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10 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Pet Name
By: Brianna Gunter
“Fido” and “Fluffy” are so yesterday. Modern pets are more important than ever, with 70% of Americans having at least one furry family member (up from 56% in 1988). With so many pets out there, it’s only natural to want to give yours a name that reflects how uniquely awesome they are.
But how do you choose the perfect dog or cat name? The good news is that unlike human monikers, the law is wide open regarding what you want to call your four-legged friend. Of course, you don’t want to end up with something you’ll regret or want to change later on—both dogs and cats learn their names, and switching things up too much can cause distress and confusion.
Feeling stumped? Following these 10 tips for naming your pet can help!
1. Get to know your pet first
Some people have a name picked out before they even go to pick up their new pet from the shelter or breeder. But this can backfire if your pet ends up being a little different than expected. Dog and cat personalities can vary greatly even within their breeds, and you could quickly find that “Khaleesi” is more of an “Arya.”
2. Listen to the science
Research shows that both dogs and cats respond differently to certain sounds, including syllable length. Longer, drawn-out names can take more time for pets to learn, whereas shorter ones may be picked up more quickly and with more energy.
“Giving a short, choppy command in an up-tone of voice is something that encourages motor activity [movement], whereas long, slow, soothing tones generally do not,” Dr. Christopher Pachel, a veterinary behaviorist in Oregon, told Pets WebMd. “It doesn’t mean [pets] won’t make the connection to longer names, but they’ll have to learn the whole name as one command. Shorter is much more direct, much more precise.”
3. Avoid names that are similar to commands
Depending on how old your new pet is, you may still have a lot of training ahead of you. Both dogs and cats can learn to follow various commands, and dogs in particular are often able to master many beyond that. You’ll want to keep this in mind while naming your pal, and avoid anything that sounds too similar. “May” could end up getting pretty confused when you’re trying to get her to “stay.”
4. If renaming an adult pet, choose comparable sounds
One area where you will want to focus on similarity is when you’re renaming a pet that already knows his or her name. To help smooth the transition, try to choose a name that starts with the same sound and has the same amount of syllables. For example, “Killer” will have a far easier time becoming “Kelly” than “Maximus.”
5. Look through a baby name book
Many pet owners prefer dog names and cat names that sound “normal,” often as a way of acknowledging animals as full-fledged family members. Seeing as humans put a lot of stock into naming their babies, why not follow a similar route with your fur-baby?
Online baby name lists or baby name books can provide both the history and meaning of each entry, which can add significance. They could even help you discover names you’ve never heard of before.
6. Think about hobbies and locations
Planning on going hiking with your dog? Decide to get a cat while on vacation? The activities and locations in your life may also serve as unique pet name sources.
To find the most natural-sounding name, try making a list of related terms that apply. For example, with hiking as your chosen activity, you may want to consider dog names like “Cairn,” “Trek,” “Boots,” “Aspen,” “Conifer,” etc. And while many locations serve as great pet names as they are, “Poker” or “Chance” could be inspired by your last trip to Las Vegas.
7. Make a list of your favorite movies or books
Pop culture always turns up an abundance of fun pet names. Love literature? Dickens the dog could be your perfect cuddle buddy while reading. Have a kitty that’s feisty? Perhaps the name of your favorite TV Viking will do. To explore the most pop culture-inspired pet names, try making a list of all of your go-to movies, TV shows, books, musicals, etc. and your favorite characters in each.
8. Consider a name based on food
Looking for funny pet names? Pet owners who are active on social media may recall a tweet from Jennifer Xiao (@jxiaoo) that went viral in spring 2021: “Dog owners will pick names like max or bailey and cat owners will literally name their cat beef stroganoff [sic].”
Amusing as Xiao’s observation was, both food cat names and food dog names are popular. Whether you want a name that literally speaks to how sweet your pet is or just want to pay homage to your favorite dish via your favorite four-legged friend, a cuisine-inspired pet name could be the right choice.
9. Avoid controversial pet names
If there’s anything controversial about a pet name you’re considering, it may not be worth it. For example, naming your grumpy, curmudgeon of a cat a swear word may seem funny at the time, but will you feel the same way if it causes unnecessary (and unflattering) attention at veterinary hospitals or among visitors to your home?
Not sure if your pet name is acceptable? Try asking a few different people, preferably from different social circles, for their opinions.
10. Give yourself time
Don’t feel pressured to decide your new pet’s name right away. This is something both of you are going to be stuck with for years to come, so it’s important to make sure it’s the right fit. Remember how you should take time to get to know your pet? It’s okay to take a few days to mull over your pet name options and decide what fits their personality best.
While you’re at it, now’s also an ideal time to make sure you have all of your new pet’s needs covered. Sign up for our newsletter for the latest tips on training, pet health risks, animal trends, and more!
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While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.