A very interesting question, that. I have thought about this question myself in the past and am glad that I've been called upon to reflect upon this question again by you. I will start with the first part of your question, "Why do we keep pets?" Well, the most obvious answer to that question would be that we keep pets for companionship. We feel happy to have a pet that we can love and care for. Essentially, a pet gives a person a sense of fulfillment. We derive joy playing with and talking to a pet. This is especially true for the elderly or those who live a lonely existence. So in that sense, a pet has a positive impact on a person. It is no wonder then that people like keeping pets. Its not a new phenomenon either - humans have kept pets through the ages - dogs being the most notable pet man has had going back centuries.
Coming to the second part of your question, "Is having a pet necessary?" Well, I've answered part of it above. It might not be necessary, but having a pet certainly improves the quality of life of some people more than others. Especially, as stated above, people who are lonely or depressed or the elderly. Pets can also help children with disabilities, learning disabilities and otherwise, as also adults with disabilities. In normal adults and children too, pets have been shown by various studies to have a positive impact, especially by lowering their stress levels and making for a calmer and happier life. In fact, on the Centers for Disease Control website, pets are stated to offer the following health benefits:
1. Decrease blood pressure.
2. Decrease triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
3. Increases exercise and outdoor activity levels.
4. Providers greater socialization opportunities.
In fact, the last point about socialization opportunities is a lesser known health benefit of having a pet, especially a dog. Picture yourself walking your dog and getting asked about your dog's breed or getting attention by your dog's tricks, etc. People who are shy and generally find it difficult starting a conversation may find that having a dog as a pet is a boon in having potential dates come up to you and ask about your dog and thereby getting to know a person they otherwise would never have had the courage to approach and start a conversation with.
The point about exercise is not too hard to figure out either. Dog owners obviously have an added motivation to get outdoors more to walk their dog and in turn benefit from some exercise of their own as well.
Coming to the most interesting and thought-provoking part of your question, "Is it not against the freedom of the animal concerned?" Well, certainly the pet owners would think that they are doing the animal a favor by caring for it and loving it, but I do feel in some cases, they do indeed imprison the animal. Birds as pets are an example. I am sure no bird would want to be caged. Certainly, birds have wings for a reason and their place is not in a cage.
So, yes, in some cases the desire to have a pet overrides any sense of empathy for the freedom of that animal. It would be great if people realize specific instances where they might in fact be harming or impeding the freedom of the animal in some way and decide against keeping such pets.
Apart from birds and wild animals, most other pets such as dogs and cats have become dependent on humans in many ways and so keeping such animals as pets is not actually impinging on the freedom of that animal. Such animals are also not kept in cages or a very restrictive environment and so I do not think the animals' freedoms are being compromised in any sense. On can in fact argue that many of these animals benefit as much as their human owner. Those who take in stray cats and dogs in particular are doing a world of good to the animal concerned.
In conclusion, I'd say there are many good reasons to keep a pet and one can argue that it has beneficial effects, but one should guard against situations where one's own selfish need overtakes any concern for the animal. Now, how one can define that is not an easy question. Like I pointed out above, keeping birds caged is an obvious moral no-no. So, too - one can argue is keeping wild animals caged. It obviously inhibits the animal's natural behavior and freedom and can be extremely dangerous to the owner's health as well. So, keeping pets is not wrong, but in certain scenarios, it might well be - if not legally, then morally!
© 2008 Shil1978
Fahim DaMan on March 24, 2014:
I agree with you all guys and i love animals very much indeed. But sadly, i made a mistake which caused me to regret forever. I had 2 terrapins which i loved dearly but when i had to go on a vacation, i could not find a friend or relative to care for them so without having no choice left, i released them in the drain, pouring all the food in too. :(
Galen on June 05, 2012:
Some comments about keeping snakes are totally false frankly. Sure not all snakes are suitable or reasonable pets. I don't think just anyone should own a 20 foot long snake, for example. However I think people with experience in keeping reptiles who can provide the correct captive environment for a snake are doing them a favor. I can't say this about all snakes, however I know that one of the most common snakes (ball pythons, and most other pythons actually) are very solitary animals and have even been known to canabalize each other. These snakes thrive on being in small spaces where they can feel secure (ex, a captive snake is much more comfortable if its body touches all sides of its hide, including the roof). You can't blatantly say that snakes are bad pets or that they are dangerous pets. 'Snakes' is to relative first of all, and secondly, they are not dangerous in most cases, and in the cases that they are, or have been harmful to humans, it is almost always because someone decided to buy a snake on impulse without any experience or knowledge that the snake would be 20 ft long. The pet stores are largely to blame for mistreated reptiles as they don't inform their customers that cute little baby snakes and lizards may grow to unmanageable sizes. One thing i will say about keeping snakes/reptiles however, although i believe they thrive in captivity (many living 2-3 times life expectancy in the wild) I do not agree with wild caught reptiles as pets. These reptiles are known to be nearly impossible to tame/train (depending on species of course, a wild caught ball python will still be pretty docile) whereas you can tame a captive bred lizard/snake in a couple days, taking it from being timid around humans, to being tolerant of being held. A wild caught specimen would take months if not years in many cases to achieve this without it trying to harm you. Anyways all I am trying to say is that reptiles/snakes are misunderstood pets and get a bad rep due to irresponsible owners / pet stores. I think you are sadly misinformed if you believe they are any worse to keep as a pet than a fish or hamster.
