Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Pet Name Game

By Julia Williams

It’s always fun to hear how people picked the name they gave their pet. For starters, there are plenty of great stories about how a pet got their name. There are numerous tales of the inspiration behind a certain name, and just as many stories of names that fit a pet’s personality or names that just ‘clicked’ when someone saw their pet. Sometimes the name we pick means something to us or stands for something, and other times we just like the sound of it.

Regardless of how a pet got their name, I have yet to hear anyone say they picked the wrong name for their dog or cat and decided to change it later. No matter what name we decide upon, it’s seems as if we just somehow know it’s the right one, and it fits. This reminds me of a story about my own name.

When I was born, my mother named me Julia and put that on my birth certificate. However, a day or so later she changed her mind and decided to call me Julie instead. All through my childhood, I disliked my name. I felt it didn’t ‘fit’ me somehow, but didn’t know why. I wasn’t aware that the name on my birth certificate was different than the one everyone knew me by. I eventually found out, and decided I would rather go by Julia.

Once I decided to be Julia instead of Julie, my name instantly felt like it fit.  Now, you might not think one little letter would make a difference, but it did. What I realized was that my mother had known the ‘right’ name all along! Thus, I believe that when it comes to picking the right name for your pet, all you really have to do is trust your first instinct.

The great thing about naming our pets is that we can choose any name that floats our boat, no matter how oddball it might be. No one’s going to stop you. Well…that’s not entirely true. When I was 4, we had a yellow kitten I desperately wanted to name Blackie, but my family nixed that idea. In my young mind, I saw nothing wrong with the name and was very upset. Now that I’m an adult and can choose any pet name I want, I have two black cats – and neither one is named Blackie! Go figure.

If you want to name your Chihuahua ‘Tank’ or your Great Dane ‘Tiny’ it’s perfectly acceptable, not to mention good for a few laughs at the dog park or the vet’s office. Our pets don’t know the difference nor do they care. Pets are oblivious to the nuances of a name. As long as we don’t call them late to their CANIDAE or FELIDAE feedings, they don’t seem to mind what we call them. Whereas a human child might grow up hating their name and eventually change it (like me!), pets just happily accept their name. Most pets learn their name easily and unless it’s a cat we’re talking about, they’ll even come when called.

You can find inspiration for pet names just about anywhere. Some people pick pet names based on their favorite food, drink or hobby; others might choose a pop culture reference or pick a name based on a pet’s physical characteristic such as color or size. You can also search online databases of baby names to see if one seems right for your pet, or read How to Pick the Perfect Name for Your New Pet by yours truly.

I named black cat #1 Mickey because his tiny kitten self squeaked like a mouse. Black cat #2 was christened Rocky because even though this rescue baby was quite sick, I could see he had the spirit of a fighter. I was thinking of Little Orphan Annie when I named my other rescue baby Annabelle.

Now it’s your turn – how did you pick your pet’s name?

Photo by cuatrok77

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. Rosie loves how Wall-E called Eva in the film and that's why Eva is named Eva and we try to call her that way too : )
    However, she has lots of nicknames too, like Naughty Naughty, Princess Eva, Eva and ...

  2. Interesting story about your own name. I actually think "Julia" has a nicer sound to it than "Julie." :-)

    My angel Chumley was so-named by the shelter staff and because it fit him, I never changed it.

    Annie's name came about because of a British actress by the name of Francesca Annis -- I don't like "Frannie," so ended up with a variation on her last name, which happened to suit my angel girl. My mom thought it was for "little orphan Annie," which also was applicable, though I hadn't thought of it.

    Nicki...Well, I knew I'd have a cat by the name of Nicki, and when I saw him at the adoption centre, I thought, "There's Nicki."

    And Derry...I don't know. I was trying to decide on a name (always with a long "e" sound at the end) and could only think of "Brady," which I couldn't do because of connotations from childhood. Or "Terry," but I didn't like that. So it became "Derry." And I knew the name was Irish in origin, though I actually have an illogical aversion to things Irish. (Probably was Irish in a past life and had a terrible go of it during that lifetime.)

  3. I love "themes" for foster groups and I tend to avoid people names. Which always make people ask - what about Tim & Tom? Answer - they came with those names and they seem to fit. The one that gets me is Junior - he was live trapped at 3 months old and we needed a name to put on the form to neuter him. He looks like the "daddy cat" in the neighborhood, so we put Junior on the form. I ended up keeping him since he was so young and was ok in the house...and 18 months later, the name has stuck (though he is now well over 15 pounds). :)

  4. I adopted a black dog from a shelter, where she had lived for three months. The shelter people called her Sasha, but to me, it didn't fit at all. So I named her Stella which, I like very much, and it fits her fine. However, lots of people thought I named her for the Streetcar Named Desire Stella, and when I called her I could do that Brando yell of STELLAAAAAAAAA! And very rarely, I do just that, just for fun.

    Jo in MN

  5. What a difference a letter makes! I really enjoyed reading Huck Finn and I love Mark Twain, so that is how we came to name Finn, even though she is girl. But I have always loved how my parents spelt my name, Marianne, I always felt it was a little fancy and I loved them for it!

  6. Mom has always been happy with our names until Lightning came along. Dad got to name him even though mom never liked it. She hasn't found the name she prefers yet, but today she says he is a complete Spaz.

