In the dog and cat name game, Max and Tiger take the prize. That's according to a nationwide survey of 1,500 pet owners conducted recently by the Iams Co.
However, when Veterinary Pet Insurance recently tallied up the pet names in its database of more than 220,000 policyholders, Max shared top honors with Mollie, not Tiger.
Blame the difference on polling strategies. But credit them for a few other trendy tidbits.
For example, the Iams survey found that:
* Midwesterners are twice as likely as Northeasterners to name their dogs after foods or beverages.
* Young Generation Y'ers are nearly four times more likely to pick a traditional name -- such as Kitty, Whiskers, Lucky or Spot -- than baby boomers are.
The latter tend to opt for less-mainstream choices, such as Kaleiducat, Beaker and Malibu.
* Brandy, Babe, Sara and Snuggles were popular dog names 10 years ago but are no longer on the top 10 list; Rocky and Belle have returned to the list after a 10-year absence.
* Similarly, Fluffy, Angel, Bobby and Lucky are back on the kitty top 10 after being out of favor for a decade, while former favorites Boots, Pepper, Samantha and Sparky have all been scratched.
* Max, Jake, Charlie and Princess have been consistent favorites for the past 10 years.
One thing many pet-name polls tend to agree on is the popularity of people names. Iams found that 74 percent of puppy owners and 66 percent of kitten owners chose people names for their pets this year.
And according to Veterinary Pet Insurance, the penchant for people names has been on the increase for at least a decade -- evidence, perhaps, of our growing view of pets as members of our family.
A quick check of Amazon.com found more than a dozen pet-name books in print, some with unusual twists. The one offering astrological help -- Pet Names, Pet Signs, by Karen Webster -- is out of print, but come December, From Ace to Zummo, by Ellin Dodge, will provide some numerological guidance on the subject.
The Internet also offers innumerable animal-naming sites, many of them boasting their own pet-name popularity polls. For example, Bowwow.com.au provides top 20 lists for dogs and for cats based on its pet-tag business.
Current top dogs on this tally are Max and Maggie; felines in first are Max and Sassy.
Bowwow.com.au also offers monthly suggestions for pet owners in search of more unusual names.
Among the possibilities from the past 12 months are Ricochet ("for the pet that bounces back"), Tommy Holedigger ("for the fashionable dog that likes to dig") and Hecksma Kitty (as in "Where the heck's my kitty?").
Claudia Shugert, executive director of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, suggests getting to know your new pet before naming it.
This can lead to such names as Snuggles, Meowsy and Napster.
But when picking names based on personality or temperament, you have to be careful about the message you're sending about your pet. A puppy named Klutzie could cause people to assume a clumsiness that is no longer there once the dog is grown, Shugert said, and giving a large dog a scary name can predispose people to fear it, even if he's a teddy bear at heart.
"Naming your Rottweiler Killer is not good for the dog and probably won't enhance your own reputation much either," she said.
Opposites -- a tiny Yorkie named Moose, for example -- can add "a comic element that can be appealing," Shugert continued, "but you also want to make sure you pick a name that ages well."