Home > Fun Stuff, Pet Adoption, Pet Topics > Adopted Cats and Dogs: To rename or not?

Adopted Cats and Dogs: To rename or not?


Being a volunteer at an animal shelter, I see a lot of dogs and cats. I also see a lot of interesting dog and cat names. Some of them are REALLY interesting! Either way, I’m always interested in the names people give their pets. It’s fun to find out the story behind their names.

I think what always surprised me was when people would rename a dog or cat after they adopted them. I’ve always believed that I should let my newly adopted dog or cat keep its given name (especially when the dog or cat came from another home) because it seemed less confusing for them. Since they were already adjusting to a new home and a new owner, the last thing I wanted to do was make them adjust to a new name too. Thus, my cats,Nick and Sebastian, kept their names as did Indy, Aspen and Daisy. Jasper (and his sister, Jasmine) I named myself because they had come from a pet store and were never given names.

But, I know that my opinion is only that, mine. I’d be interested in hearing what others think. Did you change your dog or cat’s name after you adopted him or her? If so, why? What name did you change it to? Is there a story behind your dog or cat’s new name? I’d love to hear it!

As a side note, MSNBC recently published the Most Popular cat and dog names of 2009. They also published the Most Unusual dog and cat names. Pretty interesting stuff. Check it out!

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  1. January 6, 2010 at 1:49 PM | #1

    I’d say it takes about 5 minutes and a pocket of cheese to change a dog’s name.

  2. January 20, 2010 at 3:40 PM | #2

    I’m in the “it depends” category. We adopted a breeder’s “returnee” once….her name was Jezebel, and we renamed her Kisha without any problems. Our first rescue great dane was Blaze, whom we renamed Micaela (Caela). But we really couldn’t find a name we liked for our second dane rescue, so he stayed Payton. Our rescue golden came named Remy (named by the rescue because she was a stray) and we liked it. I think they adapt to new names, and I think humans can too…I went through several periods of renaming myself. Generally, I suppose, we try to find something we like that sounds similar to the original name, but if we just can’t, we’ll rename.

  3. January 21, 2010 at 12:48 AM | #3

    I had similar comments from other posters on Facebook Danielle. In fact, one of my dog training friends said it might even be a good thing to rename a dog, especially if he/she had a difficult situation with the previous family. Thanks for your insight!

  4. Martha Miller Boltz
    March 10, 2010 at 7:28 AM | #4

    We named our rescue cat Blackie, aka Black Beauty. His original name had been Onyx. I had not heard it might be bad to rename him until a week or so ago, on the radio. I came home and looked over and said “Hi Onyx” and he instantly turned his head around just as he responds to Blackie. Now I try to use both names, since he’s smart enough to know both. It seems to be OK.
    I can see the rationale that after being adopted then taken back when original owner died, a name is all that animal has. But Blackie did fine, and now he answers to both. Maybe he’s smarter than we are! The breeder from whom we got our Siamese kitten later specifically does not call them anything but kitty girl or kitty boy, so that the owner can name them. Both methods seem OK to the animals!!

    • Mel
      March 10, 2010 at 8:03 AM | #5

      Thanks for your input Martha! I have since learned from several dog trainers that re-naming a dog or cat can be a positive if they had a bad experience in their past home. They may associate old name with old, and possibly bad, memories, so I guess I learned something new! Blackie/Onyx sounds like a lucky cat! New and old name!

  5. January 30, 2011 at 5:29 AM | #6

    I think it depends on if this was their name for years, or it was the name that the shelter gave them.
    Our rescue dog Harley had that name for 4 years and he got to keep it even it I think it is a stupid name.

    Our rescue cat was Mama, which I could not abide by and we worked her in to Mocha. Sort of like Mama, but not as dumb of a name.

    Our stray rescue cat was Cub, a gift name from the shelter. She quickly pointed out she did not recognize that name, so she became Abby. She still doesn’t recognize her name, but I like it better.

    • Mel
      January 30, 2011 at 9:29 AM | #7

      I agree with you. I’ve always felt that a dog/cat that came in with their name should be allowed to keep it, unless it was offensive (I’ve seen a few too).

      However, I think some people made a good point that sometimes changing a pet’s name when they came from a bad situation can actually be good for that dog or cat since the name they came with may have been linked to abuse. We had a Border Collie that came in with one name and was adopted with that name, but when she came back she had been beaten and neglected. We changed her name to give her a fresh start. I think in that circumstance it was the right thing to do.

      My mom’s Sheltie puppy was 5 months and came into our shelter with the name Dandy. He’s now Jake (Thank God!).

  6. Carolington
    November 20, 2011 at 2:12 PM | #8

    I’ve changed almost all of my pets names over the years and have never had any issues. Animals don’t understand the words but can tell from the tone of your voice that you are speaking to them, hence several of my pets end up with several names, including my current 16 year old Border terrier whom when I first brought her home aged two had the kennel name Further Journey and called Dandy by her then owner. I didn’t like the name Dandy but couldn’t think of an alternative so she remained nameless for awhile. I then named her Cali full name Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So she often is called SuperCali but then she is often Calcalon or Doglet or The Terrierorist. She answer to them all, but then she is very clever.

