Artistic License – Animal Care
Real Life. Common versions include feeding an animal something it should never eat, keeping it in improper conditions, or handling it a way that would cause it great distress or even damage. This does not include examples of animal abuse or improper care that is depicted as being bad for animals. Automaton Horses is a species-specific subtrope for cases where a riding animal (a horse or the in-universe equivalent) is portrayed as needing far less care than it realistically should.
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List of Common Examples
- 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 in Advertising, as many companies still market small bowls as being for goldfish.
- 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.
- Bettas (a species of small fish) don't enjoy having company. 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 since they're generally smaller, 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. They aren't called Siamese Fighting Fish for nothing! Like other fish, they prefer aquariums (unlike goldfish, they can be kept in smaller ones provided that they are maintained) and really shouldn't be kept in the tiny plastic containers they are sold in.
- Betta can actually be held with other fish, but only small, non-aggressive tropical fish that don't look like male bettas (so dull-coloured with short tails) and don't nip. This is not absolutely true of every betta fish either, as the personality of every fish is different and some are more aggressive than others.
- Similar to the fishbowl example above, old cartoon-style birdcages are terrible enclosures for birds. Birds are energetic animals that require lots of space to move around in and stretch their wings, something these kinds of cages can't supply. Additionally, old world birdcages can be made from materials that are potentially deadly to birds. Fortunately, use of these cages for housing birds has fallen out of practicenote and instead bird sellers typically recommend safer, more spacious cubic birdcages or (if you have the money for it) large aviaries.
- Animals and tails:
- 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.
- Mice and rats may be held by 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 animal'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. (The mouse can survive the experience with less pain and for longer, BUT ONLY THE BASE OF THE TAIL.)
- 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 the case of mammals, the tail almost always contains part of the animal's vertebrae, so pulling on it or otherwise putting massive strain on it can have horrifying results for the rest of the animal's spine.
- Holding a turtle by its tail, especially a snapping turtle, is a really bad idea. Not only is the turtle strong enough to escape your grasp, which may hurt it when it hits the ground, it can still bite or claw you if you're only holding its tail.
- Although you still shouldn't pick it up by the tail, the West Highland White Terrier has been bred specifically to have a more robust tail than other dogs so you can grab it to pull them out of narrow tunnels if they get stuck.
- 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. Scruffing a rabbit isn't too dangerous if it's done properly, but 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.
- 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 a room or even through walls, are 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.
- Rats are extremely social animals that quickly become stressed if left alone for long. Keeping a rat as a single pet is quite cruel, as it'll need at least four hours of contact with its human owner per day just to keep from becoming a basket case.
- Mammal pets and milk:
- Humans are perhaps the only adult mammals who can digest milk, and lactose tolerance is a mutation largely restricted to peoples who've had domestic cattle for a long time—as in, longer than recorded history.note After weaning, the vast majority of mammals completely lose the ability to digest milk and will get digestive problems if they have too much.
- Any time a cat is fed straight ruminant milk. Especially if it's a kitten. Cats are always lactose intolerant; some less than others, but any more than a very small amount will cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. Watering down the milk can help make it easier to digest, but it's not necessarily 100% effective. You can give your cat either goat's milk or special pet milk available at pet supply stores (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." Most mice and rats are omnivores, and like their wild cousins they eat not only seeds, grains, nuts, berries and other fruits, but also worms, insects, fish and eggs — but milk is not a normal thing. In fact, lactose can give them gas and digestive issues 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.
- Piranhas need an enclosed tank. 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.
- Humans metabolize theobromine (a bitter alkaloid compound found in the cacao plant) much more quickly and efficiently 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, ever, no matter the concentration, just to be safe. See here for more. It's also possible for humans to get poisoned by the theobromine in chocolate, but this is generally only a real danger for the elderly. Healthy people would have to consume a very large amount of it for this to happen and would probably throw it up from eating too much in general before any negative side effects could set in.
- Most media are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but not cats. Cats are, in fact, even more sensitive to theobromine than dogs, but unlike dogs cats are obligate carnivores. Due to lacking a necessary gene, felines cannot taste sugars or "sweetness", and thus have no interest in such a sugary foodstuff. Interestingly, rats can tolerate even more theobromine than humans, but it's still unhealthy for them due to the caffeine content. Beyond the theobromine issue, the sugar in chocolate can give both dogs and cats tooth decay, just like with humans.
- 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.
