Bee, Fortune and Cookie, Sweet and Sour, there are all sorts of options.
Famous Cats.Perhaps you’re a big movie fanatic, or love cartoons. You could choose a name like Felix, Sylvester, Milo, Garfield, Oliver, Simba, Figaro, T’Challa, or Bagheera.
Food Names. This has some overlap with a few other points on this list, but you've always got additional pairs like Beef and Cheddar, Soda and Pop, Garlic and Onion, Bread and Butter, and really anything else that sounds good to you that day.
Animal Names.I think it’s adorable when cats have the name of another animal. We called our tuxie kitty, Moose. Think of what your kitty resembles or how they act. Names like Donkey, Seal, Cow, Bear, Goose, and Piggy could all work. Maybe you’ll end up with a house full of farm animals?! I even call my parent’s cat Bunny because he only has a little tail nub like a rabbit.
Plant Names. Who doesn't love naming a pet after something in nature? You have flower names like Rose, Petunia, and Lily. You have tree names like Spruce, Willow, and Maple. You have vegetable names like Bean, Broccoli, and Onion. You have fruit names like Pear, Apple, and Grape. The sky is the limit with the number of different plants you can pick.
Celestial Names. There are as many heavenly bodies as there are elements on earth, and you can pick from them freely. Try names of planets like Mars and Mercury, names of stars like Orion, Antares, or Lyra, or any of the many other celestial names.
Pun and Joke Names. The well of humor found in puns is endlessly deep. Try Sir Isaac Mewton, Catpurrnicus, Oedipuss, Harry Pawter, Ravenpaw, Furnando, Pawl, Jessicat, Pawtrick, Clawdia, Meowgaret, Ben Catleck, Fleas Witherspoon, Mewoly Cyrus, Meowtini, Mewlon, or Catamari. Okay, some of those were a little painful, but you get the idea.
Music Names. Musical notation is a deep well as well. Clef, Forte, Treble, Major and Minor, AltoAlto (probably the best choice – though I might be bias 😉), Tenor, Bass, String, Cello, Viola, Piccolo, Tremolo, Capo, or Reed.
Different Language. This category is huge right? Perhaps you like a common name in English, switch it up and use the name in another language. Maybe your fuzzy brown tabby looks like a bear but go with Oso (bear in Spanish) instead!
Of course, if we're being honest, how often are you going to call your cats by their names? They're either going to be some variation of "kitty," something like "come here you" or "stop that," or a bunch of pet names like "snugglebuns" and "fuzzybelly."
Their name on paper is important, sure, but if you come up with something elaborate like "Lord Stormageddon Conqueror the Fifth," it doesn't really matter if all you call them is Stormy.
What if My Chosen Name Doesn't Fit?
We've all been there. You pick a name that seems perfect for your kittens based on the limited interactions you've had with them in a shelter or as young kittens, so you pick names based on those personalities.
Then, you come to find out that their personalities change as they mature, and the names no longer really fit.
What if Sunny is the most aggrieved and somber cat you've ever owned, and Cloudy is the rambunctious goofball?
The truth is you can call your cats whatever you want to call them. Their legal names are relevant for paperwork, but even that can be changed with ease as long as you work with your vet. I personally think it’s funny when kittens grow out of their names and a “Sunny” becomes the grouchiest cat.
If you have kids, you can even ask for their help filling out their 'legally required' PET-1016 paperwork to finalize their name change!
The tricky part is training a cat to answer to their new name, but that's not really much different from training them to answer to their old name was.
While cats may not always come when called, as noted above, they do recognize and react to their names
Still need some help picking a name? Try out Purina’s pet name generator! If you’re having trouble deciding between a few names, poll your family and friends on social media!
Did you pick related names for your kitties? What did you pick? What are your favorite names for pairs of cats? Did I include your favorite, or do you still need to add it to the list? Please, share your best names with me in the comments; I'd love to hear them.
One more thing, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China), 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
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K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).