How to Choose the Best Dog and Cat Names

Part of the excitement of bringing home a new pet includes coming up with names for your furry family member, an important part of the bonding process.

A pet's name needs to "fit" him or her, and it should be one you love, 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 pal!

Research

When deciding on dog names, consider options that won't be confusing or difficult for your pup to learn. As PetMD points out, "Many dog trainers suggest giving dogs names ... that are easily spoken (by humans) and learned (by dogs)," with names having no more than two syllables being the most popular. It's also a good idea to steer clear of names that sound similar to "no," or it could trip up your little guy during training.

Cats, as you may well know, aren't as easy to train, so you have a little more wiggle room with your adopted kitty, but she'll also respond best to one or two syllable names. A fun way to play around with options is to give her a longer name but use a shortened nickname. If you are going to go with a nickname, make sure to use it more frequently. Dogs and cats don't associate 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 moniker, 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 gray cats named Smoky and black dogs named Midnight. This is a terrific approach that leads to cute results like Mustache 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 are a treasure trove of possibilities! Cupcake, Popcorn and Donut are just a few. You can extend your reach into beverages, too: Cappuccino, Seltzer and Whiskey, for starters.

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 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 he or she was found. A dog may be named for the type of car he was hiding under, such as Buick, or cat after the tree she was stuck in, Maple.

Personalize

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

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

Once you decide upon the perfect pet name, you can personalize their accessories by having the name embroidered on his leash and dog bed, or her name printed on her 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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