- Alcohol and coffee are much more toxic for a dog or cat than for a human. While dog owners may see the animal licking a small amount of spilled coffee or beer and assume it will be fine, in large quantities (an entire cup of coffee for a medium sized dog) it may kill the poor animal, while it just distresses a human. Hops in beer is also toxic. It's safer to never give the dog coffee or alcohol.
- Holding a cat by the scruff of its neck without supporting the hindquarters at the same time is bad. Mother cats carry their kittens this way, but it's generally advised that owners 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. The key is that the hind legs need to be supported as well, but in most cases it's best to leave scruffing to your vet - an upset cat might thrash even if scruffed correctly, and thus can still injure themselves (and the offending human!).
- 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 aggressive 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.
- Likewise, many forms of fiction depict people feeding their fish standard "fish flakes" or "fish pellets". In reality, many species of pet fish require a specialized diet (see below for a specific example). Not only that, but novice fish owners tend to think they only need to feed their fish a large meal once a day. This can actually cause severe digestion problems in certain species of fish. It's recommended that owners feed their fish small meals at least 2-3 times a day.
- Many depictions of fish tanks generally show them containing nothing but gravel (or sand), water, and the fish. In reality, it's best to add small plants (fake or living) and/or decorations that allow the fish to explore and hide. This is for three reasons. First, fish do get bored. Without an area for them to explore, they will end up doing what is known as "glass surfing" in which they will repeatedly slide up and down the same side of the tank. Second, fish get stressed out if they don't have an area where they can hide. Many pet species of fish tend to prefer areas where there are plenty of places to hide from predators, much like how they would live in the wild. And, finally, adding decorations helps more territorial fish feel like they have their own space. They are less likely to attack one another than they would in a non-decorated tank.
- 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 novice pufferfish owners tend to feed their pets other fish. While puffers will occasionally eat other fish, their primary diet consists mainly of clams, snails, crabs, shrimp, and other shellfish. In fact, it's recommended that pufferfish owners primarily feed their pufferfish shellfish in order to keep the puffer's beak healthy (a pufferfish's teeth are formed into a beak-like shape that grows throughout its life. Without shellfish to wear said beak down, the pufferfish would eventually starve).
- Keeping more than one pufferfish in a tank is also a common sight in pet stores (and in fiction). Although juvenile puffers may sometimes swim in groups (often as a way to keep safe from predators), adult puffers are solitary and are aggressive towards one another. Unless you're trying to get Mr. and Mrs. Pufferfish to breed, or if you have a large enough tank, it's best not to keep more than one puffer in a tank.
- Often, novice pufferfish owners will keep Green Spotted Puffers (the most commonly kept pet puffer) in freshwater and often with goldfish. There are two major reasons why this is a bad idea. First of all, GSP are tropical fish. They prefer warmer water compared to goldfish. Second, and more importantly, goldfish are freshwater fish. GSP, on the other hand, are brackish water fish. This means that GSP live in saltier water than goldfish. While GSP can live in fresh water, it greatly reduces their lifespan by several years. They are not compatible with one another.
- Likewise, some pet owners (and some pet stores) tend to put GSP with the similar-looking Figure "8" Puffer. While juveniles of both species can live together for a while, they are not suited for being long-term tank mates. For one thing, like with the goldfish above, Figure "8"'s are freshwater puffers whereas GSP are brackish water puffers. Also, GSP grow to be larger than Figure "8" puffers and will attack them out of territorial instinct.
- A common sight in various forms of media and in various fish tanks in Real Life is to see a puffer sharing its home with other species of fish. Now, while puffers may tolerate certain other species of fish, they are actually notoriously territorial. Even the small ones are known to viciously attack other fish to the point where there have been accounts from fish owners of their puffer (or puffers) actually attacking and killing fish much larger than itself.
- 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, but since they lack ear holes they pick up noise by sensing vibrations in the air or through the ground through their jaws which are then carried to the inner ear inside the head. Loud noises can actually cause severe stress in snakes. 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.
- Many shows/cartoons/etc. feature a child (often a male) showing off his (or sometimes her) pet amphibian (often a frog, but newts/salamanders and toads are sometimes featured) by carrying it around or by it poking its head out of the child's pocket. In reality, amphibians have very sensitive skin and it's generally recommended that they are NOT handled unless you have rinsed your hands of any soaps or whatnot that could potentially injure said amphibian.
