Can I use "She" or "her" for an animal? For example, Suppose I have a dog that is of the female gender. How do I refer to it? "It" or "She"?

Also when I am talking with someone about an animal (for example Animal Doctor) and we both don't know the gender of the animal. How do we refer to it? "He" or "It"?

  • 2
    @mathewb - Definitely related, but I don't think it's a duplicate. The lone answer to that questions talks about the poetic nuances of a dove being referred to in the feminine, which doesn't really answer the question here. Good link, though.
    – J.R.
    Jan 18, 2018 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


It is common to use personal pronouns for pet animals as explained in the following source:

From Writer’s digest.com:

An animal is referred as “it” unless the relationship is personal (like a pet that has a name). Then it’s OK to use “he” or “she” when referring to the animal. This also applies to using “who” and “whom.” If the animal has a personal relationship with the person, then use “who” or “whom.” Otherwise you must exclusively use “which” or “that.” Here’s an example that incorporates both of these rules:

Personal: My horse, whom I call Steve, is my best friend. He comforts me when I ride him.

Generic: The stray dog, which I saw chasing its own tail, was shedding hair.

The “personal” rule also holds true if you’re writing a kids book and the animals can talk—as you’re giving them human traits and making them characters your readers can get to know. Even if the animals don’t have specific names, they are given personalities and this is enough to make them personal.

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