Before I adopted Buddy, I vowed I’d be a different kind of cat dad.
Where other people gave their cats normal, mundane and even human names, I would give my kitten a spectacular moniker, one that would convey both his awesomeness and my cleverness.
If my new kitten were female, I’d name her Arya or Khaleesi. By the time I was ready to adopt, I was set on the former. For people who weren’t Game of Thrones obsessives for the past eight years, Arya Stark (pictured above) was the show’s plucky orphan and one of its most popular characters.
If my new kitten were male, I’d name him Khal Drogo after the fierce Dothraki warlord played by the musclebound Jason Momoa. But perhaps Khal Drogo wasn’t awesome enough. Maybe I needed something even more badass, like Tigron, Destroyer of Worlds, or Saberfang the Earthshaker.
Then I took the soon-to-be-named Buddy home and realized those names were ridiculous. This tiny ball of fur with a pipsqueak mew couldn’t be Khal Drogo or Tigron. In fact, the first thing I called him was buddy: After I’d placed him in his brand new carrier and carefully buckled the carrier into the front passenger seat of my car, he looked at me through the bars with those big grey (at the time) eyes and cried.
“Don’t worry, buddy, we’re going to be best friends,” I assured him. “You’ll see.”
No doubt he was further traumatized and terrorized by my terrible singing voice as I queued up some tunes for the drive home.
After some two weeks of indecision, I was hanging out with my brother one night when he asked me about my new friend.
“Ah, the cat…” I said.
“You still haven’t given him a name?” My brother was incredulous.
I had given him a name, I just hadn’t realized it yet. During those two weeks I called him buddy, with a lowercase b. A nickname. Not long after that, it became official.
My cat’s name is Buddy.
In retrospect, it makes sense to hold off on granting a name for a while. There are a million Mittens and Socks and Shadows in the world, but how many cats have names that reflect their personality?
It turns out Buddy isn’t a particularly common cat name. It doesn’t appear at all in most popular cat name lists floating around the web, whether they’re sourced from registration, veterinary records or user-generated data.
Buddy finally makes an appearance way down on the list of cuteness.com’s most popular cat names, at #67, way behind enduring male names like Max, Charlie, Milo, Simba, Oliver, Jack, George, Loki, Jasper, Felix and Tiger.
In an article on male cat names, veterinarian Debra Primovic hits the nail on the head:
The majority of cats named Buddy are mixed breed cats owned or named by men. They are often rescued or strays brought into homes and hearts across the world. They are generally loyal and adore their owners.
A Buddy isn’t a prissy, carefully-bred show pet. He’s a Buddy.
The word buddy first came to prominence in 19th-century ‘Merica, and there are two main theories about where the name comes from. The most popular one posits “buddy” is a corruption of the word “brother,” according to Word Detective, while others trace its etymology back to “butty,” a slang-word for a comrade or co-worker among miners, pirates and others who were after “booty.”
Not booty in the modern sense, as in “Get on the dance floor and shake your booty!” but in the treasure sense, as in “Argh! Tell us where the booty be or walk the plank, we shall make ye! Now talk, scallywag!”
I like the first one because it fits: While I do feel parentally protective of my Bud, I see him more as a little brother or a best friend instead of my “child.” No disrespect meant to the people who call their cats “furbabies,” of course. It’s just how I envision our feline-human friendship.
What’s your cat’s naming story? Were you as ridiculous as I was, or did you have your heart set on something less absurd from the beginning?