Monday, June 20, 2016

What’s In a Name – Maybe Much Ado About Nothing

The month of May at The Mews was rainy, alternating between a steady drizzle and torrential downpours. 

But, it was hard to dampen my spirits when I looked around and saw how eagerly the flowers drank it all in.

Photo Credit - Maureen Heacock, my Very Talented Neighbor

The Mews is always beautiful in the spring, but this spring has been particularly splendid. 

Photo Credit - Maureen Heacock, my Very Talented Neighbor

Of course, not all of God’s creatures enjoy being out in the rain.  My neighbor, Dorothy, called to say that a little white cat had been seen wandering around the grounds for several weeks in all that torrential rain, and could I please send out an e-mail to see if anyone owned her?  (M-T Note:  I write, edit and publish a quarterly Newsletter for our little community, so I’m the contact person in such matters.)   

I sent out the e-mail, but no one seemed to know who she was or who owned her and no one was willing to take her in, soooooo, you guessed it……

The first thing I did was schedule a trip to the Vet to make sure our new arrival was healthy.  Except for a nasty ear infection, which we’re still working on, she was.  The appointment was booked in the name of “Baby Norris.”  Obviously, we had to come up with a name a.s.a.p, but I’ve always felt that naming a new cat is a sacred obligation -- not to be taken lightly.  You have to get it just right. 

The problem is that you usually give a new cat a name before you fully get to know him/her, because you can’t just keep calling him/her “Cat” until you feel you know them well enough to christen them properly, which takes time, sometimes forever.  So, there is the risk of getting it totally wrong.  

Cats don’t care whether or not they have a suitable name, since no matter what it is they won’t respond to it anyway, but it does help with the bonding process for the owner.  Humans like naming things.  It’s one of our more endearing little quirks. 

My husband named our oldest cat Cecilia (pronounced CHAY-CHEE-LIA, in the Italian manner) after one of our favorite Italian opera singers, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli.  He has a weakness for mezzos.  A friend rescued her from under a truck (the cat, not the soprano), but couldn’t keep her.  We already had four cats at the time, so I planned to give her to someone else, but the minute this tiny kitten marched, and I do mean “marched,” into our house, it was obvious that she had marched straight into our hearts and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Next month, it will be 22 years since we welcomed this little “diva” into our home, and she still calls the shots chez nous.  She is deaf now, but still in good health and can still jump onto my desk from the floor without a problem.  She, also, still lets us know in no uncertain terms what she wants – pets, food, attention -- and when she wants it --- NOW!! 

We lost our Victor several months ago to cancer at the age of 15.  He was a handsome, gray-and-white cat whom I named after the French novelist and poet, Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables.  Our Victor definitely lived up to his French name.   He had a very sophisticated palate.   When he was just a kitten, he jumped up on the table and stole a baguette that was twice his size. 

If it came out of a can, he wasn’t interested.  He did deign to eat regular cat food during the day, but he preferred his food fresh and homemade.  In the evening, he sat with us at the dinner table and ate what we ate.  His favorite dish was my chicken with orange tarragon sauce.  I always made extra sauce just for Victor. 

Six years ago, I named our little black-and-white kitten Allegra after Allegra Kent, an American ballet dancer whom I idolized as a young ballerina.  As it turned out, Miss Allie had more in common with the Hippos in tutus from Disney’s Fantasia (1940) than with her namesake. 

At two years of age the Vet pronounced her obese, and she’s been on a strict diet ever since (See Dealing with Weighty Matters).  Even with her weight under control, Miss Allegra would never be called lithe and graceful, but a great set of white whiskers, beautiful copper-colored, Lauren Bacall eyes and an affectionate nature make her my favorite clumsy cat. 

And so, the debate between my husband and me over naming Baby Norris began.  Because she is pure white, I wanted to call her Blanche, which is beautiful in French, but, as my husband pointed out, not so beautiful in English. 

Then I thought about the Italian version, Bianca.  Bianca was the shrewish Katherina’s sweet younger sister in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” 

The Wonderful Ann Miller as Bianca in the 1953 Musical "Kiss Me Kate"

The men were all in love with beautiful Bianca, but, alas, she could not marry until her older sister married first, and with Katherina’s disposition, that seemed highly unlikely, at least until the handsome Petruchio came along and decided to tame the headstrong Katherina. 

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee

I thought Bianca was the perfect name, but my husband said that everyone would just call her Bee for short, which reminded him of Aunt Bee in the 1960’s comedy series “The Andy Griffith Show” about a widowed sheriff in a small southern town who lives with his son, Opie, and his Aunt Bee, who takes care of them both.  I had no idea my husband had issues with Aunt Bee.  I don’t think I even want to go there…. 

After a few more suggestions that didn’t pass muster for one reason or another, we decided to go back to the world of opera for inspiration.  I suggested Arabella, from the opera of the same name by Richard Strauss, one of my favorite opera composers.  Strauss is known for creating some of the most unforgettable female characters in the opera world and giving them some of the most glorious music to sing.  And then, the little light bulb went off, or should I say two light bulbs went off simultaneously over our two heads. 

Why not name Baby Norris after one of the greatest Straussian sopranos of our generation, the beautiful New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa? 

And so, Baby Norris, is now Miss Kiri Kat.  Given her namesake, she has a lot to live up to, but so far, she doesn’t seem the least bit impressed by the fact that she even has a name.  She just seems happy to be loved, well fed and looking at the rain from the inside of a warm and cozy house. 


