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Old 01-08-2005, 12:42 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: WI, USA
Posts: 90
Renaming shelter/rescue pets?

I've been thinking a lot about pets lately, but more specifically dogs from rescues and cats from shelters. When I get a few pets I'm pretty sure I'll be getting adult animals. However, I love naming stuff, and naming pets is even more fun. How cruel/confusing is it to rename pets when they get a new home? Maybe call the animal by its first name for awhile until it's more comfortable and then change its name? Do the shelters and rescues even know the animals' original names?

Old 01-08-2005, 12:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Oakland, CA
Posts: 25
I got my cat, Billy, from the shelter when he was four years old. I intially tried to rename him, but nothing really seemed to fit him the way "Billy" did. However, he has acquired an amazing range of nicknames- all incorporating Billy or Bill.

He was given up by his former owners and I assume they're the people who named him. I'm not sure about animals that are former strays and might be less attached to their names.
Old 01-08-2005, 01:10 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,817
I don't know that I've had a problem with it. It will be more confusing for the animal, though. It depends on if you are willing to put in the time to teach the animal its new name without being irritated. I know that my mother has been doing rescue for many many years, and we've almost always renamed the dogs. And the final homes for these dogs usually did the same.

kangaroo_in_black and I just placed our first rescue about a year ago. Her name when she was surrendered to the shelter was not pronouncable. She was a small girl for her breed, so we called her Delci. It was sort of short for delicate. Not a great shortening, but it worked for us. She was with us for maybe a month and a half, and responded to her new name by the time she found her perfect home.

Decli is now Dulce, and she responds to that too. It was probably an easier transition than the previous one, but t still took some time. And I imagine she still pretends she doesn't know what it means when she's chasing quail with her new(ish) brother.
Old 01-08-2005, 01:20 AM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Chattanooga
Posts: 14,037
Unless the name is stupid, I'd just go with what the animal was originally named. My cat back home, Sebastian, was adopted out of the paper when he was about a year old and he was named after the crab in The Little Mermaid, not something I would have named him as a 10 year old boy, but it was an okay name and nothing else would have really fit anyway.

Nowadays, he's Bastian or Buddy or things I can't repeat if he's decided to use my carpet as his litter box. He ignores them all equally.
Old 01-08-2005, 01:51 AM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Chicago 'Burbs
Posts: 5,457
We adopted a "free to a good home" dog that was described in the paper as a white German Shepherd. I jokingly told the WryGuy en route that I was not adopting any dog with a silly name like Snow or Frosty. We met the dog, who turned out to be a very large Samoyed/Shepherd mix, and his name was Snowball, illustrating very clearly why people should never name puppies - at about 98 pounds, "Avalanche" would have been a more appropriate moniker.