- On the subject of amphibians, several novice Axolotl (a fully-aquatic salamander native to Mexico) owners tend to keep several in an aquarium at once. Axolotls are cannibalistic and, unless they are roughly the same size, will attempt to eat one another.
- Novice owners also tend to put gravel (or decorative rocks in general) at the bottom of an Axolotl tank. Unfortunately, since Axolotls feed by sucking water/food into their mouths and swallowing them whole, they tend to accidentally swallow said stones. This can cause severe digestion problems and even death. It's recommended to use either fine sand or simply no covering at all on the bottom instead.
- Many shows have depicted a small child's pet frog accidentally slipping out of its owners hands and landing safely on the ground. While some frogs can safely land on the ground from a certain distance, dropping a frog in real life usually results in something similar to what would happen if you were to drop a water balloon only messier.
- On the subject of amphibians, several novice Axolotl (a fully-aquatic salamander native to Mexico) owners tend to keep several in an aquarium at once. Axolotls are cannibalistic and, unless they are roughly the same size, will attempt to eat one another.
- Shows/movies/etc. in general tend to depict a pet snake being fed live food. Although it's debatable whether or not it's humane to feed a snake live food (let's just leave it at that...), it is generally considered more dangerous to the snake. This is because a live rat, mouse, or even rabbit will still struggle to escape and can cause injury to the snake. It's generally recommended to feed snakes frozen food (thawed to body temperature) instead.
- Live food can be dangerous for the owner, also. Snakes presented with live food will likely be considerably more aggressive and more likely to bite for some time afterward, due to having its hunting instincts triggered.
- A common sight in media is to see a rather bloated-looking snake due to it eating a large meal. In reality, snakes do sometimes die because their stomachs rupture from eating too large of a meal. Unfortunately, novice snake-owners tend to not know this and think their snake only needs one very large meal a month to sustain itself. Yes, snakes can go for a long time without food (especially after a good-sized meal). But, it's safer to just feed the snake a modest meal more often (how big and how often depends on the size and age of the snake).
- Anyone attempting to feed an obligate carnivore (such as a cat or ferret) on a vegetarian or vegan diet is all but ensuring that the animal will starve to death, even if it actually eats the food. Obligate carnivores need the proteins found in flesh to survive. A vegetarian or vegan diet can be pulled off for canines, but only with special vitamin supplements and close monitoring. Please don't try it without the help of your vet (and really, if meat-eating is an issue for you, consider sticking to herbivorous pets - it's just simpler and easier on the animals). One couple in Melbourne nearly killed their kitten while attempting to force the cat to go vegan.
- In various forms of media, chameleons are shown changing color almost instantly to pretty much any color/pattern the background happens to be. This causes chameleon owners to want to see said color changing for themselves. While chameleons can change color, it's actually to indicate mood, health, body temperature, and for territorial displays rather than for blending in. In fact, it's actually a very bad idea to force a chameleon to change color since it can actually stress out the reptile and make it very ill.
- A common, romantic depiction of raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons, etc) is to have the bird sitting on the hand, arm or shoulder of its owner, ready to fly off at command. In reality, this is a terrible idea. Raptor talons are designed to tear meat to ribbons—they can easily cut through human flesh and clothing. Most handlers wear heavy leather to protect themselves. It's also very strongly recommended that you keep the bird attached to you via rope. Oh, and never pet a bird of prey. They hate it. (With the notable exception of some hand-raised owls.)
- Llamas are so fluffy and soft-looking that people who know little about them are likely to try to cuddle with one. This is a terrible idea, as llamas are defensive about their personal space and may spit or bite if manhandled.
- The same holds true for other livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle or pigs. As nice as it would be to cuddle them like a cat or a dog, they don't like their personal space invaded and interpret it as being attacked by a predator.
- It's quite common in media for birds to eat out of a human's mouth. This is extremely dangerous in real life, as human saliva is toxic to birds.
- And on the topic of birds, it's very common in media (and definitely Truth in Television) to see people feeding ducks and other birds bread. In reality, this is deadly for birds — they can't digest bread at all, but it swells in their stomachs and makes them feel full, with the result that they starve to death because they don't go looking for real food. In addition, it makes the birds associate the areas where they get fed with getting regular food; as a result, some of them fail to migrate in the winter, which results in them dying from the cold temperatures and lack of food. Never feed a bird bread.
- For that matter, bread has caused deaths among pet rodents when it swells up inside the throat, causing choking. Bread should be toasted until it's crispy before giving it to small pets.