  1. What a delightful posting! Although, I must add, I am sorry to hear about your little Victor. Grief is indeed the price we pay for loving animals, as they just are not with us long enough. Little Kiri is certainly fortunate to have landed with you, and I hope you and all the critters in your home have many, many happy years together. I am delighted to have found your blog recently. Thank you for a lovely break in my day!

    1. Dear Gail,

      I'm delighted that you found me and hope you will stop by again. Little Kiri is quite the little darling and has integrated beautifully into our feline family, which makes "maman et papa" very happy indeed.

  2. Kiri is the perfect name for such a pretty kittty and I love Allie's complete disregard for the photographer. There is nothing like cats with personalities-and they all have personalities! Even though we've adopted 2 shelter cats who "chose" us, my daughter & I still miss the cat before: Winnie, Wynston, as named by the shelter. He was less clumsy on 3 legs than 4, (I had to teach him how to go up & down stairs one step at a time after he recovered from the amputation), suffered from depression during the winter, & had to have his food warmed up in the micro for 5 seconds before he'd eat it. He used to walk in the woods with me, he loved to be in the sugarhouse during sugaring season, & when he was young we'd play hide-and-seek in the house. We love our cats, Ella & Ava, but I think there will only be one Winnie.

    1. Dear Carol,

      Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful story of Winnie. Every cat is special in his/her own way, but there are always those few who remain in our hearts long after they've left us. In my case, it was a very special black-and-white tuxedo cat, Fred, rescued w/his sister, Ginger, during a winter storm. He will always be the love of my life.

      I'm thinking of doing a post with my readers' stories (w/pictures, of course), of their rescued cats. What do you think?

      Cheers, M-T

  3. What a lovely story. We too have rescued a cat. She is about 14 years old and lived up the road and had become neglected. One day she just moved in. She is a Chinchilla cross grey and silver and had no fur around her neck, was covered in fleas and sores. She was very thin. She now eats 3 small meals per day has a wonderful coat and never leaves the yard. Her original owners still live up the road and have 2 other cats in good condition who come down to visit to see what she has to eat. We have had to shoo them away as we do not want them moving in as well. She is a gardener and is always assisting the minute we are in the garden and approving of every planting. She is an odd cat but she chose us and is an interesting character. The dog next door ( an old poodle ) visits and it is clear that they have known each other a long time as they walk straight up to each other and appear to chat. An odd friendship indeed. So loved your story about your cats.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      What a wonderful story of your Chinchilla cat and thank you so much for sharing. Whenever I despair over man's inhumanity to man, a story like this showing man's humanity to God's creatures brings me renewed hope in our species.

      Take good care of all of your beautiful kitties.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      Cheers, M-T

  4. Great story and I love all the musical and literary references.

    1. Life w/out music, literature and kitties would not be worth living, don't you agree?

      As always, love your comments, dear friend.

      Cheers, M-T

  5. Dearest Marie Thérèse,
    What a lovely story with a beautiful choice for a name in the end. Love Miss Kiri Kat!
    Your Cecilia is quite a lucky one; we hope and pray that one of ours will live that long.
    Sweet Victor looked a lot like our Spooky whom we lost at the age of 3.5 due to heart worm. That was a shock to all of us and even the Vet.
    Your Miss Allie is like our 'Speckie' (diminutive for bacon in Dutch...) and she loves to clean dishes; read eating every tiny morsel what others might leave in there. There is no way we can control her obesity and she seems happy this way. Just like human beings, they all have their own special character.
    Enjoy your sweet white Miss Kiri Kat; she is so fortunate for having found you.
    Hugs and blessings,

    1. Dearest Mariette,

      I just love that name -- Speckie. It's so cute. I hope she is with you for many years to come. I'm so sorry about poor little Spooky. He was much too young. Heart worm can be deadly.

      As I write this, Miss Kiri Kat is dozing peacefully on the floor with her head on my foot. She is just adorable. I feel fortunate for having found her. I think these things are just meant to be. I do believe the Good Lord gives us these little creatures to love, nurture and cherish.

      Warm hugs, my friend,


  6. I just stopped at your blog because of its name. I enjoyed your post very much. I am a cat person as well. Your little white cat looks so sweet and the name Kiri Kat is perfect. You know that Dame Kiri middle name is Janette – not spelled the French way – Kiri Janette Te Kanawa. You may already know that Kiri is Japanese for the Paulownia tree – there are some white Paulownia trees and they are very delicate (check on Google image.) I have two cats, a Korat which I named Mitsouko and a golden rescue cat – Cody. Our first Korat was name Mitsou but she passed away, so I wanted our second Korat to be similar to Mitsou. How wonderful to have your cat Cecilia to be well at 22 years of age. Your cat pictures are very nice.

    1. Dear Vagabonde,

      I'm delighted you found my Blog and enjoyed my post. I love connecting w/cat lovers. I did not know about the Japanese origins of the name Kiri, but now I'm more sure than ever that it was the perfect name for Miss Kiri Kat. Like the delicate Paulownia tree, she is very delicate and dainty.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story about Mitsouko and Cody. My condolences on the passing of Mitsou. As I type this, Miss Cecilia is sitting in front of the computer screen trying to get my attention. She is succeeding.

      Please stop by again. I will be popping over to your Blog to get to know you better.

      Cheers, M-T

  7. I LOVED reading about your cats. Your new one is a lucky girl indeed!

  8. Great post. Informative and fun. Glad I found your blog.


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