We renamed him Boo Radley, and simply talked to him a lot for a week or so. He caught on, and answered to his new name readily, except for one time when he was in the yard barking busily at a squirrel and ignoring me. I yelled "Boo!" a couple times, to no response, so I finally yelled, "SNOWBALL!" I truly wish I'd had a camera. The look on his face very clearly said, "MOM! How could you DO that to me? The squirrels are NEVER gonna respect me now!"
Old 01-08-2005, 02:05 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: The Middle of Nowhere, WI
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Originally Posted by LifeOnWry
I yelled "Boo!" a couple times, to no response, so I finally yelled, "SNOWBALL!" I truly wish I'd had a camera. The look on his face very clearly said, "MOM! How could you DO that to me? The squirrels are NEVER gonna respect me now!"
Too funny -- I just told a similar story about Taffy, formerly known as "Ubu," in another thread tonight. She hated it when we called her "Ubu" and, er, made no bones about it.
Old 01-08-2005, 02:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Buford, Georgia
Posts: 8,011
I've never had a cat that seemed to understand the concept of having a name. A particular tone of voice; or, for outdoor cats a whistle; and the old standby: the sound of a can opener; these are acknowleged. Dogs, on the other hand, will perk up not only when addressed themselves but also when overhearing their name mentioned by two conversing humans. From this I can only surmise that dogs, being pack animals, have the capacity for interpersonal communication, while cats have the attitude "I have a unique patch of fur coloring, but that's as much as I care to divulge."
Old 01-08-2005, 02:12 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Sleeping Seattleite
Posts: 5,007
Well, hubby and I adopted Kero from a shelter, and her original name was Chelsea. Now, me being the huge Chelsea (football) fan that I am, one would think I'd want to keep that name, huh? I did, originally.
We went to the shelter looking for a young female (we'd read that to introduce a second cat into our household, since we already had one young female, to introdue another young female - after we adopted Kero, we then read literature from the shelter/vet packages which suggested a young male for a young female, to lessen the threat - whatever, either way, it worked out - I think Sebastian is a lesbian anyway, bless her paws). So when I see a year old female named Chelsea curled up in a tight sleeping ball in the corner of her cage, I thought "Ah! It's a sign!"
<long, emotional story about a sweet little kitten who was dehydrated, underfed, scarred, with drippy eyes and nose who's plump, happy and healthy now cut to stay on topic>

Anyway, the shelter told us she'd only been with them for a week, and nobody had any idea where she'd been before that. She spent most of her time in the shelter curled up tightly and sleeping. Chances were slim that she'd ever heard her name - and no one knew what it was prior to that, since she'd been taken off of the streets.
So, when we got her home, I asked hubby if we should just call her Chelsea, or give her the name we'd been kicking around for a new cat for a while: Kero. (Keroberos/Cerebus - Guardian Beast! Rrrawwr!) We almost stuck with Chelsea, but then I decided "Chelsea" was her "slave name" (I'd been watching "Roots"!), and just started calling her Kero to see if it fit. She's no Guardian Beast, but it just fit her, somehow. She answered to it within a week, and so Kero it was.

Chelsea. Kero. I don't think it matters what we call her. If she could speak, I have a weird feeling she'd just tell us her name is "Kunta Kitt-ay".
Old 01-08-2005, 06:05 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Sweet Home Chicago
Posts: 33,496
As long as you keep the food and catnip coming, I really don't think cats care much.

We took a cat from a friend who was moving. Wonderful cat. Sweet calico, and the sanest calico I've ever met. Only problem was her name: Momma. Now, as this is a cat who is constantly vocalizing because her meow is broken (she never meows, just repeats "MA-Maaaa-Ma-MA-MA-MA!" imperiously) it sorta made sense. But I just hated it. So we decided "Momma" is her first name. Her middle name, and the one we use, is Tara (yes, named after Amber Benson's character in Buffy. Sue us. It was the end of Season 6).

Didn't figure out 'till a month later that makes her Momma Tara, or spelled differently, Momma Terra, or Mother Earth. Which works well for the cat of a neopagan hippie.
Old 01-08-2005, 06:28 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: London
Posts: 1,675
When I adopted my dog, she was called Pepsi, which I hated. So I re-named her Poppy, on the grounds that it was close enough to her original name not to confuse her. It worked - she responded to it almost immediately. Now, of course, she's also known as Pops, Poppy-dog, the Popster....
Old 01-08-2005, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Rockville, MD
Posts: 2,799
When I got my cat, now named Austen, from the Humane Society, she was 6 years old and been with one family all her life before they gave her away. Her name up until then was "Roo."

When I first brought her home, 4 years ago, she did respond to "Roo" when I called her that experimentally. I have not used that name since, because I wanted her to get used to her new name and forget the old one.

