Created By: pcw2727 on July 4, 2012 Last Edited By: JonnyB on April 14, 2013
Troped

Lab Pet

A lab animal that is treated like a pet.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Any time you're involved in research that involves Animal Testing it's generally a bad idea to get too attached to your test animals. Most of the time your experiment will end with these animals being killed and dissected.

However often in fiction this little detail is ignored and scientists are shown treating their test animals like pets, naming them and even playing with them or petting them. If the animal dies it is a freak accident and the scientist involved is usually filled with remorse.

Occasionally a work will invert this trope: a character will take a beloved pet and use it for experimentation. Often this can be used to show what a heartless Jerk Ass the character is, or that the character will simply do anything For Science!.

Since these animals have been experimented on, they may sometimes be an Intellectual Animal, Nearly Normal Animal or Talking Animal.


Examples:

Film
  • Dr. Brundle is much too attached to his baboons in The Fly. This leaves him quite distraught when he turns one inside out.
  • In The Amazing Spiderman Dr. Connors names his lab rats Fred and Wilma. At no point is a dissection considered.
  • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Ceasar, the son of a lab chimp, is taken home and made a pet.
  • Inverted in Star Trek. Admiral Archer allows his pet beagle to be used in a teleportation experiment... with unfortunate results. (Word of God has it that this will likely be a Brick Joke later in the film series.)
  • Night of the Lepus has this as its set up, the Scientist's daughter has grown attached to one of the test rabbits, and she swaps him with one from the control group. When said rabbit escape, it leads to the invasion of giant rabbits.
  • Splice zig-zags with this trope, with the scientists constantly shifting between treating Dren as a test subject, a pet, an adoptive child, and a lover when he/she takes on an adult human appearance.
  • In Project X, a researcher becomes a little too attached to a chimp that is about to be killed in an experiment. It turns out that the chimp knows sign language and bonds with the researcher.
  • In the 2001 family film, Race to Space, Billy, the son of a NASA scientist, befriends one of the chimps being trained for space missions.

Literature
  • From the Earth to the Moon has a 19th century version: in order to test whether the rocket's living compartment is secure, several animals are put inside including a cat and a pet squirrel belonging to one of the Gun Club. A week later, the compartment is opened, but the squirrel has evidently been eaten by the cat. The distraught owner wants to put its name on a monument as a martyr for science.

Live-Action TV
  • The bunnies in The Secret World of Alex Mack are named and are never killed or dissected, not surprising as it is a children's show.
  • In an episode of Quantum Leap Sam leaps into a lab chimp in the space exploration lab, being prepared to go into space. His experimenter gets attached to him, and complains when he's transferred to helmet testing - which is basically "put a helmet on a chimp and bash its head with a giant hammer."
  • In the Cheers episode "Take Me Out of the Ball Game", the psychiatrist Lilith Sternin Crane has a pet lab rat named Whiskers.
  • There's a Frasier episode in which it's revealed that Frasier's mother was so attached to her lab rats that she named her children after them.
  • In one episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Billy has a little white lab rat named Jack that he calls his "lab assistant".
  • Inverted in House: House captures a wild rat in a co-worker's home, and decides to keep it as a pet, naming it "Steve McQueen." It is later indicated that he occasionally uses the rat for medical experiments.

Video Games
  • Doctor Borous in the Fallout: New Vegas add-on Old World Blues gave his dog Gabe, the closest thing in the world he had to a friend, as a subject for cyberdog enhancement research. If you complete a certain side-quest and present him with Gabe's dogbowl, he will have a My God, What Have I Done? moment over this.
  • In Half-Life 2, Kleiner has Lamarr, a pet headcrab.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man has Dr. Conners' Iguana, who was unknowingly exposed to some cross-species experimentation. When Conners was sent away to Beloit Mental Hospital, his iguana has mutated to human-size and then breaks out with the other cross-species very early in the video game.
  • Inverted in Neopets, which allows you to acquire a "lab ray" after completing a secret laboratory map. You may then zap your neopets (now dubbed "lab rats") with the ray, causing random changes in size, gender, color and species.

Web Original
  • Doctor Steel is shown in two of his videos keeping lab hamsters as pets. One dies, giving him a moment of grief. (But only a moment...) While he's shown as being fond of them as pets, he's apparently not too attached to them (either that or he's not very good at naming pets); the second one seen has the imaginative name "Hamster 65".

