The Social Security Administration has baby name data going back to the 1880s, but if you want to know about trends in dog and cat names, there aren’t too many good sources.
Happily, FirstVet has stepped up. The digital veterinary clinic conducted a survey of tombstones at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. The cemetery, which was founded in 1896, serves as a final resting place for more than 80,000 animals.
“Looking at over 25,000 Hartsdale names records from 1905 onwards, we identified the most popular names for cats and dogs over the decades, as well as the cultural trends that may have influenced these naming choices,” FirstVet notes on its website.
Considering how many people see their pets as children, it’s probably not surprising there are some overlaps between popular names for canines and felines and the names folks chose for their own babies. Below, we take a look at the top names for dogs and cats identified by FirstVet, the pop culture trends surrounding them, and where they stand in the baby name universe.
According to FirstVet’s survey, Max has been the most popular dog name for three decades: the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. That may be why Max is the name of the canine protagonist of the 2016 animated movie “The Secret Life of Pets.” Other famous characters named Max include the Grinch’s pet pooch and Goofy’s son.
On the human side of things, the name Max currently ranks at No. 137 on the Social Security Administration’s list of most popular names for boys ― after peaking in 2011 at No. 96. The name appears in the Top 1000 Names data going back to 1900; its lowest position on the list was No. 410 in 1969.
Maxwell has had a similarly long reign on the Top 1000 list, peaking at No. 106 in 1999 and currently sitting at No. 147. Maximillian appeared on the list from 1993 until 2005, and then once more in 2008 at No. 993.
The survey identified Brandy as the most popular dog name in the 1970s. This is the same decade that the name peaked in popularity on the SSA list for baby girls.
In 1978, Brandy was the 37th most popular name for newborn girls, but it dropped off the Top 1000 list after 2007. Two songs may have played a role here.
First, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by the group Looking Glass reached number one in 1972, and the name of its lovelorn subject jumped up the SSA rankings.
Then the hit O’Jays song “Brandy” came out in 1978. Although people tried to identify the woman who inspired it, band member Eddie Levert confirmed it was about a dog.
“Once people found out it was about a dog, I think it sort of hurt the sales because a lot of girls thought it was about a girl called Brandy,” he told The Funk and Soul Revue in 2016. “But when they found out it was about a dog, it was a turnoff.”
Although Lady was the top dog name in the 1960s, per FirstVet, it has never reached the same level of appeal for humans. The name only appeared on the Top 1000 list in 1900, 1901, 1904, 1906, 1907 and 1909, and it never ranked higher than No. 737.
Notable pop culture canines named Lady include Sansa Stark’s direwolf in “Game of Thrones” and the cocker spaniel in the 1955 animated dog romance “Lady and the Tramp.” The latter Disney film may well have played a part in Lady’s popularity in the 1960s.
On the human side, Lady Bird Johnson was America’s second and then first lady for most of the ’60s. Jane Fonda has said she was named after Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour and went by “Lady Jayne” for most of her childhood. And Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane character in “Almost Famous” reveals her real name to be Lady Goodman at the end of the movie.
Lady also plays a prominent role in many stage names, like Lady Gaga, Lady Luck and Lady Bunny.
Fans of “Little Orphan Annie” may not be surprised to learn that Sandy was another top dog name in the 20th century. In fact, Sandy was the most popular name for dogs in the 1950s, according to FirstVet’s survey.
The comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” which follows the adventures of the title character and her dog, Sandy, debuted in 1924 and ran for decades. Among other adaptations, it inspired a 1977 Broadway musical and film versions of that show featuring a song specifically about choosing Sandy’s name.
The name got an extra boost of pop culture fame from another musical ― the 1970s Broadway play and movie “Grease.” Set in the 1950s, the musical follows the romance between high schoolers Danny and Sandy and features a song called “Sandy.”
The name’s rise to dog fame coincided with its peak in popularity for humans. Sandy climbed the SSA list throughout the 1950s, finally peaking in 1960 at No. 126.
Tippy was the top name for dogs in the 1940s, per FirstVet. Marilyn Monroe had a dog named Tippy as a child in the 1930s, and Tippie was a dog in the comic strip “Cap Stubbs and Tippie,” which ran from 1918 to 1966.
As a name for humans, Tippy has always lived in obscurity. The name has only ever appeared in the SSA’s data (which includes names given to five or more newborns in a given year) twice ― 1951, when five baby boys were named Tippy, and 1969, when six baby girls got the name.
