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Images:Trillium Poncho cat dog.jpg
A cat and dog, two popular pets.

A pet or companion animal is an animal kept primarily for a person's company or protection, as opposed to working animals, sport animals, livestock, and laboratory animals, which are kept primarily for performance, agricultural value, or research. The most popular pets are noted for their attractive appearances and their loyal or playful personalities.

Pets commonly provide their owners (or guardians[1]) physical and emotional benefits. Walking a dog can supply both the human and pet with exercise, fresh air, and social interaction. Pets can give companionship to elderly adults who do not have adequate social interaction with other people. There is a medically approved class of therapy animals, mostly dogs or cats, that are brought to visit confined humans. Pet therapy utilizes trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive, and emotional goals with patients.

The most popular pets are likely dogs and cats, but people also keep house rabbits, ferrets; rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, fancy rats, and guinea pigs; avian pets, such as canaries, parakeets, and parrots; reptile pets, such as turtles, lizards and snakes; aquatic pets, such as tropical fish and frogs; and arthropod pets, such as tarantulas and hermit crabs.

Some scholars and animal rights organizations have raised concern over pet-keeping with regards to the autonomy and objectification of nonhuman animals.



States, cities, and towns in Western nations commonly enact local ordinances to limit the number or kind of pets a person may keep personally or for business purposes. Prohibited pets may be specific to certain breeds (such as pit bulls or Rottweilers), they may apply to general categories of animals (such as livestock, exotic animals, wild animals, and canid or felid hybrids), or they may simply be based on the animal's size. Additional or different maintenance rules and regulations may also apply. Condominium associations and owners of rental properties also commonly limit or forbid tenants' keeping of pets.

The keeping of animals as pets can cause concerns with regard to animal rights and welfare.[2][3][4] Pets have commonly been considered private property, owned by individual persons. However, many legal protections have existed (historically and today) with the intention of safeguarding pets' (and other animals') well-being.[5][6][7][8] Since the year 2000, a small but increasing number of jurisdictions in North America have enacted laws redefining pet's owners as guardians. Intentions have been characterized as simply changing attitudes and perceptions (but not legal consequences) to working toward legal personhood for pets themselves. Some veterinarians and breeders have opposed these moves. The question of pets' legal status can arise with concern to purchase or adoption, custody, divorce, estate and inheritance, injury, damage, and veterinary malpractice.[9][10][11][12]

Pet popularity

There are approximately 78.2 million pet dogs in the United States, approximately 86.4 million pet cats in the United States,[13] and 5.3 million house rabbits.[14] The two most popular pets in most Western countries have been cats and dogs. In the United States, a 2007–2008 survey showed that dog-owning households outnumbered those owning cats, but that the total number of pet cats was higher than that of dogs. The same was true for 2009–2010.[15] In 2013, pets outnumbered children four to one in the United States.[16]

Pet Labrador, being petted
Most popular pets in the U.S (millions)[17][18]
Pet Global population U.S. population U.S. inhabited households U.S. average per inhabited household
Cat 202 93.6 38.2 2.45
Dog 171 77.5 45.6 1.70
Fish N/A 171.7 13.3 12.86
Small mammals N/A 15.9 5.3 3.00
Birds N/A 15.0 6.0 2.50
Reptiles & amphibians N/A 13.6 4.7 2.89
Equine N/A 13.3 3.9 3.41

Choice of a pet

For a small to medium-size dog, the total cost over a dog's lifetime is about $7,240 to $12,700.[19] For an indoor cat, the total cost over a cat's lifetime is about $8,620 to $11,275.[20] People most commonly get pets for companionship, to protect a home or property, or because of the beauty or attractiveness of the animals.[21] The most common reasons for not owning a pet are lack of time, lack of suitable housing, and lack of ability to care for the pet when traveling.[21]

United States

According to the 2007-2008 Pet Owners survey:[22]

Animal Number of U.S. households
that own this kind of pet (millions)
Total number of this kind of pet owned
in the U.S. (millions)
Bird 6.0 15.0
Cat 38.2 93.6
Dog 45.6 79.5
Equine 4.0 13.3
Freshwater fish 13.3 171.7
Saltwater fish 0.7 11.2
Reptile 4.7 13.6
Small pets 5.3 15.9


The latest survey done by Colin Siren of Ipsos Reid estimates that there are 7.9 million cats and 5.9 million dogs in Canada. The survey also shows that 35% of Canadian households have a dog, while 38% have a cat, which is consistent with other surveys conducted around the world.[23]

United Kingdom

A 2007 survey by the University of Bristol found that 26% of UK households owned cats and 31% owned dogs, estimating total domestic populations of approximately 10.3 million cats and 10.5 million dogs in 2006.[24] The survey also found that 47.2% of households with a cat had at least one person educated to degree level, compared with 38.4% of homes with dogs.[25]