I 100% agree abut birds though, I have never heard of a bird species that is solitary and hides in a 2 cubic foot area for its whole life..
Depends on June 03, 2012:
I think it really depends on how humans treat pets.
If someone is going to own a pet, i think it must have not any straps nor live in a cage. In other words, pet should have as much freedom as it is in wild life. Then another question arises, what if then pet goes out in the streets, destroying public properties or attack other people? My thought on this is that pet owner should be responsible for it, otherwise should not own a pet.
Under these circumstances, I think only dogs should be allowed to pet since it is one pet I know that instinctively builds trusts with the owner.
One may argue that since homo sapiens (humans) are at the top of the food chain, we can do whatever we want to another living creatures. True, we are animals that happens to have a gift that enable us to think, but because we think, if you change your perspective to any animal other than human, do you want to be treated like that?
End of my thought. I respect others' opinions. :)
NO PETS on May 15, 2012:
It is a form of animal cruelty to keep animals indoors. As usual the problem originates with the human with his lack of logic, who cannot comprehend the truth accordingly. Animals, or pets carry diseases and consequently people get sick from the filth that the animals bring indoors. Besides the fact that animals are a health hazard to humans, another fact that people love to overlook is the horrendous amounts of pet food which could otherwise have been used for human consumption. In every supermarket there is almost a whole isle dedicated to pet food alone. But what makes it worse, is when people gets obsesses with their animals health, and starts feeding them human grade expensive meat products. While people are starving from malnutrition around the world, little fluffy gets fat-free tenderloin with gravy on the side. It is an absolute disgrace what we have turned into. WE "love" out animals more that we respect and love each other. Not that we understand true love in the first place. Have we gone absolutely insane!? When will we understand how ignorant we are about how we live? Animals should live life as nature has intended it, not the way we have.
Jill on March 28, 2012:
i love my birds, they're happy.
Shil1978 (author) on December 09, 2011:
Droppingthedubyoutube, while what you say can be true about certain pets, it is a fact that there are other animals that aren't actually 'bred to be pets,' but actually belong to the wild.
There are lots of such animals, many of them dangerous, that people keep at home as pets. They pose a danger to the owner as well as to the people around them. That apart, these animals really belong to the wild.
They are not "pets." Same is true of birds - do they belong in a cage? Can't they survive in nature? They most definitely can!!
droppingthedubyoutube on December 09, 2011:
What you've got to consider is that a lot of these pets are bred 'to be' pets, they are not wild animals and a lot have never been in the wild, if we were to let them go out into the open world, they would most likely not last long.
nap on November 01, 2011:
super. I AGREED WITH YOUR ARGUMENTS
gypa on October 13, 2011:
AS former owner of 2 birds I can agree its not in the bird is best interest to be locked up in cage. I have never owned mammals as pet so I cannot relate to that but odd as it sound some both dogs and cats can easily live with out the human. I mean they sometimes kills wild birds just for the fun of it and that is part of there natural instinct and humans have tired to surpress it for many centures.
Raul on February 26, 2011:
Freedom!! What if we were pets? Do you like that?
Maria Cecilia from Philippines on December 24, 2010:
We have pets because we love animals... let's make my answer limited to myself, I have dogs because I love dogs, there is really nothing wrong in having pets especially if they added joy to your life, remember when you love something, you accept all the respobnsibilities that go along with it...keeping a pet is not easy but since I love having them around, I struggled through all difficulties just to have them, and that gave me fulfillment. Looking at my dog Peso after he survived six surgeries is giving me so much joy. Pet rearing became wrong when the owner is not really ready for the responsibilities. so it's always wise to remind people to think and read first before getting a pet.
ezguides from Boston on December 04, 2010:
If I could have things my way I would have all animals living in their natural environment. But since dogs and cats by the millions are put down each year then keeping pets do in fact save their lives. Furthermore, letting pets like cats run wild is as irresponsible as letting our children run wild. We are not living in Eden people ~ there are cars, chemicals, wild animals and evil people everywhere. Not to mention my husband and I just found a skin and bone cat in our garage because our neighbor believe in giving their cat "freedom." Poor thing starved for a month in our garage and cost us almost $2,000 to bring him closer to health!
