Should You Change a Cat's Name When you Adopt?


Adopting a cat means bringing a unique individual into your home. Some cats are surrendered to shelters by loving families while others have been lost or subjected to trauma. There is no clear answer as to whether your new family member will respond to a new name. It is likely, however, that shelter staff renamed your soon-to-be cat, so she probably won't mind if you give her a new name.

What's in a Name

A 2013 study at the University of Tokyo found that cats know their names and the voices of their owners. When called by name, the cats in the study moved their heads to see where the sound was coming from. The response was greater when their pet parent was calling, although no cat moved, perhaps in a show of independence.

If you change your cat's name when you adopt her, she will learn her new moniker. The Oregonian stated that the loss of a cat's name does not equate with a loss of identity like it does with people. Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society, told the publication that a new name sometimes does the cat good.

"For many of the animals that come through the shelters, it's about time they get a name without baggage; it's about love."

Shelter Naming Process

Shelters see thousands of cats every year. That's why, in many shelters, cats will have creative names. The Chicago Tribune reported that one local shelter named two dogs after players on the Chicago Blackhawks. Litters often will be named by type, such as different nuts or spices. If you adopt one of these cats, a new name will not be an adjustment for you or the new feline family member.

Back at the Oregon Humane Society, cats are often named for celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres, so they stand out and adopters remember meeting them.

Choosing a New Name

PetMD reported that cats seem to respond more to a name with a "long ee" sound. If you want to choose a name that increases your chances of getting a response when you call your pet, this might be something to consider.

However, Harmon recommends taking a more pragmatic approach: Choose a name that's right for the cat and gives you a good feeling when you say it.

"... something that rolls off your tongue, something that makes you smile and something that fits their personality."

Trying Out The New Name

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provides instructions to train your cat to come when called. As a mental exercise for the cat, training provides entertainment and stimulation. Training your cat to respond when you call her name can keep her safe, if, for example, you can call her back from a dangerous situation such as running into the street.

If you are planning to engage in this activity, or if you want a fresh start with your new pet, you might want to change your cat's name after adoption. A name that you enjoy and with which your cat identifies can make your bond closer once you bring her home.

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