How to Choose the Best Dog and Cat Names

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Part of the excitement of bringing home a new pet includes coming up with names for your furry family member. A pet's name needs to "fit" them and it should be one you love, too, as it'll be on the tip of your tongue for many years to come. Approach pet naming with a positive, fun outlook, and you'll find the perfect fit for your new furry friend!

Research

When deciding on dog names, consider options that won't be confusing or difficult for your pup to learn. PetMD says that many dog trainers suggest choosing names that are easily spoken by humans and learned by dogs, with names of no more than two syllables being the most popular. It's also a good idea not to choose names that sound similar to "no" as these could trip up your pup during training.

You’ll have a little more wiggle room with your adopted kitty, but they'll also respond best to one- or two-syllable names. If you want to keep the option of a fun, longer name, you can also use a shortened nickname, although you should make sure to use it more frequently. Dogs and cats don't understand the concept of having two names. Often human children feel like they're in trouble when their full name is mentioned, but pets only understand your tone of voice and you don't want negative connotations to be associated with their full name.

Yellow lab puppy and woman high-fiving in park at sunset.

Temperament and Physical Characteristics

It may take a few days before deciding on the perfect name but don't fret — this gives you time to discover your new fur baby's personality, which may lead you to options such as Cranky, Sweetie or Sleepy.

With some animals, all it takes is one look at them to settle on a name, accounting for the many grey cats named Smokey and black dogs named Midnight. This is a terrific approach that leads to cute results like Moustache and Patches.

Pick a Theme

If you're brainstorming names for one or two pets, imagine coming up with enough for an entire litter! Animal shelter employees choose dog names and cat names on a routine basis, and one of their go-to methods is to choose a theme for each family.

Genres of music, for example, provide an endless supply of names, including classical composers (Bellini, Stravinsky), guitar legends (Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen), or pop stars (Madonna, Elvis). Athletes, authors, fictional characters, television or film stars, flowers and trees also offer a plethora of possibilities.

No need to stop there! Food groups also offer a treasure trove of possibilities, like Cupcake, Popcorn and Doughnut. You can extend your reach into beverages, too, like Cappuccino, Seltzer or Whiskey.

The Places You'll Go

People commonly name their children after meaningful locations, so why not do the same for a pet? Love to travel to the fashion hubs of the world? Try Milan, Paris, Tokyo, New York or London. Did you travel across the country? Which places inspired you?

Little tabby kitten hiding behind a table cloth with paw out.

Another tip taken from animal shelters is the situational name— that is, choosing a name for an animal based upon where they were found. A dog may be named for the type of car they were hiding under (e.g. Benz), or a cat after the tree they were stuck in (e.g. Maple).

Personalize

Once you decide on a name, it's time to train your pet to respond to their new moniker. For your pup, start by using positive association with their name during training exercises, recommends Best Friends, including using treats as rewards when they respond.

Name recognition for cats involves a slightly different process as you won't train them in the same way. However, your feline friend will also respond to their name when associated with positive reinforcement, such as cuddles, treats and playtime.

Once you decide upon the perfect pet name, you can personalise their accessories by having the name embroidered on their lead and dog bed, or printed on their cat food bowls.

And if you're still stuck, don't hesitate to break out the baby name books or cruise the internet for inspiration. There are endless choices of creative and clever pet names from which to choose!

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.

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