Why are animals called pets?


From dogs to cats, from guinea pigs to goldfish, animals that share our homes and our lives are affectionately referred to as ‘pets.’ Ever wonder why that is? Let’s unravel this enigma by delving into the etymology of the term, exploring the concept’s evolution, and discussing the emotional connection that transforms mere animals into beloved pets.

The Etymology of the Word ‘Pet’

Let’s take a stroll down the linguistic lane to the 16th century, when the term ‘pet’ first entered the English vocabulary. The word sprouted from the Scottish and Northern English use of ‘pet,’ a term that referred to a lamb that was hand-reared. Moving forward a century, the verb form of ‘pet’ was born. It signified the act of treating someone or something with tenderness and pampering affection.

Fast forward to the present day, both ‘pet’ as a noun and a verb continue to be integral parts of our lingo, echoing the profound connections we’ve cultivated with our domesticated animal companions. This centuries-old word perfectly captures the affectionate relationship that blooms between us and our cherished animals. A rich linguistic heritage that showcases the enduring bond between humans and their pets. So, when you pet your pet, remember you are partaking in a tradition that spans hundreds of years!

The Evolution of the Concept of ‘Pets’

Let’s time travel a bit, shall we? Back in the day, our ancestors didn’t have the luxury of keeping animals merely for companionship. Animals were domesticated mainly for their usefulness – aiding in hunting, farming, or serving as protectors. They were the tools of survival, the indispensable aides in human life.

As we leap forward to more modern times, a significant shift took place. Society began to progress, and living conditions vastly improved. Animals were no longer solely seen as work aids, but they started to serve a heartier purpose—companionship. And just like that, our perception of these creatures evolved. They morphed from ‘useful animals’ to cherished ‘pets.’

This transition, this journey from practicality to emotional attachment, was monumental. The very essence of our relationship with animals underwent a seismic shift. The practical utilitarian bonds began to take a backseat, and in its place, emotional connections took the center stage. It was during this transformative period that the term ‘pets’ found its true meaning.

Over time, this emotional connection grew stronger and more profound. Our bonds with these animals became less about survival and more about companionship, love, and mutual affection. These new relationships blurred the lines between human and animal, creating a new familial unit inclusive of our pets.

So, the evolution of the concept of ‘pets’ is not just about a change in terminology, but a reflection of how our relationships with animals have evolved. It’s a testament to how we’ve moved beyond viewing animals merely as tools of survival to seeing them as integral, loving parts of our lives.

The Emotional Connection: Why ‘Pets’ Not Just ‘Animals’?

We view our pets as more than mere animals, they hold a special place in our hearts and homes. What is it that makes us refer to them as ‘pets’ and not just animals? The answer lies in the profound emotional bond we share with them. The term ‘pet’ is not merely a designation but a symbol of this intricate relationship, a testament to the bond that is far from being purely survival-oriented.

Indeed, it is our pets’ uncanny ability to provide companionship, solace, and sometimes even a much-needed therapy session, that elevates their status from animals to ‘pets’. There’s a level of mutual understanding, a shared language of love and care that we build with our pets. This language goes beyond the spoken word, it’s in the shared glance, the comforting nudge, the joyous playtime, and the quiet moments of companionship. This reciprocal exchange of love and affection is a quintessential part of the pet-human bond.

Our relationship with our pets is not transactional; it’s deeply emotional. It transcends the realm of utility and ventures into a space of mutual affection and emotional interdependence. This relationship is what sets our pets apart from mere animals.

Therefore, when we refer to our animal companions as pets, we’re acknowledging this unique bond. We’re recognizing the emotional depth of our relationship with them. We’re expressing the special place they occupy in our lives and our hearts. The term ‘pet’, therefore, encapsulates the depth and intricacy of these connections, transforming a word of Scottish and Northern English origin into a universal term of endearment for our beloved animal companions.

In essence, the term ‘pet’ signifies far more than an animal living in our home. It’s a reflection of the love, care, and deep emotional connection that we share with these wonderful beings. So, next time you refer to your animal companion as your pet, you’re not just using a term but acknowledging the profound bond you share with them.

Pets as Part of the Family

Our bond with pets often goes beyond mere companionship, elevating them to cherished members of our families. It’s increasingly common for individuals to refer to their furry, feathery, or scaly companions as ‘fur babies’ or even use terms like ‘paw-rents.’ Such phrases provide insight into the intensity of the emotional connection that forms between humans and their pets. With this, ‘pet’ evolves from a simple label to a term of love and attachment, echoing the feelings generally reserved for human family members.

Pets are not merely tolerated residents of our homes; they’re often seen as integral elements of our households. Their birthdays are celebrated, their quirks are adored, and their absence, even if momentary, is deeply felt. Pets share our joys and our sorrows, providing comfort and companionship in their unique, often non-verbal ways. Their pictures adorn our walls, their antics dominate our social media feeds, and their well-being becomes a priority.

