Why Can’t Every Animal Be a Pet?
Humans have been trying to domesticate animals for thousands of years. We’ve taught dogs how to fetch the paper, cats how to use litter boxes, and horses how to pull carts since ancient times. The efforts have paid off in many ways humans benefit from having well-trained workers, such as farmhands or soldiers, while pets provide companionship and entertainment.
However, there are still plenty of animals that people don’t want around them, like cockroaches or mosquitoes. And even those they do desire can be difficult to tame.
“Domestication is a complex trait,” says Dr. Steven M. Calle, professor emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Center of Excellence for Aquatic Research at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “It takes time and effort.”
Calle has studied the genetics of dog breeds extensively, but he also believes that all animals possess their own unique attributes that make them more or less suitable for domestication.
For example, he notes that wolves tend to be aggressive toward strangers but not toward members of their own pack. In contrast, dogs are very social and friendly with other dogs but often wary of everyone else. On top of these innate characteristics, however, human societies also play an important role in shaping which animals thrive best among us.
In this article, we’ll look at several types of animals that humans consider our friends and why some are easier to turn into household pets than others. First up: the most popular pet on Earth.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about getting a puppy or a new dog is love. But what kind of love? Some people prefer a playful pooch who will run through the house after balls or chase cars down the street, while others seek out a loyal friend who won’t leave their side no matter where they go. Regardless of your preferences, though, one thing is clear: It’s tough being a dog.
First, dogs need lots of exercises so they can burn off excess energy. They must also be exposed to sunlight (which helps regulate their body clock) and fresh air (to help control odors). This means spending time outside every day.
Next, they require a diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and vitamin D, as well as adequate water intake. Finally, they require constant attention from their owners, especially during playtime. All of these requirements put a lot of stress on both adult dogs and puppies alike, which makes them harder to tame than some other animals.
Like dogs, cats are relatively easy to keep as indoor pets because they only require food, water, and shelter. Unlike dogs, however, cats are content lounging on the couch watching TV if left alone for long periods of time. They aren’t particularly fond of physical activity in general, so they rarely need as much space as dogs.
That said, keeping a cat alive isn’t necessarily a walk in the park. They may purr, meow, or hiss at you depending on your interactions, but they also scratch things, spray urine, and poop wherever they please. These unpleasant behaviors can become habit-forming over time.
This is where felines’ feline nature shines through. Like dogs, cats enjoy playing with each other and interacting with humans, although they typically spend more time napping than barking at the door. That said, they are known to bite humans, so this should definitely not be considered a safe pet option for children under age 5.
We know that horses were once used by cavemen to hunt for meat and gather food, but did anyone ever imagine that they would eventually serve as man’s best friend? Today, millions of Americans enjoy riding horses alongside their families each year.
Horses are extremely intelligent and capable of learning complicated tasks quickly. Once they learn something, they usually stick with it until they master it completely. Because horses are naturally curious creatures, they also enjoy exploring their surroundings, so they are perfect candidates for showing off your garden or taking part in trail rides along a nearby forest path.
However, horses are notoriously stubborn, temperamental, and sensitive creatures. They don’t handle changes to their routine easily and require consistent care in order to avoid injury and disease. Owners must also watch out for colic, laminitis, and various forms of cancer.
4. Elephants and Other Mammals
These days, elephants are mostly seen as majestic, awe-inspiring creatures that deserve to roam freely across national parks and forests. However, prior to the 20th century, people actually made money by capturing wild elephants and selling them to zoos and circuses.
Today, thanks largely to conservation efforts, elephants now live free from harm in large parts of Africa and Asia. Unfortunately, taming elephants may not be as straightforward as training other animals.
Unlike dogs and cats, elephants are highly territorial and protective of their young. As a result, they cannot be housed with any other elephant without causing serious conflict. Even worse, elephants often attack anything that gets too close to their babies, including humans.
Because of their size and strength, elephants also pose a dangerous threat to humans. Although they weigh just 7 tons (6 metric tons), they can break bones and cause massive injuries with their trunks. If you decide to keep a captive elephant anyway, you’ll need to make sure its enclosure offers ample room to move about safely.
Although birds rank near the bottom of the mammal family tree, they are arguably the smartest animals in captivity. While pigeons are famously known for their ability to remember specific words, parrots are able to speak using combinations of sounds called syllables. Birds also understand abstract concepts like colors, numbers, and shapes.
Unfortunately, birds are prone to boredom and aggression, making them difficult to maintain as pets. Their small wings make flying risky, so they require special aviaries or cages that offer enough floor area to spread their wings and stretch their legs.
They also require a great deal of upkeep due to their natural habits of eating bugs and seeds. A bird needs access to fresh water and food daily, as well as regular vet visits to prevent illness.
Fish are widely regarded as adorable, colorful, and entertaining pets. With hundreds of types to choose from, fish come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you opt for a goldfish, guppies, or betta, they generally adapt quite nicely to life inside aquariums.
But unlike dogs and cats, fish can’t bark or meow. So they rely on their owner’s verbal commands to communicate. Since fish lack opposable thumbs, they also require frequent feeding and cleaning. Not surprisingly, this can get costly, especially considering that fish feeders are required to replace fish that die unexpectedly.
Another drawback to owning fish is the health risks associated with pet ownership. Many fish carry parasitic worms that infect humans, leading to cramps, diarrhea, and skin rashes. Plus, the fish waste contains ammonia, which can irritate the eyes and lungs. To protect yourself from these problems, wear goggles and gloves whenever you clean the tank.
7. Octopuses and Other Cephalopods
While fish are cute, brightly colored, and sometimes docile, cephalopods are downright terrifying. Despite their intimidating appearance, some species of octopus and squid are surprisingly gentle, affectionate, and smart. However, they’re notorious for hiding in dark corners and attacking anything that moves within reach.
Like fish, octopuses are also preyed upon by parasites that can hurt humans. One parasite called the rat lung fluke burrows into the stomach and grows into cysts that slowly kill the host over time. Thankfully, this particular infection affects fewer than 1 percent of infected octopuses worldwide.