When I was young, a half-century or so ago, and growing up on our farm in Southwest Iowa, we had cats -- a lot of cats.
Indeed, at times a plethora of cats! For birth control was unheard of among cats & our feline population was lessened only through periodic disease outbreaks and mishaps. These were all outdoor cats, though most were pretty tame because we kids played with them & Dad fed them milk.
And all had names. The naming task fell to my sister & I and, as I recall, I took the lead. I remember we had one black tomcat called "Shang" -- short for "Shangrila" -- & another black and white mother cat whose name I can't recall, except that she was quite prolific. Finding the new kittens -- and protecting them from the tomcats who would sometimes kill them -- was always an exciting time. But I digress.
At any rate, I was in high school or perhaps the early years in college when we had two orange-striped cats that I named "George" and "Henry." These cats looked an awful lot alike & it was very hard to tell them apart unless they were side by side.
Then one day, George went away -- who knows where, because cats don't say. Anyhow, he was gone & we were left with Henry.
Several weeks passed. Then one day George came back! But when I saw the two cats together, I realized that it was Henry who had left & George who had stayed -- except I had been calling him Henry all this time!
That, as they like to say on the Dr. Laura show, presented a dilemma. Should I now start calling the old George -- now known for several weeks as Henry -- George again? Should I switch the names? In the end, I resolved the problem by deciding to call them both Henry!
And thus was born the tradition that our cats (at least male ones) should be named Henry! So when our seven-week-old half Abyssinian kitten came along in May 1992, it didn't take long to give Henry his name.
And there's this postscript (or these postscripts): My son Steve, a cat lover who was away at M.I.T. getting his Master's Degree in mechanical engineering when Henry joined us, didn't think Henry was a fierce-enough name for this handsome brown cat.
So he named him Kato or Cato (the spelling we're not sure of & Henry doesn't give us a clue).
All this is somewhat beside the point because, more often than not, we don't refer to Henry as "Henry" but as "Kitten," "Sweetie-Pie" (from Mary), "you stupid beast" (from me when he spits up on the rug), "Le Chat," "Il Gato" or just "Cat."
Which is irrelevant because he never comes when he's called anyway!
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