- While rabbits will eat carrots, feeding them the orange roots of carrots is a very bad idea — give them the leafy green tops, and eat the orange root yourself! The bulk of a rabbit's diet should consist of dried grass hay (alfalfa is too rich) and a wide variety of fresh greens, of at least three varieties a day and varying which three (but not iceberg lettuce which has no nutritional value and too much phosphorus). The typical rabbit may require a few cups of greens and hay per day. Pellets should really only be fed to juvenile and pregnant rabbits, and anything else (including carrots) shouldn't exceed a tablespoon per day, even less for small breeds.
"Around Easter, you'll get in thirty-five bunnies, sell thirty-five bunnies...by Monday, twenty bunnies come back, because they are all dying. And why are they dying? Because the people who buy the rabbits don't listen when the young guy at the pet shop says, "Please feed them these Purina Rabbit Chow pellets. Do not feed them carrots, do not feed them lettuce; this is not Bugs Bunny." Domestic rabbits can not eat carrots because they can't digest them, so the poor bastards eat the carrots, swallow them, they don't digest, and they shit like, big chunks of cement, and it rips them up from inside; it's like passing shrapnel out of your ass."
- Henry Rollins put it rather elegantly in a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to everyone who impulse-buys rabbits around Easter time:
- Fictional accounts that depict pets of different species getting along, simply because they share the same owner, can be a potential recipe for disaster if the pets in question are natural predator and prey. Despite what a story or cartoon might say, assume terriers and ferrets will always attack smaller furry animals, rats will always attack small birds or reptiles, and pond turtles will always attack fish.
- Feeding dairy products to birds and reptiles, which cannot digest lactose like mammals.
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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 '90s 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 the cat. He responds "Are you trying to kill me!?" (onions and garlic contain chemicals that can destroy his 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.
- The Pokemon creatures may not be exactly like animals, but Ash has been shown feeding Pikachu ice cream and chocolate at least once in the anime. To say nothing of the memetric episode where Pikachu fell in love with ketchup.
- Nowadays, not only are Pokemon shown to have their own food, but different breeds and temperaments like different flavors.
- In an odd inverse, humans in more recent seasons have been shown eating things prepared with Berries normally eaten by Pokemon. Though nothing really states that berries are really bad for humans apart from intense tastes.
- In Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, giving Lucario (a dog-based Pokémon), chocolate was a plot point in the movie (then again, this is a part-steel bipedal dog that can shoot hadoukens).
- Several openings in the Toriko anime have animals eagerly eating chocolate. Unfortunately Truth in Television in that some animals, especially dogs, can taste and as a result, really enjoy chocolate. This just makes it more unfortunate that it's very fatal to them.
- In one Little Lotta comic Lotta wins a pony in a contest, but finds the pony isn't strong enough to carry her, so instead of hay she decides to bulk it up with high-fat goods... including meat. Equines are herbivores.
Films — Animated
- 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).
- To say nothing of the Cocoa Krispies in whatever mess she concocts for him earlier.
- 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.
- At the beginning of the movie, Blu is shown enjoying a hot chocolate and some chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate contains theobromine (a bitter alkaloid compound found in the cacao plant), which is very toxic and potentially fatal for most animals. Most vets will flat out state that animals shouldn't have any, ever, no matter the concentration, just to be safe.
- Tulio, the bird veterinarian, allows birds to eat out of his mouth, which is extremely dangerous because human saliva is toxic to birds. It was lampshaded by Blu when he found this disgusting.
- In the original Lilo & Stitch movie, Lilo brings 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. Also provides a double whammy of Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror: A five-year-old couldn't be expected to know this... and her older sister was too overwhelmed to realize it and provide proper supervision of Stitch's diet.
- In An American Tail, Tiger comments that he's a vegetarian. Cats are carnivorous creatures and wouldn't be able to survive on a vegetarian diet. He did mention he'll eat fish occasionally though.
Films — Live-Action
- 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. Chocolate contains theobromine (a bitter alkaloid compound found in the cacao plant), which is very toxic and potentially fatal for most animals. Most vets will flat out state that animals shouldn't have any, ever, no matter the concentration, just to be safe. The filmmakers knew this and used a CGI bird for the scene, and got an outstanding rating from the AHA for the film.
