Also known as: Congratulations, You Have Just Killed Your Hamster!
Failures of the kind where someone fails at giving proper care to an animal. Failures include feeding an animal something it should never eat, keeping it in improper conditions, or handling it just wrong.
A subtrope, in which a horse (or alternate steed
) is portrayed as needing far less care than it realistically should, is Automaton Horses
Note: This is not the place for wank about pet food brands.
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- You know how fiction writers just love to put goldfish into, well, goldfish bowls? Yeah, funny thing, goldfish don't live very long in goldfish bowls. They thrive better in aquariums, artificial ponds or both. Sadly, this one is still widespread Truth in Television, as many companies still market small bowls as being for goldfish.
- That's the difference between a goldfish that survives a few weeks or months and one that survives several decades. You think they're shortlived because you don't know how to care for them properly. Also, they do a lot more than swim around in circles - as far as fish go, they're pretty bright, so long as they have some form of entertainment.
- The same goes for the popular Betta splendens (Siamese fighting fish). They are often sold in small decorative containers or vases, when in reality they are much happier and healthier in a larger aquarium.
- Even more true of turtles. A baby turtle needs a lot more than a little dish of water with a fake island in the middle. Most aquatic species need deep water for swimming, lights to bask under, and some form of filtration.
- Also in betta fish - while keeping two males close together with a devider does in fact make them spread their fins and their colors brighten, it probably should not be done. The males are exhibiting a specific behavior when they're doing those things. Spread fins is called 'flairing' and that with brightened color can mean one of two things - if exclusively a female around(hopefully he cannot get to her), it might mean something along the lines of "Hey, aren't I sexy?", but it could also mean - and if the other betta is male, will mean - "get off my property or I will make you". The latter is what the two-betta tanks encourage and this is very stressful for them both since the fish are so aggressive. That stress can also lead to a weak immune system. Another one is the idea that you can keep a betta in a container with gravel and nothing else. Like goldfish, bettas are smart by fish standards and boredom can lead to self distructive behaviors such as tail biting, which in a dirty environment invites tail rot... Which literally eats away at the tail or fin until there is none left, then it will go to work on the fish's body. Literally, it causes the fish to rot away *while it is still alive*.
- Sometimes, people try to keep a male and female betta in the same container, even when they're not breeding. In actuality, it's very likely that one of them (most probably the female, although it could be the male) is going to be violently attacked by the other eventually. You can keep females together, provided you a) have a large container b) have at least 5 of them and c) don't touch or move anything in there (otherwise, they have to figure out their pecking order all over again, which is always a stressful week or two for both fish and owner.) And sometimes even that doesn't work out. Bettas (for the most part) just don't play well with others.
- Unless they're trying to kill it at the time, every instance when a character picks up a live rat by its tail is this trope, unless it's the base of the tail and no longer than a couple of seconds. Not only is it painful, but there's a risk that the tail's skin will tear under the rat's own weight and peel entirely off. This goes double for animal wranglers who allow actors to hold rodents in such a dangerous way during filming.
- Some lizards' tails will actually break off if pulled on too hard, and then wiggle around frantically for several minutes after being detached. This isn't accidental—predators are likely to grab the lizard by its tail, and letting it pop off often distracts the predator long enough for the lizard to escape—but it's not a fun experience for the lizard either way. In general, almost no animals should ever be picked up by their tails. Most animals only use their tails for balance; tails usually aren't strong enough to safely hold the animal's entire weight.
- Many illustration of magic tricks such as the old "Rabbit-Out-of-a-Hat" trick show the magician holding the rabbit up by the ears. This act is quite painful, much like pulling a person by the ear is, and in fact old-school magicians hold rabbits like that because it's painful. Rabbits aren't very entertaining if they're just being held up limply — when a rabbit is being held by the ears, it kicks and moves around, which is much more 'appealing' and shows the audience that it's a real, live rabbit. Neither should one hold the rabbit by the scruff of its neck the same way you would hold up a kitten. Kittens can be lifted this way since they produce a special hormone that calms them when lifted by the scruff because their mothers need to carry them like this. Rabbits don't produce this hormone, but scruffing a rabbit isn't too dangerous if it's done properly. That said, most bunny care books will advise you not to try it, because doing it properly can be very tricky, especially if the bunny panics.
- Any show portraying hamsters (most particularly syrian hamsters) living happily in pairs or groups. A normal syrian hamster would eventually kill even a litter-mate, as they are loners by nature. Male-female pairs may occasionally work, but would lead to the female breeding continuously till she dies of exhaustion.
