Do Animals Give Human Companions Names?

Max the cat and Melissa relaxing together while Juniper photo bombs

Recently, a client asked me whether animals give their human companions names. Do they think of us by the names they hear other people call us? Or do they come up with a name or title to call us that means something to them?

Like people, animals are highly individual. They differ from each other in what they call their humans. Some of the reasons for this are circumstantial. When animals live in a home where they hear their human’s names said out loud a lot, they will usually think of their humans by those names. But when humans talk out loud to their animals often and refer to themselves by a title such as “mommy” or “daddy,” then the animal will think of their humans in that way.

But some animals do come up with other names based on what they think of their human companions. One of the funniest ones I remember was when a lady asked me why her son’s dog was affectionate to her son but not to her, though she always fed the dog and took care of him. The dog seemed confused that the woman expected affection to be a part of their relationship. He said, “But she’s just the doer.” In other words, she was the one who did everything for him, and was therefore not expected to have any other role in his life—even to the point that to him, she didn’t have a name, just a title, similar to “waiter!”

Still others don’t think of their humans by name, or maybe they don’t think of them at all, especially if the humans and animals in that household coexist but don’t have an especially close relationship. They may think of some family members by name, especially if they hear the name spoken a lot, and others are just a part of the human collective, known by their traits—the loud one, the one with the comfy lap, the one who feeds us. It’s similar to the way my husband is with our dozen-or-so cats; he knows a few of them by name, but thinks of most of them by description—the tabby, the black cat, etc.

In one communication I had with a blind animal on the subject of how she thought of her people, she “saw” each of the humans in her household as pillars of colored light. She had assigned a different color to each of her people, and could tell where they were and who they were by their color vibration. Pretty cool, huh?

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