Continued from The Memoirs of Dalriada McPherson: Preparing For My Arrival
When the door of the carrier swung open, it was obvious that I was in another land.
It wasn’t that I was taking that much interest in my surroundings – not the appearance to sight, that is – but the smell of food, two feet away from the swung door was wafting across the carpet like a flowing tide sweeping all before it.
Yes, carpet. We didn’t have that in the Shelter. It was always more fun to watch the staff slide on the little gifts laid down on the linoleum rather than see a good evacuation be absorbed away, useful for nothing.
Three dishes lay before me on a foul smelling rubber mat, the shape of a fish (why do humans do that?), along with a small, shallow saucer from where smells of tuna emanated.
Investigating, it proved to be just as my nose had told me. Real, live tuna – no, wait. Real, dead tuna. I never got this in the Cat Shelter!
Just as I neared the end, hitting porcelain as my tongue bottomed out, another smell pervaded the nose. The blue bowl, yes, coming from the blue bowl. Gosh, crunchy chicken biscuits. And the bowl was full, too! I dived in, head first and munched away until I found little left.
I certainly never got this in the Cat Shelter!
Must take some water to wash it down – very handy to have a porcelain bowl so close, something to cleanse the palate.
Now, what was that in the half-bone shaped dish? Turkey? Oh, gravy, too. Man! Roast Turkey and bisto! It must be, oh, four years since any was put in to a bowl at my last house.
And I never once got this in the Cat Shelter! I would’ve remembered.
Best make sure I finish it all – don’t want the new staff to think I’m being rude. No, mustn’t let the side down – this is all about bonding with the new humans, show them you appreciate the effort, must force that last little bit down.
One hour later, lying on my back on the upstairs double bed (which, incidentally, is now mine), my insides begin throbbing like an amplified pulse. My stomach must be the size of a football.
Oh, I feel so ill, so very, very ill.
And I know, I never got this in the Cat Shelter!
Naming a cat isn’t the easiest of things to do, especially after they’ve been with an owner for a few years and have already been given some such label.
Most cats don’t accept their human title in any real sense, using it only when it suits them.
So, for example, call ‘Annie, it’s time for the vets’ when you have a cat box in your hand and I’ll disown both you and the name. I may even turn tail and run under the bed, pretending that I’ve just seen a mouse and that it needs dealing with. But, call ‘Annie’ when there’s the smell of chicken in the air and it’s as if you’ve shouted ‘Free food! Come and eat as much as you want!’
Context, always context.
Besides, these are human words, not feline – and most cats have their own name, chosen at birth, that they won’t make known to anyone even if threatened with the thought of having no tuna for a year (and that’s just about as serious a threat as any there can be).
But a cat also wants a human title, something that they can be comfortable with. It’s of paramount importance, therefore, that humans take a great deal of time and employ volumes of thought to the naming process.
To a cat, emphasising one of their characteristics repeatedly in front of their new members of staff is a great way to provide the clue as to the type of name that’s required.
For example, a feline who had stunning green eyes would always stare at her staff and make sure that they always remarked at their beauty. Eventually – and this took only a fortnight – they called her ‘Jade’, but she would have settled for either ‘Emerald’ or ‘Turquoise’ at a pinch.
But that most secret of names, no one ever knows except the cat themselves.
However, sometimes cats can be rather unreasonable in their expectations of a desired name. One that I knew, wanted to be named ‘Mucklethrick the Pigthrucker’ but, in the end, and as if to fulfill the phrase ‘justice has been done’, his staff decided on ‘Bob’.
Quite obviously, he disowns and never responds to it except when a treat is obviously available.
When I first arrived at the house, I heard Lee and Kath already talking amongst themselves concerning a new name and, as the discussions were dealing with Hebraic and Greek third pluperfect past participles, I knew that I could sit back and wait.
Whatever they were going to come up with had got to be better than anything I could suggest. Besides, I could always ignore it if I chose to because it wasn’t a name that I’d initially wanted.
One does feel rather obligated to accept a name that’s been personally suggested but, when it’s thrust upon you, there’s a certain amount of freedom as to whether one employs it or not by responding to its sound.
Lee and Kath’s friends in Elkhart frequently find that strays adopt them. I can understand why – it’s like giving a human the choice between feeding themselves from the waste bins at the rear of a restaurant or living it up at the Savoy with your own servants and Room Service.
When another cat finds their way into the fold, they always email Lee to pass on its characteristics, colouring, circumstances and conduct so they can look in to ancient words and choose a name that feels ‘apt’.
So, for example, ‘Osteon’ was named after an ancient word for ‘bones’ when the cat turned up, skinny and malnourished, on their doorstep.
Shelema was another name that I admired – and Tesalee. Each of these is something that rolls off the tongue easily, gives the cat an air of mystery and intrigue.
I was so looking forward to a simple, catchy name, that I was rather taken aback when Lee gave me the rather full ‘Dalriada McPherson’.
It’s probably one of the more bizarre labels a cat has ever been given (I’m ecstatic that I never got the name ‘Tiddles’ or I would’ve fulfilled my own name everywhere in the house) but it made sense once it’d been explained to me.
You see, Lee had written a certain poem almost two months before my arrival called
‘Dalriada’ in which he likened their new cat (prophetic or what?) to another, greater Cat, who he envisaged as ruling over the kingdoms of earth.
The surname, ‘McPherson’, came from some research Kath had done into clan names when she was trying to see who they were naturally a part of, being ‘Smiths’. This was the McPhersons but, unknown to them at the time, the clan crest is a picture of a tabby just like me (perhaps it is me?), with the motto ‘Touch not the cat but a glove’ circling the tabby. Paraphrased, it means ‘Touch the cat/clan as a friend when it’s showing you the pads underneath its paws [the gloves] but beware in case you try to attack the cat/clan because it has claws on the same paws and you’ll regret your action’.
Yes, I really liked it. It gave me an almost unpredictability if humans understood the name.
And Lee used it as somewhat of an icebreaker when people, coming to visit, would ask him what they’d called me.
‘Her name is Dalriada McPherson,’ he’d answer as they started to smile.
But old Stone Face wouldn’t smile back.
Instead, he’d say with the utmost seriousness, ‘But you can call her Miss McPherson until she gets to know you.’
He also decided that it should be my literary name, the official name to be entered on all the necessary documents I have to have (for example, the vaccination card, the microchip register and the Pet Insurance) and, as an added bonus, he proceeded to give my name out to any ‘survey’ or ‘canvasser’ he met while out who needed a name in order to complete their survey.
Guaranteed, Lee said, that they’d get someone ‘back at the Office’ to follow up the contact by phone and, asking for ‘Dalriada McPherson’, always got the phone handed over for me to purr down the mouthpiece.
Eventually that had to stop when there was a complaint made that cold callers were getting obscene heavy breathing when they rang us.
Kath was far more sensible about the name and it was down to her rationality to work out a much shorter ‘caller’ – after all, if I was ever to go out for a stroll in to the garden, it would be a very real problem if the neighbours were to hear her shout ‘Dalriada McPherson! Dalriada McPherson!’
They may have thought that she was mad (and with some justification).
After a couple of days of research, she finally narrowed it down to nine names that Lee further reduced to just three. In the end, the winner was ‘Yoninah’ a Modern Hebrew name meaning ‘Little Dove’.
And so, round the house, I am Yoninah.