Western Animation
  • In Power Puff Girls Mojo Jojo started out as the professor's lab pet.
  • Averted in an episode of The Simpsons, when Bart cons his way into a school for the gifted he is told not to get attached to the class hamsters as they are scheduled for dissection.
  • In the short lived Warner Bros. series, Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, Elmyra from Animaniacs acquires Pinky and the Brain as pets when Acme Labs goes bankrupt.
  • Adventure Time: Princess Bubblegum has a lab rat named "Science" who she not only treats like a pet, despite being involved in some of her experiments, but is also trained to actually perform some complex experiments for her.

Real Life
  • Modern pet golden hamsters, fancy rats, and fancy mice were derived from laboratory stock. Bred in captivity to make them docile research subjects, these rodents lost their natural aggression and much of their fear of humans, making them better pets.
  • Many Real Life experiments in animal behavior or learning processes actually require this trope be in effect, as it's necessary to establish enough of a rapport with the animal so it won't be too afraid of the researchers to complete its tasks. So long as the control group is treated identically, letting a research animal become friendly to its keepers needn't be a liability in non-injurious experiments.

Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • July 4, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Quantum Leap Sam leaps into a lab chimp in the space exploration lab, being prepared to go into space. His experimenter gets attached to him, and complains when he's transferred to helmet testing - which is basically "put a helmet on a chimp and bash its head with a giant hammer."
  • July 4, 2012
    JonnyB
    Doctor Steel is shown in two of his videos keeping lab hamsters as pets. One dies, giving him a moment of grief. (But only a moment...) While he's shown as being fond of them as pets, he's apparently not too attached to them; the second one seen has the imaginative name "Hamster 65".
  • July 4, 2012
    Astaroth
    Doctor Borous in the Fallout New Vegas add-on Old World Blues gave his dog Gabe, the closest thing in the world he had to a friend, as a subject for cyberdog enhancement research. If you complete a certain side-quest and present him with Gabe's dogbowl, he will have a My God What Have I Done moment over this,
  • July 4, 2012
    JonnyB
    Inverted in Star Trek. Admiral Archer allows his pet beagle to be used in a teleportation experiment... with unfortunate results. (Word Of God has it that this will likely be a Brick Joke later in the film series.)
  • July 5, 2012
    JonnyB
    In the short lived Warner Brothers series, Pinky Elmyra And The Brain, Elmyra from Animaniacs acquires Pinky And The Brain as pets when Acme Labs goes bankrupt.
  • July 5, 2012
    CobraPrime
    Night Of The Lepus has this as its set up, the Scientist's daughter has grown attached to one of the test rabbits, and she swaps him with one from the control group. When said rabbit escape, it leads to the invasion of giant rabbits.
  • July 5, 2012
    TBTabby
    Splice zig-zags with this trope, with the scientists constantly shifting between treating Dren as a test subject, a pet, an adoptive child, and a lover when he/she takes on an adult human appearance.
  • July 5, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Ceasar, the son of a lab chimp, is taken home and made a pet.
  • July 8, 2012
    reub2000
    Film
    • In Project X, a researcher becomes a little too attached to a chimp that is about to be killed in an experiment. It turns out that the chimp knows sign language and bonds with the researcher.
  • July 18, 2012
    JonnyB
  • July 19, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Cheers episode "Take Me Out of the Ball Game". The psychiatrist Lilith Sternin Crane has a pet lab rat named Whiskers.
  • July 19, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
  • July 19, 2012
    JonnyB
    Inverted in House: House captures a wild rat in a co-worker's home, and decides to keep it as a pet, naming it "Steve McQueen." It is later indicated that he occasionally uses the rat for medical experiments.
  • July 19, 2012
    JonnyB
    Fold in the newer suggestions and I'll toss this a hat.
  • July 28, 2012
    JonnyB
    Neopets allows you to acquire a "lab ray" after completing a secret laboratory map. You may then zap your neopets (now dubbed "lab rats") with the ray, causing random changes in size, gender, color and species.
  • July 29, 2012
    TBeholder
    needs a trope-ly description, as opposed to a "how I think everything should be" statement.
  • August 1, 2012
    MrRuano
    The Amazing Spider Man has Dr. Conners' Iguana, who was unknowingly exposed to some cross-species experimentation. When Conners was sent away to Beloit Mental Hospital, his iguana has mutated to human-size and then breaks out with the other cross-species very early in the video game.
  • August 10, 2012
    JonnyB
    bump
  • August 11, 2012
    SharleeD
    Real Life example: Modern pet golden hamsters, fancy rats, and fancy mice were derived from laboratory stock. Bred in captivity to make them docile research subjects, these rodents lost their natural aggression and much of their fear of humans, making them better pets.
  • August 11, 2012
    JonnyB
    "This trope doesn't apply to lab animals that the scientist develops an attachment to in spite of the fact that they're not supposed to." Why not?
  • August 11, 2012
    JonnyB
    Also, has this been abandoned?
  • August 12, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ The OP pcw2727 hasn't posted here since they first added it on July 4th. Since that's less than two months ago, it isn't Up For Grabs yet based on the description on that page.
  • September 3, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I assume "Science" from Adventure Time counts
  • September 3, 2012
    JonnyB
    ^ For those that have never seen the show, can you elaborate?
  • September 3, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    (Closely?) related to Motherly Scientist.
  • September 3, 2012
    Ogodei
    To elaborate for the troper who said "Science," Science was Princess Bubblegum's lab rat, who was also smart enough to finish the candy-zombie antidote
  • September 3, 2012
    JonnyB
    ^ So it's now a pet?
  • September 26, 2012
    JonnyB
    bump
  • September 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    In Gunnerkrigg Court, Paz has this attitude toward the Court's experimental test animals because of their situation.
  • September 26, 2012
    SharleeD
    • Many Real Life experiments in animal behavior or learning processes actually require this trope be in effect, as it's necessary to establish enough of a rapport with the animal so it won't be too afraid of the researchers to complete its tasks. So long as the control group is treated identically, letting a research animal become friendly to its keepers needn't be a liability in non-injurious experiments.
  • September 26, 2012
    Kellor
    In Half Life, Kleiner has Lamarr, a pet headcrab.
  • October 7, 2012
    JonnyB
    bump
  • October 15, 2012
    JonnyB
    Not entirely sure if Lester in Beakmans World counts. He's supposed to be Beakman's lab rat who is also his assistant, but it's also said during the show that he is really just an actor in a bad rat suit who has a bad agent.
  • December 2, 2012
    JonnyB
    bump
  • December 25, 2012
    JonnyB
    If this has been abandoned, put some hats on it and I'll launch it.
  • December 25, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Needs the examples from the comments ported up and some of the formatting/namespacing fixed.
  • December 25, 2012
    JonnyB
    Folded the comments in, fixed most namespace issues, rearranged the categories alphabetically.

