Pet. People in all parts of the world have kept animals as pets for thousands of years. The most common pets are dogs, cats, parakeets, canaries, and fish. But many people keep unusual pets, such as raccoons, skunks, alligators, and monkeys. Many Japanese children tame mice and teach them to dance to music. Explorers in Antarctica have treated penguins as pets. The people of India make pets of mongooses. Cormorants are common pets in China.

Pets can make interesting, playful companions. People enjoy teaching them to do tricks and to obey commands. Pet owners often consider their pet to be a member of the family. Many children spend more time with their pets than they do with adults. By caring for pets, children learn responsibility. They must see that their pets have food, exercise, and a proper place to live. Most children like talking to and even telling secrets to their pets.

Pets also can contribute to a person\'s general well-being. Research shows that being with animals can improve a person\'s morale, and that the presence of pets can lower one\'s blood pressure. Many people look and feel more relaxed while with their pet. Many people living alone in nursing homes or in hospitals enjoy community programs that bring pets to visit. Today, many such institutions keep cats, birds, fish, and other pets for their residents.

In addition to providing companionship, many pets also serve other useful purposes. Dogs hunt, guard property, herd cattle and sheep, and assist blind people. Cats often keep homes and barns free from mice and rats. Pets such as frogs and toads help keep gardens free from certain kinds of insects. Canaries fill the air with happy, pleasing songs.

Kinds of pets

Pets for the home. The kind of home you live in, and where you live have much to do with the kind of pet you choose. Dogs, cats, birds, and fish are easy to care for in almost any kind of home.

Before choosing a dog as a pet, you should consider the size of both your home and the dog. For example, a collie needs a large home with a big yard for exercise. If you live in an apartment, you should be sure pets are allowed. Then choose a small dog, such as a cocker spaniel. A small dog can get most of its exercise by playing around the house, and needs only short walks outside for fresh air.

Cats do not depend on their owners as much as dogs do. Many people prefer them for this reason. They are quieter and gentler than dogs. But they, too, need outdoor exercise. On pleasant days, a cat can run around in a yard. A cat should always be brought inside at night.

Various kinds of birds make fine pets for a small home or apartment. They live in cages that take little space, and their singing, beauty, and antics will please you by the hour. Canaries sing songs, and their peppy, cheerful ways make them pleasing pets. The parakeet is one of the most popular birds. It can learn to talk and is a great clown. A parakeet can be trained to walk a tightrope, go through a tunnel, push and pull toys, and ride in toy cars or trains.

Fish have one advantage over most other pets. They can be left alone for a day or two without food. Most fish need food only a few times a week. You can make what is often called a balanced aquarium by growing plants in the fish tank. Plants supply some oxygen for the fish. The water need not be changed, but sometimes more water must be added to replace that which evaporates. Some kinds of tropical fish need extra care, such as controlled temperature, special foods, or oxygen bubbled through the water .

Other small animals, including white mice, guinea pigs, and hamsters, may be kept as pets in a home.

Farm pets. Farm children usually have many kinds of pets. Almost every farm has one or more dogs, and cats to keep down the mice. The children also play with and care for the baby animals that live on the farm. They may make pets of lambs, rabbits, and