- Another hamster example: In the History Channel's documentary Hippies, the narrative of how LSD was invented is backed up by footage from early experiments with the drug, including a shot of a hamster trying to chew its way through the bare metal mesh at the bottom of its cage. Exposed wire-floor cages are terrible for pets' feet. (Also a case of Artistic License - Biology, as the context implies that the animal is chewing the wire only because it's drugged out of its mind, but gnawing on objects and attempting to dig its way free is perfectly normal behavior for a hamster, and any other rodent, that feels frustrated.) Research animals were often kept in bare metal mesh cages back in the day. Things have gotten MUCH better nowadays.
- Really elaborate hamster habitats, with multiple chambers and plastic tunnels running throughout an entire room or even through walls, are also likely to be this trope, as they're virtually impossible to keep clean. A single hamster (the only safe option; see above) will choose two or three chambers as its sleeping place and larder, then visit the others only to use them as latrines.
- This trope applies any time a cat is fed straight ruminant milk. Especially if it's a kitten. Feline bodies can't handle milk unless it's watered down. You can give your cat either goat's milk or special pet milk available at pet supply stores (note: this is different from the milk replacement formula for kittens). Also, cream and yogurt are less harmful for cats than regular milk. So long as your cat doesn't throw up or display other digestive problems, you can give small amounts of regular milk as an occasional snack, but it's still not recommended.
- Same goes for dogs for that matter; dogs should not be given milk in more than tiny quantities. Being partial omnivores, some (very small numbers) canines can process milk, but most experience acute intestinal symptoms including gas, diarrhea or vomiting. That's because most dogs can't digest lactose well at all; others who can could only be given watered down milk—for example, 1/2 cup of milk & water is more than sufficient as a treat to large dogs while 1/4 of milk and 1/4 water for medium, while small dogs shouldn't even drink that small amount.
- Mice and rats are also often fed milk by their owners, according to a book on rodent care: "...this is fine in small amounts like thimble sized cups for mice and bottle cap sized for rats for a once in a while treat it is alright if 2% or 1% milk." While most mice and rats are omnivores and like their wild cousins which not only eat seeds, grains, nuts, berries and other fruits, but they also eat worms, insects, fish and eggs—but milk is not a normal thing. In fact, lactose can give them gas and vomiting just like anyone who is lactose intolerant; so while it seems OK, it's probably not the best idea to feed your mouse or rat milk even in the 1% grade.
- Whenever a piranha tank is included in an action scene, it's this trope if the tank doesn't have a lid of some sort. Not to prevent Mooks from falling in, but because they're notorious for jumping out of the aquarium to their deaths when kept as pets.
- Whenever an iguana is portrayed as being fed live insects (usually flies). Unlike many lizards, iguanas are herbivores. They prefer fresh leafy vegetables to creepy crawly insects.
- When just about any animal is given chocolate. Humans process theobromine much more quickly than most animals, and for most animals it's very toxic and potentially fatal, especially if they get hold of dark chocolate. Most vets will flat out state that animals shouldn't have any, no matter the concentration, just to be safe. See here for more. Note that it's also possible for humans to get poisoned by chocolate, but most of us don't eat nearly enough of it for that to happen.
- Most media are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but not cats. Cats are more sensitive to theobromine than dogs, but unlike dogs cats are obligate carnivores. They have no interest in such a sugary foodstuff. Interestly, rats (of course) can tolerate even more theobromine than humans, but it's still unhealthy for them due to the caffeine content.
- Justified Trope if it's British media. "Dog chocolates" still appear in UK-published pet manuals (and low-concentration chocolate like milk is only harmful in very large amounts). In other words, the dog is very unlikely to die from eating a chocolate-chip cookie or even feel mildly sick but a five-pound baking bar would be cause for concern.
- Any time a cat is shown being held up by the scruff of its neck. Mother cats carry their kittens this way, but it's generally advised that humans shouldn't even try it. Kittens held this way instinctively freeze so that they won't hurt themselves by squirming around too much. If you know exactly what you're doing you can gently pinch this area to evoke the same response in adult cats, but never actually pick them up by it. Adult cats, save for unusually tiny ones, are far too heavy, and being picked up like this strangles them.
- Many novice fish owners will keep several different species of fish in the same tank. Now, while this may be fine with some species of fish, many fish do not thrive well with others. These can range from fish that are simply too agressive to be kept with other species, to them not having the same tank requirements. Alas, expect a lot of shows/movies/etc. to show a standard-size fish tank with multiple species that would most likely kill one another in Real Life.
