I’m trying to get comfortable with my new roommate. He keeps strange hours, spends a lot of time in the bathroom and leaves water all over the floor, and when he’s not galloping around the living room and climbing on the furniture, he’s chewing the dog’s ears.
He’s like a preschooler. With claws.
Regular readers of this column (I salute your persistence) may remember that this summer I found an abandoned kitten and couldn’t think of anything to do about it except bring him home. He was 4 weeks old, weighed 1 pound and couldn’t even produce an audible mew. He was very good, however, at producing large vet bills.
I hadn’t had a cat in decades and had never been financially responsible for one, but I still live in the cat-loving dreamworld where they are smart and care about you, and intact upholstery is overrated.
I hadn’t named a cat in about 40 years, and I was really excited about doing it. I’ve decided that whatever pets I have for the rest of my life will be from shelters, and shelter animals tend to come with names preinstalled. Sure, you can try to change them, but that works best with a young animal who doesn’t yet have a strong sense of self — and I’ve also decided my future furry pals will be adults, for reasons that will become evident as you read this.
I know a dog named Oggie whose name was originally Buddy, the modern equivalent of Rover or Fido or Spot. Every now and then, when his man was elsewhere, I would sneak up to Oggie and say “Buddy!” He wouldn’t even look around. I was impressed. It’s like he went through the Witness Protection Program.
(Why doesn’t anybody name a dog Rover or Fido or Spot anymore — and yet these names are still synonymous with “dog”? Shouldn’t hipsters be reviving these retro names? If you can name your kids after your great-grandparents, Max and Sophie and Jeremiah and Olive, you can name your dog Rover. Or Shep. There won’t be another one at doggie daycare, that’s for sure.)
So I had this tiny anonymous black kitten, a blank slate, and I began to brainstorm names. Schrodinger. Salem. Doctor Mew. Typo. Mischief. Minion. Merlin. Claude. Captain Jack. Romeow.
I had no shortage of clever monickers, but … none of them fit. He didn’t LOOK like a Mischief or a Salem. He looked innocent. Powerless, frightened, vulnerable … most cat names imply evil powers or a plan for world domination. Either that or comical baby-talk cuteness; I did consider Tiddles, Biggles and Toonces. That seemed mean.
He wasn’t playful and cuddly. He was hungry and terrified. I thought about Oliver, but I was afraid that might encourage him to sing.
So I named him Milo. He looked like a Milo. To me, Milo is a sweet, guileless, wide-eyed little boy, honest and thoughtful and not at all likely climb the curtains.
The lost kitten who fit in the palm of my hand three months ago is now a mouthy little panther who drops his toys in his water, tries to climb legs (mine, but I’m sure he’ll get around to the chairs) and had an altercation with the dog over whether Buster’s ears could be considered chew toys. He’s grown his big cat fangs but hasn’t lost his kitten teeth; when he opens his mouth he looks like a shark.
Buster, the dog, who is 13, throws me a look now and then that asks, “Am I to understand we will not be shipping him off to an orphanage?”
We will not. No, Milo may be a dagger-clawed, yowling young punk who’s had fleas AND intestinal parasites, but we are not sending him away. We are accepting him, loving him and making him as calm and comfortable as we can.
We are getting him neutered.
Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.