Shil1978 (author) on October 28, 2010:
Thank you, MB, for your interesting perspective on this subject. Yes, I agree with the example you gave with respect to dogs. I am not sure though that the reciprocity exists across all "pets."
How would you know, for example, that a bird is reciprocating your love for it? For all you know, the bird might be lamenting its misfortune of being caged against its will.
So, while I agree that some pets may indeed benefit equally from being kept as pets, others may not!! A vast majority of pets in fact are kept for the sole need for companionship/pleasure of their owners.
MuddBuddha on October 28, 2010:
In the case of dogs specifically, we've bred them to our liking for thousands of years and have ruined their ability to sustain themselves in the wild successfully. So, while an argument can be made that ownership is a violation of their freedom, we made that choice a long time ago and have now partnered ourselves with them forever. Unless we were to completely abandon them for the sake of their "freedom" and stand blindly by as they suffer in their new found freedom.
A good owner reciporcates the love a pet gives, so the relatioship benefits both. I would fight to the death to protect my Lexi and she would do the same for me.
I care for her and she in turn protects our home that we share together. It's a cooperation of species inasmuch an "ownership" - which is only the legal term.
Lynnette on September 13, 2010:
Haha. Thanks for replying my comment as well! & also for having the same opinion. :D
I'm currently a Uni student & I'm having sort of a class debate on this topic. Urgh. Kinda get my head around things, but it's good to read up what others might think of it. Sadly, I'm on the "for" side, which I solely do not want to be. But anyhoos.. It can't be avoided. Hehe. Btw, this Hub thingy is awesome! :D
Shil1978 (author) on September 10, 2010:
Thank you Lynnette for stopping by this hub and commenting. I am glad you took the time to reflect on this subject. I couldn't agree with you more. Keeping animals such as snakes isn't just unethical/wrong, but also very dangerous as numerous owners of such pets have found out!! Some have even lost their lives or been badly injured by such dangerous pets.
Same goes for birds, although most of them are not dangerous, and anyways, most owners just cage them. Here, it is more of an ethical/moral issue. To me - it just isn't right to cage a bird or any animal for that matter!!
Just because animals can't speak or voice their opinion, doesn't mean we should impose our will on them and imprison them. Of course, abused animals/strays, etc. (mostly domesticated) should be adopted and cared for. That is not the same as taking an animal that should have lived in the wild and trying to domesticate it - they are already domesticated (animals such as domestic cats/dogs).
Thanks again Lynnette for stopping by and for the detailed response, much appreciated :)
Lynnette on September 10, 2010:
I kinda stumbled upon this webpage in a similar way to Bec, & I kinda have the same point of view as her, as well as mixed feelings..
I feel that having a pet has it's own pros and cons & whether we should or not is a totally different thing.
We cannot turn back time & hence certain species of animals have already been bred for domestication (e.g. dogs). I do agree that these species can be kept as pets & maybe being as pets, they would have a much better life than deserting them in the wild and hope that they could fend for themselves.
However, I also feel that non-domesticated species such as snakes & turtles should not be kept as pets. They weren't bred for any purposes by humans and should definitely be in the wild. Birds are similar as well. Although we have domesticated them in the past, they were allowed to fly free (e.g. eagles and hawks). But look at the household birds now - they do have wings for a reason & not to be kept in cages.
I feel that we adopt pets as our companions despite the fact that we know that animals do not have a choice. But it brings us both benefits. We prolong our lives as well as the animal's, giving them better environmental conditions than the wild. We might eliminate loneliness for ourselves, but how do you know that your pet doesn't? Other than the host family, it doesn't really have "friends" of its own kind. It can't communicate like how they naturally would given the fact that we do not understand a thing about what they are saying & could only link our own emotions to their behaviour & reactions, which we might not even decipher the correct meaning. So would you classify that as a welfare issue?
I'm kinda sitting on the fence & to not be thinking abt it too much, I do not have a pet. Hahaha. Sorry, I seemed to have typed more than what I predicted. :p
Shil1978 (author) on September 08, 2010: