The Wonderful World of Pets!

So let’s talk pets.

One of the fun things about creating fantasy or science fiction worlds is deciding what (if any) animals the people of your world have taken a liking to. It gives you a bit more freedom to go beyond the traditional dog/cat idea without your characters seeming eccentric. I personally love using foxes in place of a dog or cat. They can be domesticated and are furry and cute. Humans do tend to love soft fluffy things after all.

Howl 7
Yes, this is an excuse to show off my puppy. He is soft and fluffy!

But before you simply pick your favorite animal exotic or otherwise, take a few minutes to think about how certain animals came to be pets. This would be especially useful for creating animals on another planet for a people that don’t resemble humans and their love of fluffy critters.

Most of the animals we think of as pets now, were domesticated for specific reasons. Early wolves became tamed dogs and were useful in hunting or for protection. People didn’t just share scarce food with an animal for no reason. Dogs had to pull their own weight and served a purpose. It wasn’t until much later that specific traits were bred and the breeds we think of as common today were created, and even then it was more often to create better working dogs, such as dogs that instinctively herded or were skilled at tracking.

Howl 10
I am descended from hunters.

The same is true for cats. Cats served a purpose beyond being indifferent little gods ruling your house.  I’m sure they were still considered themselves little gods, but they also were used to keep rodents or other small creatures off the property. No one wanted their hard sown grain to be purloined by a bunch of rats, so cats were useful animals to domesticate.

A_Persian_Cat_beside_Naser_al-Din_Shah_gravestone2
I am a god.

The same is true of many birds, which could be used for hunting or sending messages, and larger animals, such as horses, pigs, cows, and chicken. Of course, most of the latter animals were useful as food, but that too is a use. Any civilization on the rise is only going to interact with animals that have some kind of function. They are not going to waste food on anything that does not offer something in return until the resources of the world outweigh the needs. In other words only when there is an excess can you spare food on an animal that doesn’t help you. This is why so many of the less practically useful breeds of dogs were started by rich people who had excess to spare.

So even though your civilization may be prosperous for the story you’re writing, think about how it began and what needs did they have that an animal could meet. Those are the animals they’d eventually domesticate. That doesn’t mean you can’t create an animal that serves those purposes. That’s the fun of world building.

Howl 6
One more cause I’m cute.

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