- People who own pufferfish tend to want to see them "puff up" like they do in the movies and cartoons. The problem? This causes severe stress to the animal (Remember, pufferfish inflate themselves to frighten away predators) which can shorten its lifespan. Not only that, but pufferfish can be seriously injured or even die while puffing up.
- Many people assume that it's ok to be loud around snakes. This is due to the common misconception that snakes are deaf. In reality, snakes can hear. Loud noises can actually cause severe stress in snakes.
- This is due mostly to how the snake hears. Since they lack ear holes, snakes instead hear by picking up vibrations in the air (or on the ground) through their jaws which are then carried to the inner ear inside the head. Imagine how annoying it is when speakers play really loud music (to the point where you can feel the vibrations coming from said speakers), and what it must be like for an animal that "hears" by feeling vibrations.
Anime and Manga
- In Ginga Nagareboshi Gin, Gohei Takeda trains the protagonist, Gin, to be a bearhound by beating him with a piece of wood, feeding him only raw bear meat (which is mentioned to stink so terrible that even adult dogs cower at the smell of it) and forcing him to get pieces of aforementioned meat from the bottom of a large basin filled with water. Did we mention that this Training from Hell started when Gin was still supposed to be nursed by his mother? While he did grow up into a through-and-through Badass, making a puppy go through stuff like that in real life would definitely not end half as well.
- In the Sailor Moon manga, a man feeds sugar candies to Luna. Never mind that a real cat probably wouldn't even like them or even be able to taste them at all (though this is now under debate), you should never try to give candies to a cat in the first place. In one episode of the anime, Minako tells a lengthy anecdote about feeding Artemis a piece of caramel and it getting stuck in his teeth. Although Luna and Artemis are alien cats from the planet Mau, the aforementioned man who fed Luna sugar candies in the manga didn't know this and thought she was an ordinary Earth cat.
- In Wagaya No O Inari Sama the anime, Kuugen eats insane amounts of chocolate cake, which should make ten humans sick, much less a fox. Then again, Kuugen is explicitly supernatural.
- In Nichijou, the Professor doesn't want to eat her green onions, so she tries foisting them on Sakamoto. Sakamoto responds "Are you trying to kill me!?" (onions and garlic contain chemicals that can destroy a cat's red blood cells).
- Goldfish Warning; a classic anime about a deranged farm school with both animals and humans as students. The school's pet shark lives on a steady diet of potato chips. The goldfish Gyopi and the cows in the school won't eat anything but human junkfood.
- In the biopic Temple Grandin, the Real Life animal-husbandry genius designs a revolutionary cattle-dip which cows willingly and safely walk through, unhindered by poor footing, sharp turns, or frightening surroundings. Contemptuous ranch hands take one look at it, assume it's ridiculous, and modify it to suit their normal practices ... which result in three drowned cattle within the first five minutes.
- Oliver & Company, in which Jenny feeds ice cream to her cat, provides the page image. A few licks from an ice cream cone, or a little bit of milk is not going to affect a cat that much, but it's still not a good idea given the sugar and other things ice cream is loaded up with, especially since Oliver is a kitten and their digestive systems are not as resilient as an adult cat's (as any cat owner or animal shelter worker who's worked with kittens for long enough can tell you).
- At the very beginning of The Aristocats, the evil butler Edgar actually pours some of Madame's sleeping pills into the titular cats' milk (and Roquefort the mouse due to him eating from a cookie that was dipped into the milk) so he can drug them and take them all away from her mansion while said cats are sleeping. In real life, the amount of sleeping pills Edgar used to drug the cats is enough to kill a human, never mind a cat! Since Edgar's goal was to get rid of the cats, he probably wouldn't have cared if he killed them, but the fact that they survive at all shatters suspension of disbelief.
- Not that it's advisable to give adult cats milk anyway, but at the time the film was made, that wouldn't have been common knowledge - it still isn't as well known in this day and age as it should be, especially given the complication (for human comprehension) that some adults cats actually can cope with cow's milk without any reported side-effects.
- In Rio, Tulio, the bird veterinarian, allows birds to eat out of his mouth, which is extremely dangerous due to the fact that human saliva is toxic to birds. It was lampshaded by Blu when he found this disgusting.
- At the beginning of the movie, Blu is shown enjoying a hot chocolate and some chocolate chip cookies. See above under "General" for why this belongs here.
- The Movie Seven Pounds features a dog that is according to its owner a vegetarian. While it is possible to do this under strict vet supervision, the food she's shown feeding the dog would cause long-term health problems.
