It started with a baked snack. Flipping through a newspaper earlier this summer, I saw a photo of a dog staring at its reflection in a puddle. Her name? Flapjack. Shortly after, my friend called to tell me about her recent engagement – her partner proposed by attaching a ring to a small pouch around her cat, Oat’s neck. Their other cat is called Prune. While on vacation, doing the typical dog lover thing and sharing pet photos with another tourist, I was shown photos of an adorable pup named Fig. Then I saw a plea on social media from an animal shelter trying to find a home for an abandoned young dog. His name was Truffle. A pattern was emerging.
According to a 2022 database survey from Rosewood Pet, Honey took the top spot for the most popular food-related pet name, with a mix of salty and sweet names making up the rest. of the top 10. Rolo was second, followed by Cookie, Pepper, Fudge, Oreo, Pickles, Pumpkin, Biscuit and finally Peaches at number 10. A database of 17,000 names from Animal Friends Pet Insurance revealed that Honey and Cookie again came out on top – but the longer list (with 82 food-related names in total) showed that pet owners were getting a bit more adventurous.
Among the list, micro-trends are beginning to appear. Names like Muffin, Toffee, Treacle, Jaffa, Waffle, and Fudge indicate a preference for super-sweet foods, like the affectionate Cupcake. But there were also an abundance of savory options, perhaps based on people’s favorite snacks – like Nacho, Peanut, Noodles, Chilli, Spud and Nugget. A few more classic British names like Crumpet, Custard and Crumble made the top 100, as did Wotsit. There were a few artisan choices like Mochi, Tofu, and Saffron. Soft drinks also made a difference, especially Pepsi and Cola.
As with most trends, it also spilled over to social media. On TikTok, I found posts featuring cute baby ducklings called Mushroom, Paella and Halloumi and half a dozen posts (with a total of 570,000 total views) suggesting cute and rare food names for dogs, cats or other pets (including Bean, Curry and Gravy).
A call on Twitter found even more pet owners embracing the trend. There was a hamster called Pancake, two Tacos, a cat called Malai (which translates to ‘cream’ in owner Sidra’s native Urdu/Gujarati), as well as Sushi and Tahini (the two cats). Sarah, a dog trainer and sitter, said she’s noticed many of her clients are also opting for foodie names, as she did with her own pooch, Meatball.
Sofia is the proud owner of two black cats. “Gnocchi got its name because I have Italian roots and always wanted to have pets with pasta names.” A week after receiving gnocchi, her mother came home with a surprise: a little kitten in a tuxedo she named Kimchi. “I think the name was chosen because my mom loves Korean food and it looked cute.”
Ben’s dachshund is Frankie Furter. He explains: “When we went to choose him, he was by far the longest puppy there. My wife loves hot dogs and insists we try one every time we travel. So based on her looks and her love of hot dogs, it was the perfect name choice.
Tianna was inspired by delicious Jamaican foods and ingredients to name her cats. “We have Plantain,” she says, and when Plantain had kittens, she ran with the theme and named the babies Scotch Bonnet (after hot pepper), Bammy (bread made from cassava flour) , Cho Cho (a fruit used as a vegetable in Jamaican cuisine) and sweet potato.
Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor at the University of British Columbia and author of numerous books and dozens of articles on dogs, has also noticed the increase in food names, writing about it in an article for psychology today. So what motivates us to name our pets and what is the thinking behind these trends? According to Dr. Coren, it comes down to the fact that we consider our pets part of the family, and therefore we treat them much like babies or children. “It is common to use personalized nicknames for family members, especially children, and this can include food names. For example, a child may be called Cookie, Biscuit or Honey. My own daughter bears the nickname of Pumpkin. A colleague of mine in Montreal refers to his daughter as my little cabbage which translates to my little cabbage.
Obviously, people can be more carefree and laid back when it comes to naming pets, while children are given “proper names”, pets allow an outlet for “flingy labels or jokes”. more informal, he explains. In Coren’s research, he also found that while a dog could be given a more formal name (dancer or Odin), owners would often revert to calling their pet by greedy nicknames.
Isabel Ludick, Marketing Director of Pet Keen, has also noticed the prevalence of greedy pet names these days, but for her, it goes back decades. “My grandma used to name all her dogs after herbs and spices, pepper, cinnamon or basil etc, but it definitely became more and more popular as the The modern food scene has gotten more interesting. My grandma probably never would have thought of naming her pet Sushi or Tofu, but in 2022 it’s all the rage. Ludick has seen examples of a kitten called Boba (after Taiwanese milk tea made from tapioca) and a Chihuahua called Jellybean among the more unusual choices.
As for what motivates him, she says it’s simple. “People love trends, and it’s no different when it comes to naming pets after food.” It makes sense, our pets and the food we eat are such an integral part of our lives and our families that it’s perhaps no wonder people put two things they love together.
If you are considering having a pet, please visit rspca.org.uk/findapet to find your own plum or potato