    I'm not entirely sure I understand or agree with what the original author was going for in the last paragraph of the description; I'm considering rewriting it.
  • December 26, 2012
    reub2000
    The link goes to a different movie called Project X.
  • December 26, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^^ Maybe they were trying to make the trope about an animal that's usually the type to be a lab animal but is considered an actual pet by the scientist(s) instead, as opposed to simply a test animal definitely intended for testing that the scientist just got too attached to.

    Also, I'm betting that example for The Secret Life of Alex Mac was supposed to be The Secret World of Alex Mack, so I fixed that one.
  • December 26, 2012
    JonnyB
    I'm not seeing a whole lot of difference; a pet is a pet. You get attached to it. And I think the latter is a bit more interesting. :) This is definitely a subtrope of Animal Testing, however.

    Thanks for fixing the namespace!
  • December 26, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Yeah, I don't think there's enough of a difference to quibble about myself; I just think maybe that's what they were going for.

    And, no problem. :)
  • January 11, 2013
    JonnyB
    I'll work on a rewrite of the description, then it needs some hats.
  • March 9, 2013
    Freud
    There's a Frasier episode in which it's revealed that Frasier's mother was so attached to her lab rats that she named her children after them.
  • March 13, 2013
    JonnyB
    Hat pimp.

    Also, anyone have any issues with the description, as I've edited it?
  • March 15, 2013
    Chabal2
    From The Earth To The Moon has a 19th century version: in order to test whether the rocket's living compartment is secure, several animals are put inside including a cat and a pet squirrel belonging to one of the Gun Club. A week later, the compartment is opened, but the squirrel has evidently been eaten by the cat. The distraught owner wants to put its name on a monument as a martyr for science.
  • March 25, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Western Animation
    • Adventure Time: Princess Bubblegum has a lab rat named "Science" who she not only treats like a pet, despite being involved in some of her experiments, but is also trained to perform some complex experiments for her.
  • April 11, 2013
    JonnyB
  • April 14, 2013
    JonnyB
    I'd like to Just Launch It Already, but it Needs Hats.
  • April 14, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Can it be clarified if this includes animals that started off as regular pets but were later experimented on? The Star Trek example calls this an inversion, but the Neopets example just calls it an instance of this trope.
  • April 14, 2013
    JonnyB
    That's because the description was rewritten. Thanks for catching that; actually I think it would be an inversion in both instances. I rewrote the neopets entry.
  • April 14, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Here's your hat!

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=pisya3aem2dvbjyhl4cqdsex