- In Jack and Jill, Jill's cockatoo is seen sticking its head under a chocolate fountain. See the chocolate example under "General" for why. This resulted in a minor Flame War on Tumblr where a user didn't realize that the filmmakers knew this and used a CGI bird for the scene. The original poster proceeded to refer to someone who disagreed as "cum-slut" and the entire thing degenerated hilariously.
- A sad real-life example occurred with the film The Beastmaster. The tiger who played Ruh, Sultan, died two years after the movie was filmed because he was poisoned by the black dye they used on his fur, since the animal handlers apparently didn't realize that it was toxic and that cats, even large ones, tend to lick their own fur. As a result the second movie had to use a different tiger and didn't use any dye on him.
- An example is in the original Lilo & Stitch movie. Lilo brought Stitch home for the first time, and feeds him coffee. At this point she still thinks he’s a regular dog. In real life, one should avoid giving their dogs coffee, because it is poisonous to them. Pets and caffeine simply do not mix. Fortunately Stitch was really an alien. He was a little more destructive, but he otherwise had no resulting health problems.
- The jerkwad from Crank: High Voltage who kept zapping his dog with an electric collar to "teach him who's in charge". Even his companion called him out on this.
- In the third Home Alone movie, Alex has one pet rat. Rats are extremely social animals, and a rat who doesn't have a cagemate will be lonely and depressed.
- The treatment of owls in Harry Potter. Possibly justified in-universe since owls seem to be at least partially magical in the Potter Verse as it's been noted a number of times that they can find the recipient of a letter without an address. However, this led to an all-too-real Red Stapler situation, which J. K. Rowling herself has come out against. Also the behind-the-scenes special features on the DVDs have twice felt the need to directly address the fact that owls do not actually make good pets.
- Particularly bad is the scene when Harry attempts to feed Hedwig vegetables. Not his fault — the Dursleys hadn't given Harry anything else to eat himself — but Harry would have been wiser to use the veggies as bait for mice or bugs than to expect a carnivorous bird to eat them. Perhaps as a Lampshade Hanging, Hedwig reacts with disgust.
- Letting any pet as tiny as a rat sleep in a boy's bed, even if it's not an adult animagus, is a good way to get it squashed. Again probably justified in universe, as a witch's or wizard's animal familiar is more likely to escape such a fate than your average unintelligent rat.
- Inverted in Black Beauty: this was the book that kicked off concern about animal care.
- One sympathetic character does what he thinks is right for Beauty — gives him a lot of cold water to drink after a straining effort and leaves him standing uncovered in his stall — and it nearly kills him. This becomes a saving grace for Beauty in his later years when the same character, now much older and wiser, recognizes the scars on Beauty's body from the methods used to save Beauty's life at the time of his past mistake. Able to confirm Beauty's identity from these marks, he's then able to ensure Beauty is able to live out the rest of his days with a caring owner who looks after him kindly.
- Played straight in the Bad News Bunny series, whose title rabbit eats nothing but junk food, including Twinkies, Ring Dings and potato chips. To be fair, it is a series about a wisecracking talking rabbit, and it does allude to the proper care of ordinary rabbits.
- Harold the dog of the Bunnicula books is regularly depicted as eating fudge. In one of the young reader books, he flat-out tells the readers that he can only eat chocolate because he's fictional, but the trope is otherwise in full effect. While fudge is probably one of the less dangerous types of chocolate a dog the size of Harold can have, it still makes his owners look pretty careless. In another young reader mystery book, his owners are still aware that he steals fudge and also still unaware that he's fictionally immune to chocolate, and the plot is centered around the animals determining what, exactly, a pan of white-chocolate fudge is.
- Pippi Longstocking keeps her horse on the veranda of Villa Villekula. While being there isn't directly harmful to the animal, the horse could easily trip and hurt itself if it ever tried to use the veranda's steps to enter or leave. (Fortunately, Pippi's strong enough to lift and carry it when necessary.)
- Played for Laughs in the Monty Python's Flying Circus "Fish Feeding" sketch.
- Then, of course, there's the "Dead Parrot" sketch, in which it's a bit late for proper animal care; though bad animal care on the part of the incompetent pet shop owner is almost certainly the reason the parrot died.
- In FlashForward, a pet store owner grateful for the FBI's help offers Janis a free cockatiel. Um. First there is the obvious problem of giving a pet to someone who isn't fully committed to taking care of it, but cockatiels in particular need a ton of time and attention and socialization or else they can become self-destructive. No bird breeder or caretaker worth their salt would consider just giving a bird away like that.
- On Medium, the psychic daughter gives a piece of candy to the class pet she's minding, then finds it dead and blames herself for killing it. Said class pet is a tarantula, which isn't any more equipped to eat a piece of candy than to eat a rock. A You Fail Animal Care for the daughter and a You Fail Biology for the writers.
