Renaming a Pet After Adoption: Good or Bad? It Depends.

When you adopt a new pet, chances are, it already has a name. If you want to change it, though, there are factors to consider, such as the pet’s age.

What, you’re telling me you don’t like your new name, Sir Yawniferous Cheesington III? By: Antonin Aillaud

Adopting a new pet is very rewarding because you are giving an animal a second chance at life.

Whether your pet was previously mistreated or someone simply couldn’t take care of him anymore, being adopted will be a huge milestone in your pet’s life.

You want your new furry friend to be a part of your family, but sometimes you may not like the name he had before.

A lot of people wonder if it’s all right to change their new pet’s name. The answer really depends on the situation.

The Animal

Although you can change the name of any animal you adopt, it will be easier with some than with others. Experts say dogs, cats, rabbits and rats are just some of the animals that can learn to recognize their names.

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We don’t know much about the effects of changing a rat or rabbit’s name, but we do know about dogs and cats. Dogs tend to be adaptable to change as long as you go through the proper steps when changing the name. Cats can be more difficult to train.

The Pet’s Age

One factor to consider is the pet’s age. Although dogs and cats can both adapt to a new name at any age, the process is always easier when they are younger. This is because in most cases a puppy or kitty is still learning their name, making it easier to replace.

However, you should always pay attention to your pet’s emotional health as well. Some new pets will need the stability provided by their old name, especially when in a new environment.

How Long Has the Name Been in Place?

Think about how long your new pet had his previous name. If it was his name since he was a puppy or kitty, it might make sense to leave it in place.

If he got the name recently while in a shelter, however, chances are he’s already experienced a name change and is not quite used to the new one yet.

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When Change Is Good

In most cases it is up to you whether to keep your pet’s name the same or change it, but there are some situations where it can actually be beneficial to make the change. The most notable one is if your new pet was previously abused.

If that’s the case, you want his new home to give him a fresh start on life — a new name could help usher in that new change. Sometimes, a dog or cat will even associate the old name with the previous abuse, making it harder to adapt.

Positive Reinforcement

If you decide to change your new pet’s name, the trick is to do so carefully. Try to have the name picked out ahead of time so you can start using it right away. Throughout the pet’s first few days in your home, do whatever you can to associate the new name with good things.

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This means saying your dog or cat’s name and immediately after, giving love, a toy or a treat. After just a little time, your new furry friend will start responding to the name.

Name Association

If you don’t want to rely solely on rewards, try combining the old and new names for a while and then after a little time passes, drop the old name.

So if your dog’s name was Fluffy but you want it to be Fido, you could start calling him FluffyFido and then after a while simply start calling him Fido.

For best results, remember to combine the new name with positive reinforcement and always avoid using it to scold or punish.

Jet Perreault

View posts by Jet Perreault
Jet Perreault, a professional dog groomer of 18 years, graduated from Michigan State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She has spent time on the dog show circuit, working groomer trade shows, and managing grooming salons and pet shops.

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