Household animals in Italy are about 45 million in number, according to a survey promoted by Italian family associations in 2009: 7 million dogs, 7.5 million cats, 16 million fishes, 12 million birds, 10 million snakes plus 3,000 wild animals held as "pets", mainly lions, panthers and cheetahs.[26]


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{{#invoke:main|main}} Animal protection advocates call attention to pet overpopulation. According to the Humane Society of the United States, animal shelters care for about 6 to 8 million dogs and cats each year, but approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized.[27] A fertile cat or dog can produce up to two litters per year containing four or more kittens or puppies per litter.[28] Not every pet entering a shelter is a stray. Many pets are surrendered every day because of reasons such as moving, cost, allergies, too many pets, no time for pet, illness, and personal problems.[29] Local humane societies, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs), and other animal protection organizations urge people to spay or neuter their pets, as well as to adopt animals from animal shelters instead of purchasing them from breeders or pet stores.

Effects on pets' health

Keeping animals as pets may be detrimental to their health if certain requirements are not met. An important issue is inappropriate feeding, which may produce clinical effects. The consumption of chocolate or grapes by dogs, for example, may prove fatal.[30]

Certain species of houseplants can also prove toxic if consumed by pets. Examples include philodendrons and Easter lilies (which can cause severe kidney damage to cats)[31][32] and poinsettias, begonia, and aloe vera (which can sicken or, in extreme cases, kill dogs).[33]

Housepets, particularly dogs and cats in industrialized societies, are also highly susceptible to obesity. Overweight pets have been shown to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes, liver problems, joint pain, kidney failure, and cancer. Lack of exercise and high-caloric diets are considered to be the primary contributors to pet obesity.[34][35][36]

Effects of pets on their caregiver's health

Health benefits

Pets might have the ability to stimulate their caregivers, in particular the elderly, giving people someone to take care of, someone to exercise with, and someone to help them heal from a physically or psychologically troubled past.[37][38][39] Having a pet may help people achieve health goals, such as lowered blood pressure, or mental goals, such as decreased stress.[40][41][42][43][44][45] There is evidence that having a pet can help a person lead a longer, healthier life. In a 1986 study of 92 people hospitalized for coronary ailments, within a year 11 of the 29 patients without pets had died, compared to only 3 of the 52 patients who had pets.[39] Having pet(s) was shown to significantly reduce triglycerides, and thus heart disease risk, in the elderly.[46] A study by the National Institute of Health found that people who owned dogs were less likely to die as a result of a heart attack than those who didn’t own one.[47] Other studies have shown that for the elderly, good health may be a requirement for having a pet, and not a result.[48] Dogs trained to be guide dogs can help people with vision impairment. Dogs trained in the field of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) can also benefit people with other disabilities.[37][49]

Pets in long-term care institutions

People residing in a long-term care facility, such as a hospice or nursing home, experience health benefits from pets. Pets help them to cope with the emotional issues related to their illness. They also offer physical contact with another living creature, something that is often missing in an elder's life.[50] Pets for nursing homes are chosen based on the size of the pet, the amount of care that the breed needs, and the population and size of the care institution.[39] Appropriate pets go through a screening process and, if it is a dog, additional training programs to become a therapy dog.[51] There are three types of therapy dogs: facility therapy dogs, animal-assisted therapy dogs, and therapeutic visitation dogs. The most common therapy dogs are therapeutic visitation dogs. These dogs are household pets whose handlers take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention facilities, and rehabilitation facilities.[38] Different pets require varying amounts of attention and care; for example, cats may have lower maintenance requirements than dogs.[52]

Health risks

Health risks that are associated with pets include:

  • Aggravation of allergies and asthma caused by dander and fur or feathers
  • Falling injuries. Tripping over pets, especially dogs, causes more than 86,000 falls serious enough to prompt a trip to the emergency room each year in the United States.[53] Among elderly and disabled people, these falls have resulted in life-threatening injuries and broken bones.
  • Injury, mauling, and sometimes death caused by pet bites and attacks
  • Disease and/or parasites due to animal hygiene problems, lack of appropriate treatment, and undisciplined behavior (faeces and urine)
  • Stress caused by behaviour of animals

Common types

While many people have kept many different species of animals in captivity over the course of human history, only a relative few have been kept long enough to be considered domesticated. Other types of animals, notably monkeys, have never been domesticated but are still commonly sold and kept as pets. There are also inanimate objects that have been kept as "pets", either as a form of game, or humorously (e.g. the Pet Rock or Chia Pet).


Domesticated pets are the most common types of pet. A domesticated animal is any animal that has been tamed and made fit for a human environment.[54] They have consistently been kept in captivity over a long enough period of time that they exhibit marked differences in behavior and appearance from their wild relatives.




