Proposal: Pets

Right now the site is described as a site for pet owners, caretakers, etc. However, I don't feel like that does a good job of what animals should be considered "pets", and what animals shouldn't. For example, a cow could be considered a pet or livestock.

What do you think? Does anyone have an idea for a good definition of the word "pet"?

  • 2
    As a sci-fi fan, I think the answers all miss one important facet of the question: are robotic pets on-topic or off-topic here? :) I'm kidding of course, but I wonder how many years we have till that becomes a real question.
    – Sundar R
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 13:43

6 Answers 6


I'd say that the definition should include any animal that will be harvested as a companion. What I mean by "harvest" is in terms of what the final product is. This includes breeders and caretakers of animals that aren't currently pets but will one day be pets.

Breeders and caretakers don't keep animals as pets, but knowing how to care for these animals would require similar information that a pet owner would need. This information is required in order to produce animals that would make suitable pets.

Any animal that is harvested for food, or sports such as safari-type hunting, would not be considered a pet. With this logic, neither would animals raised for scientific experiments. Therefore, livestock, such as a cow, would be excluded, unless the cow is actually a pet, which in some countries is quite possible.

This definition therefore focuses more on intent rather than the type of animal, since some animals could be considered pets by some cultures and tasty dinner treats by others. :)

  • 1
    What about assistant dogs, and working dogs in general? Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 16:52
  • 8
    @TatianaRacheva - I feel like working animals are a form of companion. Seeing-eye dogs and K-9's do form bonds with their handlers, and when K-9's retire, it's not uncommon for the police handler to adopt the animal.
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 0:49
  • I would hope that show animals fits into this definition as well. I also disagree with the exclusion of animals that are harvested for food. I know many farmers who think of their chickens, as pets but also harvest them as food. I would say that it more the intent of the question, if it is about the care or well being of an animal then it should be on topic regardless of any other activities that will eventually happen. If it is about the harvesting (now or in the future) of the animal for food or other reason then yes it should be off topic.
    – Chad
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 14:11

William's answer is good and I mostly agree with what he is saying, but undoubtedely there will be some overlap between questions about livestock and questions about pets.

A person not too far from my house keeps chickens technically as a pet, but in reality they are being kept for a single useful function and that is that they produce eggs. VERY delicious eggs I might add. The municipality I live in does not allow livestock to be kept on property zoned as residential, so legally these animals are kept as pets. The children however love their chickens, name them and feed them. The children feel a bond with the animals however the parents wouldn't shed a tear if one were to get sick. If one got too old to lay eggs it would likely be killed and made into a pot pie. To the parents their chickens are livestock.

So a pet then can have a variable legal definition depending on laws or ordinances in your area. It even gets blurry when you are talking about a dairy cow, "I'm gonna go milk Bessy..." Clearly it is livestock, however they named the cow. The act of naming the animal implies a relationship too.

So legally, and mentally and emotionally an animal can be both a pet and livestock. The questions will undoubtedly overlap too... "My horse has a growth on his one foot, is this something I should worry about?". The horse could be a beloved pet or valuable livestock or both.

However the kick is, if the question, "When a dog is excessively drinking water, what can this be a sign of?" doesn't imply ownership of a single animal or a relationship with an animal, then we can no longer assume that it is a concerned pet owner, and perhaps it is a first year veternary student looking to cheat on his homework.

Pets are owned by people and have some kind of relationship with the owners. A valid question about a pet should be anyone where ownership and relationship are established in the question.


I believe this can be simply addressed by "a pet is any animal kept in or around a household that is dependant upon that household for food, shelter, and care."

Yes, this definition includes livestock, but is that really a problem? What, if any, is the reason for excluding questions on livestock from this site before it even launches?

What is the practical difference between "how do I fix problem x with one of my goats?" and "I love my goat, Norman, very much! How do I fix problem x with Norman?"

I don't think I'd bring the concept of ownership into the equation, because what if someone wants to ask about someone else's pets? Is it off-topic to ask a question about my neighbor's dogs? What about asking for advice in picking out pets? What about domesticating wild or feral animals? My mother, for example, has rescued several feral cats; should they be off-topic until after she takes them into her home?

  • I would say it would be fine to ask a question about your friends pet, or anyone's for that matter.
    – Dozer789
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 15:52

Is there any reason to exclude questions about non-pet animals? I don't think that the definition of pet is where we should draw the line.

The defining line is quantity.

If you have a single animal that you consider livestock, the answers will be the same as for a single animal that you consider a pet. The same goes for a working animal such as a sheepdog or a draught horse if you have only one or two. Because of this, questions from either the pets or non-pets category should be on-topic because they will benefit people who would ask questions the other category.

But questions about how to prevent a new arrival at a boarding kennel from infecting all the rest with some disease are unlikely to ever benefit pet owners who only own one or two pets and have no way of keeping the animals apart anyway.

I suspect that the difference between how to treat a cow for fleas and how to treat a herd of cows for fleas is large enough that there would be no overlap at all.

Questions about rounding them up with helicopters or dirt bikes or horses are not going too help pet owners either.

  • I like the concept. Where do you draw the line, though? How many cats or dogs are too many to qualify for pet advice, for example? 4? 6? 10? The stereotypical "crazy cat person" could easily have over a dozen. Do we judge "pocket pets" (i.e. hamsters, gerbils, mice, etc.) by the same numerical standard as larger pets?
    – Beofett
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 15:45
  • @Beofett I'm afraid I don't know. Maybe someone else can come up with an objective threshold with this goal in mind. The best I've got is: "We are off-topic when the answer is no longer applicable to a single animal." But that is dependent on the answers, not necessarily the question. In general (and especially for sites in beta) I favour being more permissive in what questions we allow.
    – Ladadadada
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 9:57

I think the personal relationship between a animal and a human defines the term "pet". A dog on a chain in the back yard is not a pet. A cow in a field is not a pet. A stray cat is not a pet. A bitch at a puppy mill is not a pet. No relationship equals livestock.

  • 4
    A dog on a chain in the backyard is a pet. A terribly cared-for pet, but a pet nonetheless. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 20:23
  • (britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/453505/pet) defines a pet as "While a pet is generally kept for the pleasure that it can give to its owner, often, especially with horses, dogs, and cats, as well as with some other animals, this pleasure appears to be mutual. Thus, pet keeping can be described as a symbiotic relationship, one that benefits both animals and human beings". So they agree... it is the relationship that defines the pet. A dog on a chain does not have a relationship with an owner
    – William
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 0:09
  • But this forum would concern itself about domesticated animals. And what is the difference between a sleepless dog and a sleepless "pet" dog? Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 7:51
  • You should realise that many people who have puppy(or any other animal) mills believe they care about their animals. They believe they have a relationship with the animals anyway. Also a cow needs to graze. Just because it is out in the field grazing does not mean that the farmer does not have a personal relationship with her. Most family dairy farmers I know know their heifers by name on sight and many will come when called. Does that mean that their livestock is actually a pet?
    – Chad
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 13:47

I would consider the animals that would be discussed here would be the types that are classified as pets.

Animals like cats, dogs, cockatiels, hampsters, and animals like that.

Here is the Wikipedia definition for pet:

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.

That being said, I would say that only pets that are under the pet classification should be discussed.

Discussing "working" dogs like seeing-eye-dogs should not be a problem, because most of them are pets to the owners, and they are still under the classification of pet.

I have proposed a site for Livestock Owners so that animals that wouldn't be under the classification of pets could be discussed.

If you are interested in following the livestock site, use my referral link. Thanks :-)

You must log in to answer this question.