Pets are a source of unconditional love, teaching us invaluable lessons about patience, empathy, and loyalty. Their love is unfiltered, their joy infectious, and their loyalty unwavering. This emotional bond, nurtured over time, often elevates pets to a status comparable to that of human family members. It’s this connection, this intertwining of lives, that truly underscores why animals are referred to as ‘pets.’

In essence, pets are no longer just an add-on to our families; they’re an indispensable part of it. They bear witness to our lives, participating in our routines, sharing our homes, and enriching our lives in immeasurable ways. They are our confidants, our friends, our comforters, our cheerleaders, and so much more. Calling them ‘pets’ is a reflection of their unique status in our lives, a testament to the deep emotional bond that extends beyond species.

Why Do We ‘Pet’ Our Pets?

Stroking our feline companions, scratching our canine friends behind their ears, or gently rubbing our feathered pals – all of these gestures fall under ‘petting.’ So why exactly do we ‘pet’ our pets? Is it merely a manifestation of our affection, or is there more to it?

In the grand play of life, our interaction with our pets often involves less verbal communication and more tactile gestures. It’s through these physical exchanges we communicate our love, reassurance, and bond. Petting is a fundamental aspect of this interaction – a physical language that articulates emotions and intentions.

When we pet our animal companions, we’re not just making a random physical contact; we’re actively connecting with them, bridging the species divide with a gentle touch. This simple act is a powerhouse of comfort and stress reduction, for both the pet and the pet-parent. Just think of those moments when you’re petting your cat, and the world seems a little less daunting, or when you’re stroking your dog, and your anxieties seem to dissolve, at least momentarily.

Petting isn’t a one-way street, though. It’s a mutually beneficial act that serves to strengthen our bond with our pets. On one hand, it contributes to our pets’ wellbeing, creating a sense of security and happiness, and on the other hand, it provides us with a sense of peace and emotional satisfaction.

Interestingly, petting also plays a role in the development of trust and understanding between humans and pets. It’s a social bonding tool that helps establish and reinforce the unique pet-human relationship.

So, while it might seem like a simple, mindless act, petting is a vital element of the deep emotional connection that transforms an animal into a beloved pet. The term ‘pet’ isn’t just about having an animal in the house; it’s about a shared language of love and care, where petting is a key conversational tool. So, next time you pet your animal companion, remember that you’re not just touching an animal – you’re communicating love, care, and companionship.

Pets in the Modern Society

In our contemporary world, the role of pets has transformed dramatically, becoming more intertwined with our daily lives than ever before. They’re not just our animal companions; they serve as our steadfast emotional allies, constant sources of joy, and even a healthy distraction from the hustle and bustle of modern living. With increasing research shedding light on animal emotions and cognitive abilities, we’ve grown to appreciate our pets as sentient beings capable of forming deep connections, further enhancing their status as ‘pets’ and not just animals.

Indeed, in today’s society, a pet isn’t viewed merely as a possession but as an integral family member, one with feelings and rights that must be respected and protected. The bond we share with our pets transcends the conventional owner-and-property relationship and evolves into a symbiotic relationship defined by mutual affection and understanding.

Consider the rise of pet-friendly workplaces, the development of pet therapy programs, and the increasing presence of emotional support animals. These are just a few examples of how we are consciously making space for our pets in every facet of our lives, acknowledging the impact they have on our wellbeing and happiness. Pets are even making their mark in social media, with ‘petfluencers’ gaining massive followings, further underlining how deeply ingrained they’ve become in our modern culture.

But, it’s important to remember, at the core of all these societal changes is the unique emotional bond that defines our relationship with our pets. It is this bond, this deep connection that continues to evolve, shaping our modern perception of pets, and reshaping our society in the process. Truly, pets are more than just animals to us; they are cherished companions that enrich our lives in countless ways, reflecting the very essence of what it means to be a ‘pet’ in modern society.


So, what makes an animal a pet? It’s the deep emotional connection we share with them, a connection that surpasses the boundaries of species and enters a realm of mutual affection, understanding, and comfort.

The term ‘pet’ signifies this cherished bond, spotlighting the integral part these creatures play in our lives and our hearts. It’s a term that embodies a centuries-old tradition, encapsulating the journey of our evolving relationship with animals, from mere survival aids to beloved companions. When we call our animal friends ‘pets’, we’re honoring this extraordinary bond, recognizing their value in our lives that goes beyond practicality and delves into the realm of emotions.

Every time you glance at your pet, remember, you’re not just seeing an animal, you’re looking at a cherished friend, a family member, a confidant. You’re looking at your pet, a symbol of the beautiful bond you share, a bond that enriches your life with joy, love, and comfort.

The term ‘pet’ is not just a title; it’s a badge of honor for our dear animal companions, signifying their unique place in our hearts and homes. So, continue to love your pets, celebrate them, and cherish the special bond you share with them. After all, they are not just animals; they are our beloved pets.

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