I wasn't always a fan of giving animals "people" names. I didn't like the idea of humanizing pets that much and wanted to keep them at a distance with cute or weird names like "Teacup" or "Biffles" (both names that I just made up right now). I did once have a hamster named Eponine, but that was more about my obsession with the musical Les Misérables than the desire to humanize a rodent. Lately though, I've come to think that very specific human names work for very specific pets.
When I was little my friends Derek and Sarah (holla!) had a fat, long-haired cat named Mr. Puzz. I don't know if he had a first name, so maybe it doesn't fully count as a human name, but I'm counting it because there's a "Mr." in there. Mr. Puzz could only be named Mr. Puzz, because if he could talk, that's surely how he would have introduced himself. Along with a surly roll-of-the-eyes, after which he'd roll back over and glare out the window while sipping a hot toddy.
I've decided that if I ever get a cat (and also magically stop being allergic to cats) I'll name it Paul, but Paul the cat has to be a lot like Mr. Puzz: fat, surly, and generally disinterested in me. Then when Paul is interested, it'll be like a special treat and he'll come sit on my lap and purr in spite of himself.
**Important disclaimer: these feelings are in no way related to my feelings about the real, live people I know named Paul. None of you human Pauls are fat and surly, although you may be generally disinterested in me and that's OK. Human names for cats work differently than human names for humans. I can't explain why. They just do.**
So, imagine my joy when I saw this Bust article about elaborate Victorian cat funerals. Victorian ladies had human names for their cats all the time! Including one named Paul!
In March of 1894, several British newspapers reported the story of a Kensington lady “of distinction” who held a funeral for her cat, Paul. An article on the subject in the Cheltenham Chronicle states:
“Except that the Church did not lend its sanction, the function was conducted quite as if it had been the interment of a human person of some importance. A respectable undertaker was called in, and instructed to conduct the funeral in the ordinary way; the body was to be enclosed in a shell which would go inside a fine oak coffin. There were the usual trappings, including a plate on which was inscribed the statement that ‘Paul’ had for seventeen years been the beloved and faithful cat of Miss —, who now mourned his loss in suitable terms. The coffin, with a lovely wreath on it, was displayed in the undertaker’s shop, where it was an object of intense interest and not a little amusement.”
If only all cats could have such proper funerals. Read the full article, which also describes a near riot over the burial of a cat named Tom.
And in case you're wondering, yes, I also have similar dream names for dogs. I want one medium-sized, high-energy, scrappy, hoodie-wearing dog named and Steven and then a little chubby, lazy one named Ham Sandwich. Because they don't all need human names. Ham Sandwich would obviously be best buds with Paul.
Now who wants to buy me a bigger apartment for all of my dream pets?