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A new trend: pets with human names

A survey of the most popular pet names of 2012 has just been released by Co-Operative Pet Insurance, and there seems to be an interesting trend: people are beginning to call their pets the same names as their children. The most popular dog names are are Alfie, Molly and Poppy, with Charlie and Max following, whilst the most popular cat names are Charlie, Molly and Poppy closely followed by Oscar and Alfie. The survey shows that pet owners are moving away from traditional pet names such as Rover and Whiskers, and are now choosing human names. The top two pet names also appear in the recently released top 10 children’s names.
This is something that I’ve noticed in practice as a vet: some people are even using names that can’t be shortened into handy “calling” names, such as Christopher, Andrew and Margaret.
This new approach to pet names reflects a change in the way that people view their pets: they are now often seen as members of the human family. Many people see themselves as “pet parents” rather than “owners”, so it seems natural to use children’s names rather than animal versions. The humanisation of pets has become visible in veterinary consult rooms too, with some younger vets referring to owners as “mummies” and “daddies”.
Is there anything wrong with this trend? Should we just relax and enjoy the fantasy that our pets are little furry children?
To me, it’s fine as long as we don’t get carried away with the illusion. The problem is that when people start to treat pets just like little humans, a sense of perspective can be lost which is not always helpful. Dogs are dogs, and cats are cats: yes, they are worthy of cherishing and adoration, but they’re not human.
Many of the behavioural problems that are common in dogs are connected with the way that people interact with their pets. For their own good, dogs and cats need to be treated like dogs and cats, not like little humans. It’s no accident that some people repeatedly have dogs that “misbehave” whereas others have animals with impeccable “manners”: it’s about the sum of the repetitive daily interactions between humans and pets. I’m not saying that you need to be tough or mean: you just need to remember, somewhere at the back of your mind, that you’re not interacting with a fellow human being.
So yes, go ahead and humanise your pet, but don’t let yourself be completely fooled. Charlie is adorable but he sees the world through dogs’ eyes, and Oscar may look wise and thoughtful, but he’s still a cat.

Top 10 Dog Names 2012
1 Alfie
2 Molly
3 Poppy
4 Charlie
5 Max
6 Bella
7 Daisy
8 Millie
9 Ruby
10 Oscar

Top 10 Cat Names 2012
1 Charlie
2 Molly
3 Poppy
4 Oscar
5 Alfie
6 Daisy
7 Millie
8 Tilly
9 Bella
10 Tigger

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