Wednesday, May 5, 2010
By Julia Williams
Most people spend a good deal of time trying to come up with the perfect name for their newly adopted pet. We search names compiled in baby books and on the internet, read articles, ask friends for suggestions, and observe our four-legged friend to find the name that best fits them. Why then do so many of us seem to use nicknames for our pets more often than the name we decided upon when we first brought them home? And does it really matter? Is it okay to call your cat or dog by names other than their “official” one? Do multiple names confuse your pet, or will they learn to respond to the nicknames too?
In all the many years I've been owned by cats, I have used nicknames for them. Each cat has had their “given” name, and a slew of nicknames. I didn’t think two licks about this until the other day, when I happened upon a discussion on an internet forum for pet owners. I often feel compelled to surf the internet, and as a pet writer for this blog and other websites, I naturally gravitate towards sites that pertain to animals. Pet forums are not exactly a productive use of my time, but they can be entertaining. Or in this case, serve as inspiration for an article.
The topic that day was whether people should just stick to the name they’ve given their pet, or if it was alright to give them nicknames. The vast majority were all in favor of nicknames for pets. They said they used nicknames all the time, and that their pets responded to them just as much as they did their original name. One person really made me laugh when they wrote that their dog’s nicknames were “Hey!” and “No!” I think many people can relate to that.
But in any crowd, on any subject, there will be those who favor and those who oppose. So it was on this forum, where a few people stated that they felt giving nicknames to pets could confuse them, and that it was unfair to the pet. As I said, this wasn’t something I had ever questioned. I can certainly see where, if you are trying to teach a puppy his name, you would want to be consistent and not use nicknames. Not having ever owned a dog, I have no knowledge on whether nicknames complicate matters for an adult dog. I am, however, quite confident in my belief that nicknames do not confuse my cats. Still, I thought it only fair to conduct some research on the matter.
I turned to my friends, my family and my ever-growing number of Facebook “acquaintances,” and asked for their opinions. This produced near identical results to the pet forum, wherein about 95% said they gave their pets nicknames and didn’t see any problem with it.
In the end, this exhaustive research (ha!) and years of firsthand experience have led me to conclude that it's perfectly fine for pet owners to give nicknames to their dogs and cats. Dog owners report that their canine companions do answer to their nicknames, and everyone knows most cats only answer to humans when food is involved. I’m pretty sure there's no need to worry about whether pets with nicknames will suffer psychological ill effects. Therefore, we should all feel free to call our pets pretty much anything we want to, and no one will accuse us of not being responsible pet owners.
So… what cute nicknames have you come up with for your dog or cat? Do share!
Read more articles by Julia Williams