What You Thought You Knew: Animals may live in packs and have close friendships, but only humans have pets.
What You Didn’t Know: The realm of pet ownership really does extend to the animal kingdom, but it will be easier to explain what examples of animal friendship are not pet-keeping before going on to who actually owns pets.
For example, I personally do not consider Tarra and and Bella, the semi-famous dog & elephant duo, as an example of an elephant keeping a dog as a pet. This is because Tarra (the elephant) did not personally take care of Bella in a way that pet owners do. This type of caregiving behavior can be seen a little more fully in Koko, the famous gorilla used in linguistic experiments to try to teach animals sign language and prove that they had language capabilities.
Koko did have a “pet” cat, and although she was not entirely responsible for the care of the cat, she did play an important part in raising it. Well-documented incidents of her grooming the cat and even showing an understanding of the cat as a “living-partner” by blaming the cat for things gone wrong and destroyed in their shared living space show that Koko viewed the cat not just as a friend but as a partner in life in the same way that humans co-exist with pets. The only qualm I have with calling the cats (either All Ball or Moe) Koko’s “pets” is that Koko was domesticated and somewhat guided in how to treat these animals.
This brings us, then, to the real pet owners of the animal kingdom — otters. Don’t judge; a pet rock still counts as a pet! Otters search far and wide for their perfect, compatible rock, and once they’ve found it, they care deeply for it, protect it, and ensure that it survives as long as possible. Because otters are known for being some of the most intelligent tool-users, it should come as no surprise that an otter’s pet rock is so important — a rock that can crack open shellfish so perfectly is certainly to be cherished! When an otter has finished using its pet rock, it has extra folds of skin that it uses to help hold it and carry it along. When possible, it carries the rock on its stomach when floating. Interestingly, this is also the place where it cradles its young.
Pet rocks = little inanimate baby otters.
Now You Know: That some animals do keep pets, even if they may be pet rocks.