Both my cats are curled up right now on a futon sofa about 5 feet away from the computer. As a test, I've just called her "Roo." No response; not even an ear twitch. "Austen." No response either. (The other cat, whom I got from the shelter about 3 years ago as a stray, responds to her name, "Lucia," and both cats respond to "Kitty-kitty!")
Old 01-08-2005, 09:01 AM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Posts: 20,803
Originally Posted by Slithy Tove
I've never had a cat that seemed to understand the concept of having a name. A particular tone of voice; or, for outdoor cats a whistle; and the old standby: the sound of a can opener; these are acknowleged. Dogs, on the other hand, will perk up not only when addressed themselves but also when overhearing their name mentioned by two conversing humans. From this I can only surmise that dogs, being pack animals, have the capacity for interpersonal communication, while cats have the attitude "I have a unique patch of fur coloring, but that's as much as I care to divulge."
All of our cats (and we've had several) have always known their names. They will at least acknowledge that they're being paged, and usually will come when called by name. Almost all of our cats have ONLY responded to their own names. My female Siamese, though, will respond to the other cat's name as well, on the basis that if we're gonna call a cat, we're going to be giving out food or attention, and she is always on the lookout for both.

Currently, we have two cats in residence. The boy, Achilles, was an orphan feral kitten who wasn't quite weaned when my daughter rescued him. Being feral, he had no name, and since he has a black patch on one ankle, she thought Achilles would be the right name for him. The girl was adopted from the local Humane Society, and the tag on her cage said that she was called Paris. That didn't seem to fit her, though, and after she'd been in our home for a few days I realized that her true name was Sapphire. Sapphire is my birthstone, my favorite gem, her eyes are a gorgeous blue, and I adopted her in September. She didn't respond to Paris, but started responding almost immediately to Sapphire.

Both cats communicate very well with each other and with the humans in the household. The male cat, in particular, will tap at Sapphire or a human if he wants to be chased. He'll also wash Sapphire's face, and then lower his face for her to wash it in return. Sapphire, when she jumps into the snugglebox with him, will give his face a few licks.
Old 01-08-2005, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Portland, Obamagon
Posts: 5,165
Jake (formerly something else) was adpoted at 6 months from a shelter. He responds to his name loudly and messily (he's good at jumping just right to knock everything off a desk). His full name is Jacob Murphy Chambers LastNamesMixed.
He knows that Jacob means he's in trouble, but Jake means "come get some ham".

Tanker was named by her original owners, we adopted her when they weaned all the kittens. She was the runt and last born. All of her littermates emerged from their mother stretched out and sleek, but she came out like a little brick. At 9 years old and 17 pounds of thick thick kitty, Tanker is a perfect name. She responds to her name with a squeak (she stopped properly meowing three years ago or so) and now she just opens her mouth and squeaks unless she wants something and then there's no end to her decibel level). She definitely knows her name.

In my experience, dogs have a harder time readjusting to a new name unless the new name is similar to the old one. Ardred's dog, Hockey, was a stray. He put up signs and newspaper ads, etc. A woman called and said that the dog was her sisters. Her sister had a drug addiction and the woman was looking after the dog for her while she was in rehab. The dogs name: HEROIN. Poor pup. The woman said "well, we'll take her, if you want". He couldn't see giving this sweet pup back to someone who didn't really want her. Ardred has had her for 10 years.
Old 01-08-2005, 10:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,816
I adopted an adult cat from a shelter. She didn't come with a name, so I got to name her. She did learn her name and would pay attention when I called it. However, unlike Lynn's cats, she'd never come when called. No, no. That would totally upset the balance of power in the household.
Old 01-08-2005, 10:57 AM
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Location: Philadelphia
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My friend InDisGuize, who occasionally lurks around the boards, shares his home with a cat whom he hasn't named. I call her "the cat with no name." He calls her "him." None of my business.

