The Top Names for Pets in 2011

January 7, 2012 | By | Comments (12)
Bella M Miller the cat

The name Bella catapulted into the lead for feline fans for the first time in 2011

As my friend would say, the cats have the headline this time. According to Veterinary Pet Insurance Co (VPI) and, a roundup of the most popular pet names in 2011 marked a real cat fight versus the same old routine for the dogs. reports that, of its 300,000+ adoptable pets, the top five dog names remained the same in 2011 (“Buddy,” “Max,” “Daisy,” “Bella,” “Lucy”), while cat names “Smokey” and “Charlie” climbed up to number 2 and 4, and “Midnight” lost its footing and dropped from 2 to 10.

VPI’s review of its 485,000 pets also showed movement in the cat versus the dog kingdom. “Bella” nimbly navigated into the top spot for cats with a lead of less than 10 (sound familiar?), unseating the 2010 winner, “Max.” There was no new Alpha dog as “Bella” guarded the top slot it’s held since 2009.

Bella, a VPI-insured Boston terrier, with the most popular name of the year

VPI found that cat and dog lovers actually agreed on something: the beauty of the name “Bella.” Perhaps this followed the lead of baby names as the U.S. Social Security Administration’s ranking of the five most popular baby names from 1911-2010 shows the name “Isabella” once again in the lead for girls in 2010. In fact, the trend of naming pets with human names continued in 2011, with a mere 13 dogs in the VPI database named “Fido” and only 17 named “Spot.” Six of the ten top cat names also were names one might give to a child, though traditionalists clung to their place in the top ten list with names like “Tiger” and “Tigger.”

But let’s get back to “Bella.” The name’s popularity is chalked up to the Twilight saga and its star, Bella Swan. I would argue that there are other reasons, such as the pleasant sound of this Italian word (you say your pet’s name out loud quite often, so it’s a good idea to choose a lovely name), not to mention its positive meaning. (I find it amusing to think about the original meanings of names. “Max,” which derives from “Maximus,” means “the greatest” — does a parent hope this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy?)

Two dogs digging outside

Ahead of their time: Beau and Bella, 2002

Some of the best pets’ names I’ve heard of were suggested by children, so that’s another source to consider. My favorite example is a black and white and tan Havanese dog named “Milkshake” — brilliant!

Then there are the more farfetched names, which handpicked from some 300 submissions by North American shelters and rescue groups.  Examples: “Barry Meow-nilow” and “Brad the Pit.” (read the full list of wacky names, here)

You can have fun naming your pets. Just don’t forget to avoid names that sound indistinguishable from common commands such as “sit” or “no.”

Also use your pet’s name appropriately in order to avoid confusion. Dog trainer Martin Deeley explains that you don’t want to call your pet’s name and reward them one time, then call your pet’s name and scold them another time. Best to use different commands to distinguish these scenarios from one another, such as “Come!” in the first instance and “No!” in the second.

Here are the top names for pets in 2011, as compiled separately by VPI and

(if you prefer, you can download the chart here) 

How about you? Have you met lots of “Bellas” and “Lucys”? How did you name your pets? And what’s the best name you’ve come across for a pet?