If you own a licensed dog or cat in Toronto, there’s a good chance its name is Charlie or Max.
They topped both lists recently released by the city of the 25 most popular names for the two species.
The latest data show there were 90,154 licensed dogs and cats in Toronto. The city says 1,776 of them are named Charlie, while 1,368 are Max.
City bylaws require all dogs and cats owned in Toronto to be licensed and wearing a tag, although not all pet owners comply. The city collects and compiles the names of licensed pets, revealing some intriguing trends about what we name our companion animals.
The stats reveal that besides Charlie and Max, Tiger, Smokey, Tigger, Lucy and Lucky also prove to be common cat names. Meanwhile, dog owners most often choose Buddy, Bailey, Bella and Molly.
Coco Ferreira Kealy, 5, is a Rhodesian Ridgeback-German Shepherd Lab mix, with the 10th most popular dog name in Toronto.
Rebecca Langley, a vet technician at the Harbourfront Animal Hospital, says pet owners often choose descriptive names like Leo, Tiger and Tigger. Others gravitate toward “human” names because we have more freedom when choosing a name for a pet than for a child.
“When you’re naming babies there is the pressure to pick a normal name so that your child can fit in and be professional,” she says.
“No one will care if your pet is named Rover.”
But, in fact, Rover is notably absent from the list — as are Fido, Sparky and Fluffy. These names have become antiquated, hypothesizes Gillian Ridgeway, director of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centre.
Instead, many pet owners look to television shows, movies, actors and musicians for names, Ridgeway says. In the wake of the Lion King movies, people rushed to name their animals Simba, she notes.
“Then we had a lot of Dexters after the Dexter show,” she says. “Now, I am sure there has got to be funny names like Katniss out there after the Hunger Games (movies).”
She has even encountered a black cat named Batman.
Smokey the cat lives in Mississauga with owner Maham Abedi.
But what about Charlie?
“We do see a lot of Charlies. A lot of Charlies,” she says, giggling. “We have seen 16 Charlies and we have only been open since 2011.”
Calyssa Pickles, a 24-year-old Toronto photographer, has a 2-year-old white and ginger cat named Charlie. The cat has an Instagram account (@sircharliepickles) and a penchant for wearing colourful bow ties.
Pickles, a self-proclaimed “cat lady,” originally thought of calling him Mr high risk personal loans. Darcy, after a character from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but decided against it.
“I was taking him home from the shelter and he wouldn’t stay in his crate and I looked down and I said, ‘What should I name you?’ ” Pickles recalls. “For some reason, Charlie seemed like a good idea and when I mentioned it, he gave me a look, so I thought it was a good name.”
Pickles believes the name is so popular because it is humanlike and “cute.”
Julie Somers, a 46-year-old office manager, agrees.
Her 11-year-old border collie was named after her father, whose middle name is Charlie.
“I loved the name and I thought it sounded English,” says Somers, who hails from the U.K. “I think pet names have become personal and because Charlie is like a person, I didn’t want a silly name like Fido or Fluffy.”
In September, a Star story based on open data released by the city revealed that between 2005 and 2013, the overall population of licensed dogs in Toronto more than doubled.
The same story showed that the popularity of small, “toy dogs” skyrocketed during that period, with roughly 21,000 licensed animals fitting into that category.
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