A pet, or companion animal, is an animal kept primarily for a person's company or entertainment rather than as a working animal, livestock, or a laboratory animal. Popular pets are often considered to have attractive/cute appearances, intelligence, and relatable personalities, but some pets may be taken in on an altruistic basis (such as a stray animal) and accepted by the owner regardless of these characteristics.
Two of the most popular pets are dogs and cats. Other animals commonly kept include rabbits; ferrets; pigs; rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, rats, mice, and guinea pigs; birds such as parrots, passerines, and fowls; reptiles such as turtles, lizards, snakes, and iguanas; aquatic pets such as fish, freshwater snails, and saltwater snails; amphibians such as frogs and salamanders; and arthropod pets such as tarantulas and hermit crabs. Small pets may be grouped together as pocket pets, while the equine and bovine group include the largest companion animals.
People most commonly get pets for companionship, to protect a home or property, or because of the perceived beauty or attractiveness of the animals. A 1994 Canadian study found that the most common reasons for not owning a pet were lack of ability to care for the pet when traveling (34.6%), lack of time (28.6%), and lack of suitable housing (28.3%), with dislike of pets being less common (19.6%). Some scholars, ethicists, and animal rights organizations have raised concerns over keeping pets because of the lack of autonomy and the objectification of non-human animals.
In China, spending on domestic animals has grown from an estimated $3.12 billion in 2010 to $25 billion in 2018. The Chinese people own 51 million dogs and 41 million cats, with pet owners often preferring to source pet food internationally. There are a total of 755 million pets, increased from 389 million in 2013.
According to a survey promoted by Italian family associations in 2009, it is estimated that there are approximately 45 million pets in Italy. This includes 7 million dogs, 7.5 million cats, 16 million fish, 12 million birds, and 10 million snakes.
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. 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, and poinsettias, begonia, and aloe vera, which are mildly toxic to dogs.
Housepets, particularly dogs and cats in industrialized societies, are 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.
It is widely believed among the public, and among many scientists, that pets probably bring mental and physical health benefits to their owners; a 1987 NIH statement cautiously argued that existing data was "suggestive" of a significant benefit. A recent dissent comes from a 2017 RAND study, which found that at least in the case of children, having a pet per se failed to improve physical or mental health by a statistically significant amount; instead, the study found children who were already prone to being healthy were more likely to get pets in the first place. Conducting long-term randomized trials to settle the issue would be costly or infeasible.
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. Animal company can also help people to preserve acceptable levels of happiness despite the presence of mood symptoms like anxiety or depression. Having a pet may also help people achieve health goals, such as lowered blood pressure, or mental goals, such as decreased stress. 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. Having pet(s) was shown to significantly reduce triglycerides, and thus heart disease risk, in the elderly. 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 did not own one. There is some evidence that pets may have a therapeutic effect in dementia cases. Other studies have shown that for the elderly, good health may be a requirement for having a pet, and not a result. 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.
People residing in a long-term care facility, such as a hospice or nursing home, may 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. 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. Appropriate pets go through a screening process and, if it is a dog, additional training programs to become a therapy dog. 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. Different pets require varying amounts of attention and care; for example, cats may have lower maintenance requirements than dogs.
In addition to providing health benefits for their owners, pets also impact the social lives of their owners and their connection to their community. There is some evidence that pets can facilitate social interaction. Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Leslie Irvine has focused her attention on pets of the homeless population. Her studies of pet ownership among the homeless found that many modify their life activities for fear of losing their pets. Pet ownership prompts them to act responsibly, with many making a deliberate choice not to drink or use drugs, and to avoid contact with substance abusers or those involved in any criminal activity for fear of being separated from their pet. Additionally, many refuse to house in shelters if their pet is not allowed to stay with them.
Pets have commonly been considered private property, owned by individual persons. Many legal protections have existed (historically and today) with the intention of safeguarding pets' and other animals' well-being. 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.
States, cities, and towns in Western countries 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 breedsm 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.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, the government publishes white lists and black lists (called 'positive' and 'negative lists') with animal species that are designated to be appropriate to be kept as pets (positive) or not (negative). The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy originally established its first positive list (positieflijst) per 1 February 2015 for a set of 100 mammals (including cats, dogs and production animals) deemed appropriate as pets on the recommendations of Wageningen University. Parliamentary debates about such a pet list date back to the 1980s, with continuous disagreements about which species should be included and how the law should be enforced. In January 2017, the white list was expanded to 123 species, while the black list that had been set up was expanded (with animals like the brown bear and two great kangaroo species) to contain 153 species unfit for petting, such as the armadillo, the sloth, the European hare, and the wild boar.
In January 2011, the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain stated that people are not allowed to kill random cats walking in their garden, but "[n]owhere in the law does it say that you can't eat your cat, dog, rabbit, fish or whatever. You just have to kill them in an animal-friendly way." Since 1 July 2014, it is illegal in the Netherlands for owners to kill their own cats and dogs kept as pets. Parakeets, guinea pigs, hamsters and other animals may still be killed by their owners, but nonetheless when owners mistreat their companion animals (for example, in the process of killing them), the owners can still be prosecuted under Dutch law. 041b061a72