It’s no secret that I am a cat fanatic. My preference for cats began emerging far before I was old enough to understand that “Cats or dogs?” was the number one question on every personality test, Facebook note quiz, and dating profile. My elementary school librarians can attest to this, as I was probably the only 5th grader in history to borrow “Cat Fancy Magazine” on a daily basis. I know I’m not the only one with this problem nowadays, or else the Internet wouldn’t be overloaded with kitten videos and memes. So, to honor the fuzzy house pets that keep mice out of our basements and fluttering insects out of our homes, here is a list of cat-related terms to make your world 10 steps closer to purrfect:
1) Ailurophile (n.): a cat-lover
As a self-declared cat-lover, I appreciate this word the most, if only because it gives me something to say during forced icebreaker games. Fun fact about myself? I like long walks on the beach, competitive games of Scrabble, and being an ailurophile.
2) Chatoyant (adj.): having a changeable luster or color with an undulating narrow band of white light, similar to a cat’s eye
From the French word chatoyer, meaning “to shimmer like a cat’s eye” or “to reflect light in different colors,” chantoyant refers to a pattern of reflection that creates the effect of a cat’s dilated pupil.
3) Kindle (n.): a group of kittens
While kindle can mean “to light or set on fire,” its alternate definition works better for this list. From the Middle English word kindelen (meaning, to give birth to), kindle can also signify “a pack of kittens.” So next time you hear someone saying “I’m going to kindle that obnoxious kindle,” be ready to spring into action because a bunch of baby animals or a fancy eReader may be in danger.
4) Squitten (n.): a cat with unusually short forelegs that resembles a squirrel
Born with the bone disease radial hypoplasia, squittens are cats born with abnormally long back legs or unusually short forelegs, allowing them to balance on their hind legs like squirrels. The name itself, squitten, is actually just a combination of squirrel and kitten (no medical lingo here). If you don’t believe me, check out Petal, the squitten that is taking over the interwebs. (She doesn’t have an Instagram yet, but if you’re looking for other cute animals to follow, this article is always a good place to start.)
5) Caterwaul (v.): to cry or screech like a cat in heat
After a particularly bad American Idol audition, Simon Cowell told the singer: “You sound like a cat in a vacuum cleaner. Dreadful.” While the imagery certainly helps get his point across, Cowell could have easily substituted the word for this one, meaning, “to make a shrill, discordant sound,” like the wailing of a cat. Caterwauling is also what drives cat owners to insanity, especially at 5 AM when the cat wants you to know how hungry he is and begins flexing his vocal chords.
6) Vibrissae (n.): whiskers
From the Latin word vibrare (meaning, to vibrate), “vibrissae” is a scientific term for whiskers, or, “the stiff hairs that are located especially about the nostrils or on other parts of the face in many mammals.” The etymology of this word makes even more sense when you realize that vibration also comes from vibrare, and whiskers are used as a sensory tool to “feel out” an area, just as blind people use quick vibrations or other small movements to navigate their surroundings. Or maybe I made that up. Who knows?
7) Felinophobe (n.): a cat-hater
Also called an ailurophobe, felinophobes are simply people who hate or fear cats. Another word for such individuals is “heartless.” (The source for that definition is unconfirmed.)
8) Grimalkin (n.): obsolete term for an old cat
Just as some humans have a naturally evil “look,” some cats possess a grumpy disposition. Such animals are called grimalkins, which is a portmanteau of “grey” and “malkin” (an obsolete word for a cat). Not to be confused with Gremlins, mythical creatures resembling imps that are known to be mischievous, grimalkins are more like the feline version of your cantankerous old neighbor who tells every passerbyer to stay away from his lawn.
9) Cabbit (n.): hybrid between a cat and a rabbit
A few weeks ago, The Huffington Post reported that dirds, or birds with photoshopped dog heads, were all the rage. While, yes, seeing a canary with a pug face pasted on it was cute, I prefer the lesser known concoction known as “cabbits.” A fictional blend between a cat and a rabbit, cabbits mix a cat’s cute face with a rabbit’s floppy ears to make a creature worthy of Rowling’s wizarding world. Why settle for a regular cat or an owl when you could have a cabbit? It’s common sense.
10) Catlap (n.): weak drink fit only for a cat to drink
According to Merriam-Webster, catlap (or cat’s lap) refers to a form of milk or other liquid that is weak enough for a cat to “lap” it with its tongue. However, I prefer Urban Dictionary’s definition of the word, which is “the condition in which your (or someone else’s) cat settles into your lap, and you can no longer move.” Sounds about right.
Whether you’re an ailurophile or a felinophobe, this list should help you better understand the world of crazy cat ladies. It should also hopefully convince you to at least consider looking through the Cat Fancy catalog, because it really is literature’s hidden gem.
Image via Shutterstock.