    Woos - The OP Pack

  7. Rumbledad picked my first name - when he saw my photo he declared me a d'Artagnan right away. Rumblemum picked my last name - when she saw (and heard) me, she declared me a Rumblepurr!

    My nickname is Junior Jones - I was Junior because Inigo was my big brother then, and Jones because the first thing that was on TV when I got to the Rumblehouse was Alien!

  8. Ernie and I (Frankie Furter) LOVE our names... butt our NICKNAMES ... Not so Much. I'm just sayin.

  9. I'd hate to say what one of my boys called Robin and still calls her that odd name to this day though she is gone. I asked him why he called her that and he said he didn't know.

  10. My boy was supposed to be called Lantash (ok, yes, I do love Stargate SG1) but after a day or two after his arrival, we decided it did not fit this little ball of naughtiness :) And since he is Russian, and his pedigree name is Egor (sth like Yeghor) we decided to call him Igor. We sometimes call him Igorritto though :)

  11. I'm not going to go through all of my pets. But here's some. One of my dogs was rescued off the street a couple winters ago. She was emaciated and pretty much on her last legs when we found her. But she showed a fighting spirit and we named her Zenia, the Warrior. Although we just call her Zenia today.

    Alex, my beagle/terrier mix got her name because it's just a name I've always liked. But her nickname is "Little Yapper" because that's what she loves to do.

    You already know Jabbers and Pogo. Buzz is another cat that got his name from what he did as a kitten. He would race around running over the top of the couch, chairs, climbing the curtains and knocking things off the tables and he just reminded me of a bee when he would do that.

    Then there's 3 brothers we rescued, all solid yellow and triplets. We named them Mozart, Figaro, and Denver (named after my favorite singer John Denver.

    And there's Hershey. A sweet solid brown kitty who's the same color as a Hershey bar.

  12. That was a darn good post! For the most part the humans that rescued us gave us our names. Gracie however was called Smokie and my Dad and Mom didn't thing it was good, she just looked like a Gracie! So me, I have always been Brian.

  13. Our Happy cat just showed up at the door on the first day of 98 and said I have come to live with you. She was invited in. We took her to the vets and found she had been spayed and before she was she had had a bunch of litters of kittens and she was probably 5 to 7 years old.
    She is now 20 to 22 years old and very arthritic. She is still Happy tho!! That is why we call her Happy, b/c she was so very happy with us!!

  14. We are doing a post on kitty names next week! In fact, we are hosting "What's in a Name?" at the Tabby Cat Club, all about how folks named their kitties. Rather than repeating all our kitty names, we'll tell you when the mom was born, her mom wanted a boy named Paul. She got a girl and named her Paula. Personally we like both Julie and Julia. Our white kitty is Jewell and we call her Julie, Julia, Juliette and Julianne. We think they are all sweet names.

    Our mom would be happy to do an avatar for you. She'll work on it over the weekend.

  15. Well, when she Human gotted me she was so HORRIFIED at what she had gotted herself into (I was Not Nice) that she didn't name me at all. She just referred to me as "That Kitten." And she would describe how horrible I was. So then the secretary at work started referring to me as "Spitfire" and the Human glommed into that because she immediately knew she could shorten it to Spitty. Which she did. But my Official Name is Spitfire.

  16. I think the naming of cats by humans reflects us more than them lol. I do wonder if the cats have names for each other though? Our first cat was called Mynty. The only reason for her name could be because she was a brown tabby and looked a bit like a mint humbug! My first cat as an adult I called Riley, because with me it would be "the life of Riley”. He was a ginger and white. Next was another brown tabby I called Harry, which coincidentally was the name of my first boyfriend!

    And now I have Austin who I didn’t name, but he was named by the rescue centre after a make of car, because he was found in one! xx

  17. We have so many kitties I think I need to do a POST on this!

    I never liked my name (Trish) until I got married. Scott really likes my name--he says it's "sexy". Whatever! But I like my name now.

  18. I have a dachshund named Zeke. I got the name from a book I love and every one thought it was from the name Ezekiel. So now his full name is Zeke (Exekiel) Wally French. We got the wally from the fact that as a pup he would always lay against the wall sleeping.

  19. Well my aussie came from Colorado (we live in New Mexico)and my mom thought she should have a name that would signify Colorado so her and my daughter started calling her Timber. It just didn't seem to fit her so I found a name that sounded somewhat similar, Ginger. She looks like a Ginger. Our lab is Chase, although the rest of my family wanted to call him Chance and did so for about a week until Chase just stuck. And then there is Sassy, my himalyan kitty, who of course got her name from the movie Homeward Bound. And Joey, my maine coon, whos name came from the show Friends. It was either that or Chandler but I liked Joey. When I was growing up, all of our pets names started with a P. We had our horse Paint, our two beagles Patched & Packy, two cats Pepper and Puff, bunny Pugsly, and parakeet Petetrie. And Powder, my purrfect all white cat, who was the last to carry the P name. :) My brother had a dog named Jake that he and his high school girlfriend brought home. They took the first two letters of their names to Jake (Jason & Kelly). And when I got older I had a husky named Lobo, he was my wolf. And then when my Sassy had kittens we had Darma & Greg. Oh & we still my brother's cocker spaniel whos name is Mariah, hate to say after Mariah Carey!!


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