  7. Emily
    March 3, 2012 at 12:28 PM | #9

    I renamed my adopted pointer Katie (from Tess) for a couple of reasons. One, she didn’t look like a Tess to me. See Katie is a sweet, gentle dog, who gets very excited and hyper at times. Not to mention she is the most curious creature I have ever met. I didn’t think Tess showed her two natures. It fit her calm side, but not her more rambunctious behavior.

    The second reason is that we don’t really know what her past was. I was told she was surrendered by her last family and that they don’t know of any prior abuse. She isn’t aggressive at all, but she is terrified of men, and very easily spooked if I start talking too loud or use too many hand gestures. After looking at that, you tell me if she sounds like a victim. I also know she is terrified of shelters. She almost starved herself during the two months she had to stay there. So when I adopted this dog I wanted to give her a new start, full of happy times of playing and being loved unconditionally. A dog this sweet needs to be cherished and I didn’t want her to think of her past every time I called her.

  8. Anna
    July 4, 2012 at 3:39 PM | #10

    glad to hear the sucess stories on renaming an adopted dog. I too, think it gives them a chance to “start over”, especially when you do not know the animals background. I have read many articles that is true, it’s the tone of voice that they associate with their name, not necessarly the name itself. Be true and right by them, they will get the name very quickly.

    • Mel
      July 6, 2012 at 7:11 AM | #11

      Great comment Anna. So agree. It’s funny, but I kept all the names of my dogs when I adopted them, but they had been renamed by the group previously so I figured renaming them again might be a bit much. :)

  9. Emily
    February 4, 2013 at 1:10 AM | #12

    I’m glad I found your article. My family is getting ready for 2 new adoptions. Our cat Jasmine needs some companions & so do we. Our other cat recently passed away & we’ve had 3 before. I looked because this time we’re looking at getting a cat and a kitten (the shelter loves the idea & will make sure we get ones that are social)
    I’ve always renamed my kittens. My last one was Suzy & it just didn’t fit. I called her Adelie & she picked right up. We plan on changing both of their names. It just makes them part of our family.
    What dawned on me is no matter what my cats have been names in the past they always get nicknames. If I call Jasmine “Jazz” she’ll come just as fast as if I say “Jasmine” For me it has always been use the new name a lot but only when addressing the kitten. I suspect with the older cat it will take a little longer.
    I think it’s just up to you. No name is stupid or better than another. It’s what works for you.

  10. Ronnie
    March 24, 2013 at 7:59 AM | #13

    if an animal was abused and or abandoned it’s best to change it’s name because that part of their previous environment could remind them of the abuse thatch was dealt to them

  11. karen
    March 29, 2013 at 3:50 PM | #14

    I’m upset because I had to give my cat away as I had to move home with a very allergic sister. I gave my cat Izzy away to my auntie she is very good with animals and I know she will be taken care of and loved. I’m very grateful to my aunt however she told me she is going to change her name to Winifred. im devastated as she really is my baby and now I feel that our connection will be lost.

  12. Katey
    September 22, 2013 at 9:05 PM | #15

    well i read that dog’s easily adjust to new names regardless of age and if they came from an abusing home it’s better to rename them because the original name would have negative connotations and may be traumatic. But with cats idk, it might depend on age. but when my parents adopted their cat Katie they had to change her name (she is 1) because their daughter (me, who is 19) is also named Katey – different spelling- so they renamed her Izzy. But with their second cat Twiggy suited him.

  13. Sally
    October 6, 2013 at 1:51 AM | #16

    I am so glad I found this post before tomorrow. We are adopting a 3 yr old pooch tomorrow. I have been advised to change her name but wasn’t 100% sure about it. I feel confident to go ahead with a name change. Only problem is that I cant decide between two names. I am sure it will come to me when we pick her up. Thank you

  14. Kay
    October 28, 2013 at 11:39 PM | #17

    I have only ever renamed an animal once, and that was to avoid confusion. I adopted a kitten from my neighbor once because she was no longer wanted there. They had named her Ash, and the problem was I have a sister named Ashley who we all call Ash. And for the first couple days every time I called the cat my sister thought I wanted her and Vice Versa. So instead, I name the kitten Lucinda, and we started calling her Cinda for short. Now, 2 years later, the only name she will answer to is Cinda.

  15. Hayley Robertson
    March 16, 2014 at 12:11 PM | #18

    I have in a way, we rehomed a cat from an animal hoarder called splodge. He’s 8 so didn’t think best to change his name even though I hated it but I kept accidentally calling him smudge and it stuck. To be fair be never knew his name before I imagine with that many animals in a house forming an identity as a cat would have been difficult!

  1. January 9, 2010 at 7:57 PM | #1
  2. January 10, 2011 at 10:14 AM | #2

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