- Done in-universe in an episode of the original version of Survivors; The heroes have been struggling along, attempting to keep their post-pandemic farm going, when a genuine farming expert turns up and chews them out for all the things they've been doing wrong with their animals.
- An episode of Scrubs had two college friends of JD and Turk getting married, they considered buying a ferret as a wedding gift. At the end of the episode, since they can't make the wedding themselves, they give the ferret to another friend who is attending. Turk reminds him that "The ferret only eats fresh vegetables". In reality, ferrets are carnivores and should not eat any vegetables as their digestive systems cannot process them.
- In the TV show Its Me Or The Dog, one woman fed her dogs ice cream, cookies and human tea. Victoria pointed out that dogs should not be fed human food with sugar in it.
- Sadly, about ninety percent of the cases that come up on Animal Planet Heroes programs are Truth in Television examples of this trope.
- On Total Blackout, one challenge required contestants to identify objects in a set of four glass tanks by touch. Live rats were in the first tank, and a live snake (probably boa) in the third. Any responsible snake-handler would have put the reptile before the rodents, as the aroma of rat on contestants' skin could have potentially incited the snake to attack, mistaking their hands for a food source.
- Averted by the professional aquarium-builders on Tanked, but played straight by some of the customers, whose requested tank designs are so bizarre (e.g. the spade-shaped tank with its nearly-inaccessible lower section) that the finished product can't help but be difficult to maintain over time.
- Averted, believe it or not, in Toby Keith's song "Beer for My Horses" — some Thoroughbred trainers do give their horses beer as an appetite stimulant. Guinness is the traditional choice. Because horses are so large they're pretty unlikely to be harmed by alcohol since they process it much more quickly than humans, and most beers are made of things horses eat anyway like barley and grains.
- In a song, the Dutch Santa Claus' horse is asked what he gets once the holidays are over. After the reasonable extra bag of oats, an old piece of speculaas and a loaf of bread with lots of jam are mentioned.
- In Foxtrot, Jason regularly feeds his pet Iguana mealworms or crickets - they actually are vegetarians, or are at least 98% vegetarian. However, an early comic shows him pouring a bowl of fruits and vegetables into Quincy's terrarium, so maybe he wasn't too far off...
- In Get Fuzzy, Rob Wilco's mother tries to force her cat to go vegetarian (something her also-vegetarian son would never dream of inflicting on his own pets); although it's unrealistic in that the cat is still alive, she's in obvious distress and begs Rob to kill her. Cats are carnivores; feeding them vegetable matter is at best a starvation diet and at worst actively detrimental to their insides.
- An early Dilbert strip had Dogbert eating chocolate cake; when it was first published, the author was immediately bombarded with emails pointing out that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. See above under "General" for more about chocolate. Bipedal talking egg-dogs are, apparently, not immune.
- Garfield is made of this. Granted, though Jon provides some of what he eats, he often does the obtaining food on his own, but with all the lasagna, ice cream, cake, candy, etc he eats, it's amazing he's alive.
- In The Sims 2, womrats (a fictional rodent-type creature similar to a hamster or guinea pig) are depicted living in a maybe 5-gallon plastic cage. In reality, that type of cage should never be used because not only are they too small, but they do not give the animal adequate ventilation.
- Subverted in an episode of Arthur, when Pal got sick and had to be taken to the vet, and it turned out it was from the junk food Arthur had been feeding him earlier in the episode. This is made even stranger by the fact that several of Arthur's classmates are dogs of the bipedal, sapient variety.
- Ruby Gloom has been shown to give her cat Doom Kitty muffins with chocolate chips. Not a good idea. See the chocolate example under "multiple media" for why.
- Looney Tunes taught generations of children how to kill their pets through poor diet. Mice would only eat cheese if starving to death since it's too soft for them after eating mainly nuts and grains, adult cats cannot digest cows' milk, and a diet of nothing but carrots would kill a rabbit.
- Back in the 1940s, when ferrets were just beginning to be kept as pets, it was suggested that they could be kept on a milk and bread diet (with a few small bones thrown in). Apparently the ones suggesting this diet didn't factor in the idea that ferrets were obligate carnivores, meaning they cannot properly digest anything other than meat (evidenced by their sharp canines). In addition, ferrets are lactose intolerant, so cow's milk would likely give them diarrhea. Unfortunately, despite better knowledge of the dietary needs of domesticated mustelids now, there are still owners out there who insist a milk and bread diet is the proper diet for a ferret.