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 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, as well as other people that are living alone. 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 goldfish, 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. 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.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.
There are approximately 78.2 million pet dogs in the United States, approximately 86.4 million pet cats in the United States, and 5.3 million house rabbits. 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. In 2013, pets outnumbered children four to one in the United States.