For many of us, pets serve as our starter children.
Or sometimes, they complete our families.
Either way, we often name our pets with the same level of focus we apply to our children.
But there’s a big bonus with our dogs, cats, guinea pigs and Beta fish. They’ll never have to introduce themselves on the first day of middle school or interview for a job.
And that means, we’re free to name our pets anything. Yoshi. Pork Chop. Zip.
Except we don’t. So often, the names we choose for our pets?
They’re exactly the same as the names we choose for our children.
Rover’s list of the most popular dog names looks like a kindergarten roster.
And so lately, I hear variations on the following question:
My sister has a chihuahua named Gracie, but we want to name our daughter Grace. Is that weird?
Growing up I had a cat named Jack. He’s been gone for years, but would it be weird to name my son Jack?
My general response is that no matter how beloved our pets, they shouldn’t really factor into our naming decisions. So here are my broad, general rules of thumb – but I’d love to hear more from you!
THE RULES OF NAMING PEOPLE and PETS
- If it will cause significant and regular confusion, cross the name off your list. So if your mom is nice enough to be your babysitter, and she has a ten year old Golden named Bailey, you shouldn’t name your baby Bailey.
- But if you’ll never see the pet? Then there’s no reason you can’t have a dog and a niece both named Charlie. Let’s face it, we don’t often bring our dogs to family events – at least, not unless everyone is super local. Cousins named Charlie could manage nicely, especially if one lives in Colorado and the other in Connecticut. So if one of those cousins is four-legged? Even easier.
- If the name you’d like to choose for your pet is one your pregnant sister/best friend is actively considering for a baby on the way now, then cross the name off your list. Sometimes this happens accidentally, of course. But if you know your sister-in-law has her heart set on naming this baby Molly, then calling your new kitten Molly seems unnecessary.
- Though you probably shouldn’t rename a pet just to use the name for your kid. The cat you bring home from the adoption event is called Leo, and that’s your three year old’s name? Sure. Call the cat something else. But your sister has a three year old boxer called Leo, and you want her to change the name so you can use it for your baby? That’s kind of bananas. (And, should you ask, your sister is totally within her rights to decline.)
- No matter how beloved, past pets do not need to factor into naming decisions. “Oh, but I had a sweet chocolate Lab called Max growing up,” says your mom. “My grandson can’t have the same name as my dog.” Actually, yes. Yes, he can.
That’s what I have so far. Agree/disagree? What would you add?
Confession: I’ve yet to sit down with the Top 100 names in the UK. But you can start with British Baby Names’ excellent round-up here. And I promise I’ll have some thoughts to share … soon-ish.
While we’re in Europe, Laura analyzes name trends in Austria. Turns out how we name our kiddos is changing rapidly outside the United States/English-speaking world, too.
Nancy has more name quotes. That story about Steph Curry – his real first name, and his reaction after Nike got his name wrong? So much interesting there.
Not sure about Zaxon, but I’m on board with Villanelle. Check out Nameberry’s list of outrageous names that just. might. work.
Could Ilaria catch on? It’s the name of the newest Baldwin baby. No matter what you think of the celebrity family, they’re high profile. And Ilaria has been an Italian favorite in recent years. It sounds a little like Eliana and Aria, so … maybe?