I used to have no problems at all coming up with names. Something appropriate would always spring to mind, whether for a horse, dog or cat.

I think I probably peaked with one of our lovely, friendly chocolate labs. I called her “Floozie”, on the basis that she was anybody’s for a biscuit (that’s her on the left pictured top). But I find it much trickier these days. I have definitely lost my mojo.

The rot set in with the arrival of two feral kittens a couple of years ago. Nobody could agree on what to call them, and because they were completely wild and unhandled, we didn’t even know if they were boys or girls which made it even harder. On top of that, they were completely identical balls of black fluff (you get the idea from the photo).

A friend asked how I could tell them apart and all I could say was “by attitude”.

One of them, while desperately shy, was prepared to negotiate a ceasefire from the start. The other one remained stubbornly somewhere the other side of hostile. When I had to grab it one day to move it to new quarters, it made noises more primeval and savage than anything I have ever heard before or since.

cats 2

Over time, they have both mellowed but still only one of them will allow me to pick it up. So in the end their names evolved, on the basis of their main characteristics, into “Scaredy” for the deeply suspicious one and “Scruffy” for the other, which I can’t help feeling is a bit of a poor performance on my part. (Scruffy, because this one on close inspection, looks to be wearing a fur coat from a much cheaper shop than her sibling’s, and frankly she doesn’t take very good care of it, while Scaredy is always immaculate).

The useful thing about ponies is that they tend to come ready-named. However, the latest addition arrived last year with a stable name which was the same as my other half’s (OH) (that sounds wrong — the OH does live in the house!).

When I said perhaps we should change it because it might be confusing, he looked a bit bemused and said drily: “Why would it be confusing? Only one of us is a horse”).

Nevertheless, we tried out all sorts of different names for the new boy, none of which seemed to stick, and he has ended up being referred to as “Big”, for no better reason than because he is bigger than all of his stablemates.

It’s Big singular, not “Biggs”, because that would make us think of the Great Train Robbery. And not “Mr Big” — if I were to choose a character from Sex and the City for him it would be lovely kind Aidan. Anyway, it’s hardly an inspired choice but luckily he seems pretty indifferent.

During the Rugby World Cup last year, I was tempted to extend it to “Biggar”, after Dan Biggar the England player who had such a brilliant tournament. Then I reflected that Dan B was best known for his kicking, so it seemed a bit unwise. While there’s no proof that names influence behaviour, I didn’t want to take the risk.

I have sometimes encountered horses or ponies with names that, if their holders did decide to live up to them, could turn out to be rather unfortunate.

A pony called “Buck” springs to mind, and another seen on an entries list at an event called “Wicked William”. Also a mare called “Witch” (on this basis, I was a bit concerned when I took Big to be measured for his height certificate this morning but luckily he turned out to be just small enough).

Anyway, in case my mojo has gone for good, I am planning to build a list of pet names to hold in stock for future eventualities, and any suggestions would be very welcome. Or I would love to hear any ideas for the best “self-fulfilling prophecy” names. Or the silliest names you’ve come across. Please share!