Exotic pet names

By Robin Becker
Info Guru,

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green parrot
Choosing the right pet name for your exotic animal can be a difficult decision, and it's more important than you might think - for you and for your pet.
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What species is it?

You've acquired the perfect pet; now you want the perfect name to match. Spot and Fluffy won't work because they're either inaccurate, too banal, or both. What's a good pet owner to do?

First and foremost, consider the species of animal in question. If it's a trainable pet, exotic or not, you're going to want to pick a simple, monosyllabic or disyllabic name, like Rex or Moxie. It's easier for pets in training to recognize commands. Also beware of naming pets with names that sound like commands. That simplifies your job if your exotic pet is overly intelligent, but what about the ones that you want to enjoy simply for the pleasure of their company? Read on.

Obviously, naming a corn snake Princess probably won't do (unless your corn snake happens to be particularly finicky or uppity, in which case it's a hilarious choice). Likewise, you might want to rethink naming your pet ferret Mr. Slithers. If the idea is to evoke imagery related to the animal's natural environs, movements, food or uncommon activities, then pick something clever with an easy correlation to the pet.

For example, you might name a harlequin macaw Harley Quinn, because few people will know about the difference between a blue-gold and a green macaw except by guessing. Most people won't even know that "harlequin" macaws exist as a sub-species or breed, so the name Harley Quinn is both entertaining and accurate without hitting a non-ornithologist over the head with it. Other suggestions for pet names include Fern, Splash, Pebbles, Sahara, Grove, Tempest, Iris, etc.

You could also name your pet for a locale near its natural environment, like a town, a state park or a nickname given to the animal in another language. This works especially well for large mammals and rare birds from tropical islands in the Caribbean or the South Pacific. The association you may have with certain words, especially they recall fond memories of a journey or a happier time in your life, is a powerful incentive to place a name on an exotic pet.

Ask yourself if you intend to have your pet project an image of your home, status, or lifestyle. Do you want your pet to symbolize your affluence or newfound political standing? Clinton, Eisenhower, Kennedy or Reagan might do the trick. Your patriotism? Some of the more old-school names could work, such as Roosevelt, Lincoln, Jefferson or Adams. Feeling a bit more continental? Try Montreal, Rico, Belize, Monty for Montenegro. Or international—there's Manchester, Cyprus, Moscow, Cairo, Marseilles, Frankfurt, Madrid, Casablanca...the possibilities are endless.

Consider historical figures, both real and historical. You can make a pet infamous if you name it for its good or bad behavior. Especially for its bad behavior. If your chameleon likes to blend in with the rug when its cage has a cleaning, try on 007 or Incognito for size. It's only fair that a snooping, prying pet which can't leave well enough alone, even when it comes to electrical appliances, has earned the dubious honor of a moniker like Poirot, Inspector Gadget, Perry Mason, and so on.

Another honorable direction to go is backwards—into mythology, that is. The names of the Greek gods are particularly inspiring, as they seem to pop up as household pet names in spades. You might also consider names from your favorite childhood fairy tales. The Grimm brothers have an assortment of odd, unusual names, as does Bullfinch's mythology. A good Rumpelstiltzkin or the like might give you that warm, fuzzy feeling much the same way as peanut butter, Sesame Street, and baby blankets with soft polyester edges did.

Don't give your pet a name that you would be embarrassed to have if you weren't human. If the name is going to make you laugh to say it, it will make your friends and guests laugh, and not in a good way.

Finally, study past trends for naming exotic pets. Charlie, the British blue and gold macaw that spouts anti-Nazi tirades in colorful obscenities, is 104 and counting. Charlie seems like a good name for longevity. At least, it is if you're a naughty, naughty parrot.

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