Choosing a name for a dog or cat is a big decision for pet parents everywhere. To find the most popular pet names for the past century, FirstVet, a video consultation service, scoured New York’s Hartsdale Pet Cemetery to compile a list of the most commonly used pet names.
Whether you want to name your furry friend something more traditional, or you prefer to go against the grain with an unusual name you won’t hear at every dog park, we’re here to share the results.
Why naming pets is important
It’s human nature to anthropomorphize, or assign human characteristics to animals, trees, the elements, and even inanimate objects. Giving something a name helps us empathize with it. Once our pet has a name, they become an official member of the family.
Unsurprisingly, we like to think of our pets as magnificent, regal creatures, something strongly reflected in the names we give them. While it’s never been number one on the list of most popular names in any given decade, Princess is the most popular name overall — and has been for the past 115 years — while King, Queenie, Duke, and Lady have also been popular pet names for over a century.
How we choose pet names
Pet names are often influenced by characters in popular books, films, and television shows, and popular media sometimes takes common pet names into account. For example, one of the most popular cat names is Tiger, which may be down to the characteristic stripes found on tabby cats. After Winnie-the-Pooh‘s sudden rise in popularity in the 1960s, a variant of the name, Tigger, also skyrocketed to the top of the list of common cat names.
Following the release of cult classic film Mad Max in 1979, Max became the most popular name for dogs. The name’s popularity remained steady in the following decades, especially after the release of Gladiator, the film that catapulted Russell Crowe to stardom, in 2000. During the 1980s, Smokey became one of the most common names for cats (and remains popular to this day) after Motown singer Smokey Robinson saw a massive surge in popularity.
Popular dog names through the decades
Using data from Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, which was founded in 1896 and serves as the final resting place for over 80,000 pets, FirstVet released a list of the most popular pet names in every decade. For dogs, the names were decidedly more feminine from the 1930s until the 1980s. The most popular names in each decade are:
- 1930s: Queenie
- 1940s: Tippy
- 1950s: Sandy
- 1960s: Lady
- 1970s: Brandy
- 1980s: Max
- 1990s: Max
- 2000s: Max
As you can see, once the name Max arrived on the scene, it stuck around for good.
Popular cat names through the decades
Unlike the available data for pet pooches, there isn’t as much on hand for our feline friends. The earliest data starts during the 1960s. Let’s take a look at the most popular names for cats through history.
- 1960s: Cindy
- 1970s: Ginger
- 1980s: Tiger
- 1990s: Smokey
- 2000s: Smokey
Besides the influence of Smokey Robinson, the popularity of Smokey is partially due to the Burt Reynolds and Sally Field film Smokey and the Bandit, which spawned numerous sequels and made-for-TV movies.
Recent naming trends
While we won’t be returning to Winterfell every week these days, Game of Thrones made a significant impact on popular dog names. Between 2018 and 2019, Sansa enjoyed a 24% increase in popularity. However, the Queen in the North didn’t quite make the top-10 list, which included names like Luna, Buddy, Rocky, and (as expected) Max.
The Avengers franchise also had a massive impact on pet names in more recent years, particularly with cats. According to pet insurance company Trupanion, Loki and Pepper made the list of the top 50 most popular cat names in 2020. (Thor and Spider-Man also saw an uptick in popularity with dog owners, but neither the god of thunder nor everybody’s favorite web-slinger made the cut for Trupanion’s top 50.)
From our favorite characters in the wizarding world to the latest superhero, the list of America’s most common pet names is constantly evolving. As new pop culture trends emerge, so, too, will popular pet names. We just hope Max stays popular.
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