Cats have long been associated with kings, as any cat will be happy to make clear. So it’s no wonder Princess was one of the most popular names for cats in the last century.
This is just one of the findings of a recent study of pet names based on an examination of pets buried in the oldest pet cemetery in the country, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. Researchers at FirstVet, a worldwide veterinary telemedicine service, analyzed more than 25,000 name records of animals that were buried starting in 1905.
“At FirstVet, we are fascinated by the relationships between owners and their animals, and human naming of pets is one of the key elements in ensuring that animals are considered companions and family members by humans,” said Gabriel Corredor, US country manager for FirstVet . “Only through a uniquely extensive resource like Hartsdale’s Notes can we begin to brainstorm ideas about trends and statistics in modern day nicknames.”
Of course, there are a number of limitations associated with the results. First, given the millions of pets in the United States. Over the past 115 years, 25,000 may not have been particularly representative. Second, most cats and dogs are still not buried today. Those that were a century ago were almost certainly from more affluent socioeconomic groups, and the names they chose may not be all that representative either.
Still, naming animals has been a human tradition for almost as long as we’ve kept pets, Gabriel says, 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 shed some light on what we call our cats and why we choose these names:
- Despite the general popularity of Princess – it was the most common nickname in the cemetery – and despite the proliferation of other royal names such as Duke, King, and Lady, Tiger was the most popular cat name throughout the period. Gabriel says this could be because many US cats in the early 20th century were European-style tabby cats with distinctive tiger-like stripes
- As of 1960 (no results previously compiled), the most popular cat names were Cindy (1960s); Ginger (1970s); Tiger (1980s); and Smokey (1990s, 2000s). Aside from Tiger, this doesn’t seem to match any other naming pattern.
- Many cat names, like Whiskers and Snowball, weren’t common. This surprised FirstVet analysts, who 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 continues to be popular through the 2000s and 2010s. Perhaps, says Gabriel, this could have something to do with the popularity of the film Dirty Dancing, which was released in 1987 and contains the line “Nobody puts babies in a corner”.
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