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why are pets called pets

Why Are Pets Called Pets?

People have kept pets in their homes for centuries. Describing animals that are not wild as “pets” is a relatively recent, yet still widely accepted, phenomenon.

Historical Background

The word “pet” first appeared in the 16th century, and is derived from the Latin word “petere,” which means “to seek” or “to ask.” Early on, the word was used to describe a beloved or favored individual.

However, in the late 19th century, the word began to refer specifically to animals that were owned and kept by humans. In this context, the word referred to animals that were kept as companions, rather than wild animals kept for their fur or for food.

Modern Definition of ‘Pets’

Nowadays, when people refer to “pets,” they are typically referring to the animals that people commonly look after such as:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Reptiles
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Small mammals

In general, the word “pet” implies that the animal in question is owned, well cared for and loved by its human guardian.

Benefits of Having Pets

In addition to providing companionship, pets can also benefit humans in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Improving mental health by reducing stress and anxiety
  • Providing a sense of purpose and responsibility
  • Giving unconditional love and acceptance
  • Providing a greater connection to nature and the outdoors

Having a pet to care for and interact with can have a profound effect on an individual’s day-to-day life.


Due to the many benefits of having a pet, it is understandable why the term “pet” has been used so widely to refer to animals kept for companionship. As a result, people have come to accept and use the term “pet” to describe animals that are kept as companions in our homes.

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