Pet Names: From Fido and Fluffy to Molly and Chloe

September 24, 2010 | By | Comments (0)

My cousin called the other day with big news–she and her husband had chosen a name for their soon-to-be-born baby girl! Let’s hope the name matches the baby’s personality.  As we all know, you can do your homework, research baby names and name trends or go on a hunt for the perfect name for your pet, only to find your plans foiled once you meet the one who will steal your heart.

Take the example of my close friend. She had an understated name picked out for her baby daughter, but when said daughter entered the world with her dramatic dark hair and eyes, the name didn’t fit. In my case, I had alighted on the ideal, sophisticated, multilayered name for my Portuguese Water Dog…until I met him. He already had a name–Monkey–and not only did it make sense to keep it, due to his family tradition, respect for his original owner/mother, and future lack of confusion for him, it suited him just fine. He looks and acts like a monkey!  (See below.) And it just boggles the mind of every child we meet.  A dog named Monkey. Really?


But a name like Monkey’s is not the norm. As pets have become full-fledged members of the family, they have been given more human names. The Social Security Administration’s inventory of most popular baby names in 2009 lists Isabella as #1. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) reviewed its member base in 2009 and found that Bella was the #1 dog name and the #3 cat name. Whether or not the inspiration came from Twilight‘s character “Bella Swan,” the conclusion that lines are blurring seems apt. VPI’s top dog names following Bella were Max, Bailey, Lucy, and Molly; their top 5 cat names were Max, Chloe, Bella, Oliver and Tiger. With the exception of Tiger, these are names you might expect to hear at children’s playgrounds.

When naming pets, conventional wisdom is to keep names short and sweet–memorable for all. One or two-syllabled names are recommended. But for dog owners, there’s one crucial caveat: it’s best to avoid names like “Joe” or “Beau” which sound indistinguishable from “no.” Monkey resorts to monkey business only rarely, but even so, “no” has to be understood as “no.” Occasionally, for extra emphasis, and in homage to city street signs, I’ve been known to utter a full phrase of caution: “Don’t even think about…” While he doesn’t process all the words, my tone is unmistakeable.

How did you name (or rename) your pet? If you have children, did you let them choose the name? Do you have funny stories to share or wacky pet names you’ve come across?

Look past the pet tags on this site, and you’ll find some useful tips for naming your pets as well as a pet name search.