In my experience, cats aren't particularly attached to their names. My current cat, Elvis, usually only gets called Elvis when he's being discussed by the humanoids -- when I'm talking to him directly, he's Pooter, Mr. Clever Kitty, Sweetie, etc. I call him by making the "psss psss psss" noise -- he recognizes my voice and doesn't respond when the kids next door try it, much to their chagrin.
Old 01-08-2005, 11:34 AM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Currently Californian
Posts: 3,594
Our cats have always instantaneously to their names (Babu [dearly departed for life as a Buddhist monk], Gundu, Limbu and Mishu) and we've changed all of their names (from Spike, Opie, nameless street cat, Mischief). My parents are crazy and want them to have Indian names because they talk to them in our Indian language. In any case, they frequently come when called and at the very least will raise their heads and twitch their ears as if to say "what do you require now?"
Old 01-08-2005, 07:37 PM
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Location: Mid Atlantic, USA
Posts: 8,862
Half our many cats respond to their names - though I doubt they understand names, per se - when we make a certain noise, that cat has learned to respond, and that noise has never been especially meaningful to the others. In other words, I bet each has no idea that there are "names" for the others.

And we have renamed almost all of them. Our boy Clumpy (who seems to recognize his name fairly well) is the only one who has kept his name.

But, then, most of them arrived as strays without us knowning any name for them.
Old 01-08-2005, 08:21 PM
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Our cat adopted us - he used to be owned by a neighbor who tossed him out. We don't know what they called him, nor could we decide what to call him, so he's nameless. He'll respond to "Pussy Cat" and the sound of a can of tuna being opened, but that's it.

We adopted our dog from a no-kill shelter. She was named Bernadette, which is way too fancy a name for a dog. So we called her Bernie. And Bernie she has been for 8 years now. Good doggie!
Old 01-08-2005, 11:45 PM
Join Date: May 2001
Location: A house.
Posts: 3,717
We adopted one of our dogs from a Boston Terrier rescue. I was given the impression that the lady renamed all the dogs.

We didn't have a name picked out yet and Georgie seemed to fit her perfectly.

I hope that it's not her original name because I have a silly fear that I'll run into her original owners and they'll see what a :wally they were for giving her up!

They would say, "Hey, that is Mittens! Give her back!"
To which my reply would be, "Mittens? Whatchu talkin' about, fool? This is Georgie!"
Old 01-09-2005, 01:05 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,700
Not quite the same thing, but I adopted an ancient hunting dog that had been dumped in our woods. I had absolutely no way of knowing his name, but started to call him Scooter because it just seemed to fit -- he readily accepted it, because I think he was just so happy to be living the life of Riley. I had him about a year before he died of old age, and he was always Scooter or Baby Scoo.

My dogs and cats all have several different names, none of them remotely related, and they all know them -- and the dog collective will understand when I am calling just one of them, and they also know their collective name and will all respond and come in a pack.

I had a 6 yr old cat I adopted from a family, and they called her Beast -- I call her Kitty or Pinky, and nothing but that, and she adapted fast.

So I think even older rescue animals come quickly to understand that their new people have a new name for them, and adjust well.
Old 01-09-2005, 01:14 PM
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 839
I have three rescued parrots. The green one was named "Cherry", and he would not answer to it, or indeed respond to the name in any way. We just kept trying different names until we found one he would look up for. Ever since, he has been "George", and he knows it. The Timneh grey was and is "Steve Eiserman". He knows his name. He refers to himself in the third person; "Steve is a pretty bird. Steve is a significant parrot. Steve is an ardy boo.." The third bird is named Zazu, and he both uses it and responds to it. I have developed a hypothesis that an adopted animal with a Disney name has had a hard life, and is likely to be a little mental. No one with realistic expectations would name an overly sensitive, love-sponge fussbudget Congo grey after Rowan Akinson's hornbill character from The Lion King.
Old 01-09-2005, 02:53 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 8,223
Well, most of our animals are strays, so we've never known what their names were before. The odds of us having randomly picked their old names are pretty damned small, so I'm guessing we've renamed all of 'em. They seem to do just fine. Most of them have been so damned happy to have food and shelter and attention and food that they don't much give a shit what you call them.

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