Child actor Tippy Walker was born in 1947, but the bigger star power probably lies in the alternate spelling Tippi, with 1960s star Tippi Hedren. That decade, the alternate spelling appeared in the SSA data for the first time, peaking in 1965, when 12 baby girls were named Tippi. The number of newborn Tippis in the U.S. never reached five or more after 1974.
Tippi is also the name of a video game character who first appeared in “Super Paper Mario” in 2007.
According to the survey, Queenie was the most popular dog name in the 1930s. Interestingly, the name’s popularity among humans ended around that time, with it last appearing on the SSA’s Top 1000 list in 1927 at No. 948. The name peaked in 1905 at No. 545.
Fictional characters named Queenie have appeared in films like “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Biker Boyz.” The name has also been used for fictional pets, like the title cat character of Jacqueline Wilson’s book “Queenie.”
For pets, Queenie’s popularity in the ’30s was also a harbinger of a bigger trend to come.
“In the U.S., which became a republic when it rejected the British monarchy and aristocracy, nobility-related names such as ‘Princess,’ ‘Duke,’ ‘King,’ and ‘Lady’ featured consistently in the top-ten animal names in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century,” the FirstVet website notes. “This contrasts with the U.K., a constitutional monarchy, where royal or noble names never featured in the top-ten most popular animal names in the latter half of the 20th century.”
In keeping with the royal trend, FirstVet’s data revealed Princess to be the most popular dog name and the most popular pet name overall in the U.S. over the last 115 years. The website notes that both dogs and cats have been named Princess in large numbers and it has consistently been in the Top 10 dog names list ― though it has never reached a decade’s number-one spot specifically for dogs or cats.
“‘Princess’ was only the sixth-most popular pet name in the 1970s, but shot to being the most popular pet name in the 1980s, and the second-most popular pet name in the 1990s,” the website says. “This coincides with the rise in popularity of Princess Diana, who visited the U.S. on a royal tour in 1985, during which she famously danced with John Travolta at the White House.”
As for humans, the name Princess has appeared on the Top 1000 list almost every year since 1979, peaking at No. 613 in 1986. That year, 313 baby girls were named Princess.
Smokey was the most popular name for cats in the 1990s and 2000s, according to the survey. Like Sandy, it’s often a reference to the color of the animal’s fur, although there are pop culture inspirations as well.
There’s Smokey Robinson and Smokey Bear, and in 2011, a cat named Smokey set the Guinness World Record for loudest purr.
Smokey has never appeared on the SSA’s Top 1000 baby names list, but it occasionally appears in the raw data. In 2016, six baby boys were named Smokey.
Tiger was the most popular cat name in the 1980s and overall for cats for the last 115 years. Interestingly, it was the name of the pet dog on “The Brady Bunch.”
“This might be a legacy of the earliest domesticated cats in America being European ‘tabby’ cats, with distinctive tiger-like striped markings (prior to the importation of Asian breeds),” FirstVet notes. “The acquisition in 1961 by Disney of licensing rights to ‘Winnie The Pooh’ (from the estate of English writer A. A. Milne), likely further contributed to the popularity of naming a small cat after its bigger cousin: Tigger being Christopher Robin’s bouncy toy-tiger friend.”
In the human realm, Tiger has never appeared on the SSA Top 1000 list and didn’t show up in the SSA raw data until 1984 when five baby boys got the name. That number rose considerably in the 1990s, perhaps thanks to golf icon Tiger Woods (whose real name is Eldrick). In 1998, 97 baby boys were named Tiger.
FirstVet’s survey identified Ginger as the most popular cat name in the 1970s. This is likely another one often chosen in reference to the shade of the cat’s fur.
“Ginger” is also the title of a children’s picture book about a cat published in 1997.
The cat name’s popularity coincided with its baby name popularity, which peaked in 1971 at No. 187. Famous Gingers include Ginger Rogers and the glamorous female lead on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.”
Cindy was the top cat name in the 1960s ― and featured prominently in a 1964 children’s book titled “A Cat Called Cindy.”
The name was hugely popular for baby girls around the same time. Cindy peaked in popularity in 1957 at No. 19 and stayed in the Top 75 until 1972.
In the pop culture world, Cindy was the youngest daughter on “The Brady Bunch,” which ran from 1969 to 1974. Cindy Lou Who was a key character in Dr. Seuss’ 1957 book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and the beloved 1966 animated TV special. Model Cindy Crawford was born in 1966.
As for felines, Cindy Clawford was the name of one character’s cat on the show “Ted Lasso.”