Cats have long been associated with royalty, as any cat will happily make clear. So it should come as no surprise that one of the most popular names for cats over the last century has been Princess.
That’s just one of the findings in a recent study of pet names, based on a survey of domestic animals who have been buried in the country’s oldest pet cemetery, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. Researchers from FirstVet, a global veterinary telehealth service, analyzed more than 25,000 name records from animals interred starting in 1905.
“At FirstVet, we’re fascinated by the relationships between owners and their animals, and the naming of pets by humans is one of the key elements of animals being viewed as companions and family members by people,” says Gabriel Corredor, U.S. country manager for FirstVet. “It’s only through a uniquely substantial resource such as Hartsdale’s records that we can start to glean ideas about trends and statistics in modern pet names.”
Of course, the results come with a variety of caveats. First, given the millions of pets in the United States. over the past 115 years, 25,000 may not be especially representative. Second, even today, most cats and dogs aren’t buried; those that were a century ago almost certainly came from more affluent socio-economic groups, and the names they chose also may not be all that representative.
Still, naming animals has been a human tradition for almost as long as we’ve kept pets, says Gabriel, citing archaeological research showing that Egyptians may have named their cats as early as 10 centuries before the birth of Christ. So the Hartsdale results do shed some light on what we call our cats and why we choose those names:
- Despite Princess’ overall popularity – it was the most common pet name in the cemetery – and despite the prevalence of other royalty-themed names like Duke, King and Lady, the most popular cat name over the entire period was Tiger. Gabriel says that may be because many U.S. cats in the early 20th century were European-style “tabby” cats, with distinctive tiger-like striped markings
- Starting in 1960 (there were no results compiled before that), the most popular cat names were Cindy (1960s); Ginger (1970s); Tiger (1980s); and Smokey (1990s, 2000s). Save for Tiger, this doesn’t seem to fit any other naming pattern.
- Many cat names thought to be common, like Whiskers and Snowball, weren’t. This surprised the FirstVet analysts, who also saw the same thing with dog names like Rover and Spot.
- • Baby appears third in the list of most common names for cats in the 1990s, and remains popular throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Perhaps, says Gabriel, that might have something to do with the popularity of the movie Dirty Dancing, which was released in 1987 and includes the line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
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