What’s in a Name?

Happy New Year to you all!

Is it too late to say that?! I’m never quite sure on the etiquette but, as it’s the first blog I’ve written in 2023, I’ll say it anyway! I hope you all had a lovely festive season and January’s treating you well so far. I always find that this month is a bit of a shock to the system as we try to regain some semblance of normality after the chaos of Christmas but, between the dark mornings and evenings, heavy rain and freezing temperatures of January we manage to get back into a routine, complete with new resolutions about how wonderful we’re going to be in 2023… Ahem. Well, maybe the less said about that, the better! Resolutions were made to be broken, right?

Anyone who read my last blog, which was a Christmas takeover by my pets, will have noticed that we have a new addition to the Underhill household… a seven-month-old cat called Goose joined us last year and we’re thrilled to add him to the family. Many people have asked me where the inspiration for his name came from and, as you may have guessed, it’s because we’re big Top Gun fans. We didn’t quite think he could pull off Maverick, so Goose it was. As it turns out, Goose is perfect for him as he’s proving to be an excellent wing-man for Ziggy! It started me thinking about pet’s names though. Obviously we see many, many pets in the practice so we’ve heard a huge variety of animal monikers and I often ask owners where their inspiration came from. I’ve heard some sweet, interesting and funny tales over the years. There are some names that pop up quite regularly, and there are some really unusual ones, too. There are names that totally suit the animals and then some that quite take you by surprise – especially those that are deliberately ironic, such as a tiny Chihuahua called Butch or a hairless Sphynx cat called Fluffy.

Just like baby names, pet names go in and out of fashion and, each year, lists are compiled of the ‘top’ pet names. According to website www.rover.com, in 2022 the most popular names for dogs and cats were as follows:

Male dog names:

1. Milo

2. Teddy

3. Buddy

4. Alfie

5. Max

Female dog names:

1. Luna

2. Bella

3. Lola

4. Poppy

5. Coco

Male cat names:

1. Oliver

2. Milo

3. Leo

4. Charlie

5. Max

Female cat names:

1. Luna

2. Lily

3. Bella

4. Lucy

5. Nala

As you can see, Milo, Max, Luna and Bella are all names that happily transcend species and are chosen for both feline and canine friends. I’m sure many of the names on those lists are popular choices for two-legged family members, too! While there’s nothing wrong at all with giving your pets popular names I can imagine it could cause confusion at times – imagine standing on your doorstep shaking cat food and calling for Bella, only for next door’s puppy to come a-running (or, worse still, their daughter!).

Choosing a name for a pet is a big decision though, and one that the whole family are usually involved with… not without some debate (heated or otherwise!). It may take quite a while to narrow down the options and arrive at the final choice. You might find it’s useful to ‘try out’ some names on your pet for a few days before making your decision. Remember, whatever name you choose for your pet the likelihood is that you’ll have to shout it in public at some point so make sure everyone in your family is happy to do that! Small children may want to call a pet after their favourite TV characters or toys and, as sweet as that is, will you really feel comfortable shouting ‘Iggle Piggle’ or ‘Barbie’ when you’re at the park? And, more to the point, will your kids still want to call it that in 10 years’ time?! A name is for life, remember!

Many people turn to food as inspiration for names, and why not? Coco (or Cocoa), Honey, Cookie and Peanut are all popular food-inspired dog names, while Rover.com reports that the equivalent culinary inspiration for cats’ names is a little more unusual, with Casserole, Green Bean and Sourdough all increasing in popularity for felines.

Names from TV, film, music and celebrities are also popular (like our new kitty’s name!) so inevitably we begin to hear names from box-office or chart-topping hits from that year. Of course, sporting heroes play their part too. According to Rover.com’s report, many pets have been named as a result of the England women’s football team’s heroic victory – with Alessia, Rachel and Lioness all making a debut on the top 100 names for dogs this year. Likewise, from the men’s team, the names Stirling and Harry both gained in popularity for pets. Marvel, Disney and Pixar continue to be big sources of inspiration for both dogs’ and cats’ names as well as Harry Potter and Star Wars. We see a few pets each year named after fictional characters like Simba, Buzz (Lightyear), Ewok, Thor and Sully amongst others.

Current affairs also influence pet names, with a rise in the name Rona for pets during the pandemic, and following the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the names Queenie and Lizzie have also gained in popularity. Apparently with the cost of living on the rise people are looking to get their ‘designer’ fix elsewhere and, instead of splashing out, have been naming their pets after their favourite brands, with names such as Armani, Prada and Dior appearing more frequently.

Often, pet owners look to their animal’s characteristics for inspiration and try to choose a name that suits the way their pet looks or behaves, such as Fluffy, Patch or Nipper. Or, as I mentioned, you could go for a touch of irony and choose a name that totally contradicts this – such as Lofty for a Dachshund or Tiny for a Great Dane.

Whatever you choose, make sure you give it some serious thought and beware of any names that rhyme or could be misheard … especially if they sound dangerously similar to something that could be offensive. You don’t want to inadvertently insult other dog walkers while you’re calling for your pup!

If you’re rehoming a pet, chances are it will already be named but, if you’re not keen on its given name, you may want to change it to something else. In fact, depending on the animal’s background, some charities even recommend renaming a pet if they associate their previous name with negative experiences. It can be a fresh start for them and, with enough enthusiasm, treats and encouragement they’ll soon get used to their new name and start responding to it.

Right, I’m signing off now as it’s tea time for my pets and if I don’t feed them soon they’ll start calling me names… and not necessarily nice ones!