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Pet Animals vs. Domestic Animals: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 7, 2023
Pet animals are animals kept for companionship and enjoyment. Domestic animals are species that have been adapted to live with humans through selective breeding.

Key Differences

Pet animals are predominantly defined as animals kept for companionship. People often develop deep emotional connections with their pet animals, cherishing them as members of their family. This emotional bond is integral to defining pet animals, and it distinguishes them notably from other categories of animals.
Domestic animals refer to an array of species that have been tamed and adapted to a human environment. Domestication is a process by which animals adapt to life in proximity to humans, often involving changes in behavior, physiology, and genetic makeup. While domestic animals can be pets, not all domestic animals are kept for companionship.
In contrast, pet animals are not strictly characterized by any physical or genetic traits. Rather, the definition of a pet animal hinges on the relationship between the animal and its human caregiver. Whether a cat, dog, bird, or fish, a pet animal is defined significantly by its role in human life as a source of companionship and emotional support.
Conversely, domestic animals can often be identified through specific physical and behavioral characteristics that have evolved through selective breeding. This category encompasses a wide variety of animals, from livestock like cattle and sheep to common pets like dogs and cats. While many domestic animals provide practical benefits like labor or produce, others serve no purpose beyond companionship.

Comparison Chart

Primary Purpose

For companionship and enjoyment.
Adapted to live with humans; various purposes.

Relationship with Humans

Emotional, personal.
Functional, practical, or emotional.

Selection Criteria

Often chosen for temperament and companionship.
Often chosen for specific traits or utilities.


Mostly dependent on human care for survival.
May or may not be dependent on human care.


Dogs, cats, parrots.
Cows, chickens, dogs, cats.

Pet Animals and Domestic Animals Definitions

Pet Animals

Pet animals often live in close quarters with humans.
My cat sleeps at the foot of my bed every night.

Domestic Animals

Domestic animals often undergo selective breeding for desired traits.
Domestic animals like sheep have been bred for their wool.

Pet Animals

Pet animals usually have no utilitarian function.
Unlike farm animals, my parrot is a pet animal that provides company.

Domestic Animals

Domestic animals can be utilized for work or produce.
My domestic animals, the oxen, help plow the fields every spring.

Pet Animals

Pet animals serve primarily as human companions.
My dog, Rover, has been my loyal pet animal for years.

Domestic Animals

Domestic animals can be, but are not always, pets.
While dogs are domestic animals, not all of them are kept as pets.

Pet Animals

Pet animals are dependent on humans for care and sustenance.
I make sure to feed my fish at the same time every day.

Domestic Animals

Domestic animals have been adapted to life with humans.
Domestic animals, like cows, have been bred for millennia for various purposes.

Pet Animals

Pet animals may provide emotional support and comfort.
After a tough day, spending time with my rabbit uplifts my spirit.

Domestic Animals

Domestic animals may or may not live in close proximity to humans.
Chickens, as domestic animals, sometimes roam freely in the yard.


Why are some animals considered pet animals?

They are considered pets due to their roles as companions, providing emotional support to humans.

What distinguishes pet animals from other animals?

Pet animals are primarily kept for companionship and emotional enrichment.

Can pet animals be wild animals?

Typically, no. Pet animals are usually domesticated species, although exceptions exist.

How are domestic animals different from wild animals?

Domestic animals have been bred for human utility or companionship, whereas wild animals have not been selectively bred and live without direct human supervision or care.

Do pet animals have a functional role?

Generally, pet animals do not have functional roles and are mainly kept for companionship.

What is the most common domestic animal?

Cattle might be one of the most common domestic animals worldwide, due to their use in agriculture.

Do domestic animals always live in human households?

No, domestic animals can live in various settings, including farms, houses, and specialized habitats.

Can domestic animals survive in the wild?

Some might adapt, but many domestic animals rely on human-managed environments.

What responsibilities come with owning pet animals?

Owners must provide food, shelter, medical care, and emotional attention to their pet animals.

How are domestic animals obtained?

Domestic animals might be purchased, adopted, or bred, depending on the species and purpose.

Can any animal be a pet animal?

Not necessarily; pet animals are usually species known for their compatibility and safe interactions with humans.

Are pet animals always small?

No, pet animals can vary in size, from small fish and birds to large dogs and horses.

Can pet animals be released into the wild?

Releasing pet animals into the wild is not recommended due to their dependency on human care.

What are common examples of domestic animals?

Cows, chickens, dogs, and cats are common examples.

Are all domestic animals safe to interact with?

Not always; despite domestication, some can be dangerous or require specific handling knowledge.

Why do people keep pet animals?

People keep pet animals for companionship, emotional support, and sometimes, physical assistance.

Can all domestic animals be considered pet animals?

No, while all pet animals are domestic, not all domestic animals are pets.

How long have animals been domesticated?

Animals have been domesticated for thousands of years, with dogs being among the first.

How do domestic animals benefit human societies?

Domestic animals can provide labor, produce, companionship, and more.

Can a pet animal serve a practical function?

While some can, pet animals are primarily kept for companionship rather than utility.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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