Move over, Rover, there's a new top dog in town, and her name is Bella.
For 2012, the "Twilight Saga"-inspired moniker was the most popular for
dogs and second-most popular for cats, according to a survey by one
veterinary organization. For dogs, Max took second place.
The survey gathered names of 2.5 million dogs and cats at the Banfield Pet Hospital, a veterinary network in Portland, Ore.
The top names resemble those from years past, said Laura Wattenberg, a baby-name expert and the creator of babynamewizard.com
"Max in particular has been the top name for male dogs for a number of years now," Wattenberg told LiveScience.
In general, pets have been given much more humanlike names over the
past generation, Wattenberg said. That reflects a change in society, in
which owners see their fur babies more as family members than animals,
she said. (What Your Dog's Breed Says About You)
The names people choose for their pets also reflect a sweet, nostalgic innocence.
"There's a particular slice of human names that have risen for baby names as well, but they're particularly popular for pets. That's the cute, cuddly names of the early 20th century."
These names, such as Max and Lucy, tend to crop up frequently as heroes
or heroines in kids' picture books, Wattenberg said. For instance, the
hero in "Where the Wild Things Are" was named Max. These names may
reflect how people see their pets.
"They're like children who never have to grow up," she said.
Pop-culture trends also influenced the popularity of pet names found in
the survey. Aside from the top-ranked Bella, Katniss also saw wide use,
becoming 18 times more popular for dogs and 14 times more popular for
cats, compared with 2011, following the release of the "Hunger Games"
in March. Reality TV stars also got their due, with Honey Boo Boo (a
6-year-old beauty pageant star of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo") and
Purrfect (the name of Cee Lo Green's cat on "The Voice") rising in the
Still, for dog and cat names alike, familiar can still win out over
hip. Perennial favorites like Max and Buddy took the second and third
slots for dogs, while the perhaps unimaginative Kitty was the most
popular name for cats.
Interestingly, more humanlike names, such as Charlie or Lucy, were
popular for dogs, while unisex monikers like Smokey, Shadow and Tigger
describing physical traits like color ranked high for felines in 2012.
That may reflect how much people project a human role onto their pets.
For instance, one study showed that animals kept in the house are more
likely to get human names, Wattenberg said.
"You could infer from this that people feel a little bit more attached
or feel like they have a more personal relationship with their dogs,"
she said. "Obviously cat lovers will howl at that, but that's what the
In general, pet names overlapped very little with baby names. While the
trend toward nostalgic, 20th century names carried over from baby
naming trends, formal names ruled for human tots. But cuddly,
affectionate nicknames took precedence for pets. From the list of pet
names, only Chloe made the list of most popular girl names in 2011.
For instance, pet names like Coco or Rocky are more intensely retro
than Ava or Jacob (which are more likely to be given to babies). That
suggests, as a society, "we're more willing to push the style to the
extreme with pets and maybe even live out the naming fantasies that we wouldn't quite be able to give to our children," Wattenberg said.
Here are the top ten names for dogs and cats in order of more to less popular:
Top Dog Names:
Top Cat Names:
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