Wild animals


Images:The Pashas Favourite Tiger.jpg
The Pasha's Favourite Tiger, oil painting by Rudolph Ernst

Wild animals are often kept as pets. The term wild in this context specifically applies to any species of animal which has not undergone a fundamental change in behavior to facilitate a close co-existence with humans. Some species listed here may have been bred in captivity for a considerable length of time, but are still not recognized as domesticated.

Exotic mammals






Images:Caribbean hermit crab.JPG
The Caribbean hermit crab is one example of a pet arthropod.


{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Expand section |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Message box|ambox}} }} Archeology suggests that dogs as pets may date back to at least 12,000 years ago.[55]

Pets in art

See also


  1. "Guardianship Movement". Pet Planet Health. Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  2. "About Us". NhRP Website. Nonhuman Rights Project. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  3. "About IDA". IDA Website. In Defense of Animals. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  4. "Animal Rights Uncompromised: 'Pets'". PETA Website. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  5. Garner, Robert. "A Defense of a Broad Animal Protectionism," in Francione and Garner 2010, pp. 120–121.
  6. Francione, Gary Lawrence (1996). Rain without thunder: the ideology of the animal rights movement. ISBN 978-1-56639-461-1.
  7. Francione, Gary. Animals, Property, and the Law. Temple University Press, 1995.
  8. Garner 2005, p. 15; also see Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation, Random House, 1975; Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights, University of California Press, 1983; Francione, Gary. Animals, Property, and the Law. Temple University Press, 1995; this paperback edition 2007.
  9. "Do You Live in a Guardian Community?". The Guardian Campaign. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
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  12. Katz, Jon (2004-03-05). "Guarding the Guard Dogs?". Home / Heavy Petting: Pets & People. Slate. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  13. The Humane Society of the United States. "U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  14. USDA. "U.S. Rabbit Industry profile". Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  15. "Household Pet Ownership: 2001". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-09-17. {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[dead link]
  16. Daniel Halper (1 February 2013). "Animal Planet: Pets Outnumber Children 4 to 1 in America". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  17. Susan Hayes. "What are the most popular pets around the world?". Retrieved 2011-03-04.
  18. "Industry Statistics & Trends". American Pet Product Association. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
  19. Lieber, Alex. "Lifetime Costs of Dog Ownership". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  20. Lieber, Alex. "Lifetime Costs of Cat Ownership". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  21. 21.0 21.1 {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  22. "Industry Statistics & Trends". American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
  23. "Latest Pet Population Figures Released" (PDF). Canadian Animal Health Institute. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  24. "UK domestic cat and dog population larger than thought". University of Bristol. 6 February 2010.
  25. "More cat owners 'have degrees' than dog-lovers". BBC News Online. 6 February 2010.
  26. "45 milioni gli animali domestici in Italia: 150.000 ogni anno vengono abbandonati". Il Messaggero. 22 September 2009.
  27. The Humane Society of The United States. "Common Questions about Animal Shelters". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  28. ASPCA. "ASPCA".
  29. "National Council on Pet Population". "National Council on Pet Population".
  30. Mason Woods, Elizabeth. "Toxic and Dangerous Foods for Pets". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  31. "Plants and Your Cat". Cat Fanciers' Association. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
  32. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  33. "These plants can be poisonous to dogs". Sunset Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  34. "Overweight Dogs". Pet Care. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  35. "Overweight Cats". Pet Care. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  36. Zelman, Joanna (23 February 2011). "Pet Obesity: Over Half Of U.S. Dogs And Cats Are Overweight, Study Says". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "The Health Benefits of Pets". US Government National Institute of Health. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Reiman, Steve. "Therapy Dogs in the Long-Term Health Care Environment". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Whiteley, Ellen H. (1986). "The Healing Power of Pets". 258. Saturday Evening Post. pp. 2–102. Retrieved 2006-11-05. Academic Search Elite. EBSCOhost. Polk Library, UW Oshkosh
  40. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} Academic Search Elite. EBSCOhost. Polk Library, UW Oshkosh
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  46. Dembicki, D and Anderson, J. 1996. Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. Volume 15 Issue 3, pages 15-31.
  47. Jodee. "Want to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease? Get a Pet". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  48. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  49. Farlex. "The Free Dictionary By Farlex". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  50. Reinman, Steve. "Therapy Dogs in the Long-Term Health Care Environment". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  51. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}. LexisNexis. Polk Library, UW Oshkosh. 5 Nov. 2006.
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  53. "In the Home, a Four-Legged Tripwire". The New York Times. 27 March 2009.
  54. Farlex. "The Free Dictionary by Farlex". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  55. Clutton-Brock, Juliet (1995). "Origins of the dog: domestication and early history". In Serpell, James. The domestic dog: its evolution, behaviour and interactions with people. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 9780521425377.

External links

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