- 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 due to complications caused by the black dye used on his fur, since the animal handlers apparently didn't realize that it contained ingredients that were toxic to him and that cats, even large ones, tend to lick their own fur, and because cat bodies are bad at processing chemicals (since those are usually filtered out by their prey prior to being eaten) they built up in his body and eventually led to skin problems and liver failure. As a result the second movie had to use a different tiger and they didn't use any dye on him.
- Averted in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey; the milk given to Sassy the cat by her rescuer is specifically goat's milk.
- In Home Alone 3, Doris the white rat doesn't have any cage-mates to live with. Fancy rats are extremely social animals that, barring temperament problems, should never be kept as solitary individuals.
- The rabbits in Watership Down are obsessed with lettuce. While rabbits need a great deal of fresh greens and hay to be healthy, the type of lettuce most often used in salads and sandwiches, iceberg lettuce, is very bad for them. Iceberg lettuce has almost no nutritional value; worse, it contains too much phosphorus, which can end up leeching calcium from their bones. While the rabbits of Watership Down, being wild, would rarely encounter enough lettuce to harm them and might rightly regard it as "flayrah" (their word for superior food), giving a pet rabbit this "flayrah" as a regular part of its diet is a really, really bad idea.
- Pets in Harry Potter seem to be partially magical, but if they weren't, the following would be bad ideas:
- The owl's abilty to find the recipient of a letter without an address has 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.
- Harry attempts to feed Hedwig (owls are carnivores) 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, be bitten or scratched, or end up with rat waste all over your sheets.
- Black Beauty:
- This was the book that kicked off concern about animal care, mostly by telling people the story of an animal that was taken care of by ignorant humans, and how much the animal suffered for it.
- 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. Since it's a series about a wisecracking talking rabbit it does allude to the proper care of ordinary rabbits and advises that you Don't Try This at Home.
- 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.note
- 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.)
- There is a Nancy Drew novel where someone's dog dies after eating a box of chocolates that arrived in the mail. It's treated as a plot point that the chocolate, by itself, would not have killed the dog, which overlaps with Conviction by Counterfactual Clue.
- Subverted in Terry Pratchett's The Unadulterated Cat, which describes a vegan couple who claimed their cat thrived on a meat-free diet, while the rest of the neighbourhood knew it thrived on the area's entire rodent population.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- 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.
- 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 bite, 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.
- For someone so lovingly obsessed with her pussy, Mrs. Slocombe from Are You Being Served? often doesn't treat her cat very well. In one instance, she brought her pregnant cat to the store. When the cat started giving birth, she asked the store nurse for some human sedatives to give the cat, and didn't even tell the nurse what they were for!
- Supernatural: Sam accidentally hits a dog with his car and takes it to a veterinarian. After she treats it, she guilt-trips Sam into adopting it because the owner cannot be found. This is something a real vet would obviously never do. Sam didn't even want the dog, and there was no reason for her to believe he'd take care of it or even keep it for longer than it took to get out of her office and set it loose. Such a system would be a good way to get animals into abusive homes, which is exactly what adoption shelters want to avoid.
- 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 the ingredients in beer are grains, hops, yeast and water, all things horses will eat on their own (possibly excepting hops).
- 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...
- Taken Up to Eleven in one strip, where Quincy was shown eating chocolate chip cookies.
- 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. Chocolate contains theobromine (a bitter alkaloid compound found in the cacao plant), which is very toxic and potentially fatal for most animals. Most vets will flat out state that animals shouldn't have any, ever, no matter the concentration, just to be safe. Bipedal talking egg-dogs are, apparently, not immune.
- Garfield contains many examples of unrealistic (or bad!) treatments of animals. Granted, though Jon provides some of what Garfield eats (and Jon often tries to serve cat food), 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 a lot of early Peanuts strips, Charlie Brown occasionally gave Snoopy treats that dogs should never have, like potato chips, cookies, and chocolate. This tended to taper off in later years, but there were a few modern strips where Charlie Brown let him have pizza. The cheese would've made the small dog very sick.
- Get Fuzzy: Rob's mother attempts to put her cat on a vegetarian diet. This, realistically, causes the cat extreme distress, at one point leading to her asking Rob to put her out of her misery.
- Pointed out in this Wired article, regarding the proposed "Ark Encounter" creationist theme park and its initial idea of keeping and displaying live animals inside a wooden full-size replica of Noah's Ark, all in order to attempt to prove its scientific and historical truthfulness.
- This infamous Tumblr post (since deleted), where a dog owner proudly posts a photo of their dog which they feed a solely vegan diet. Cue another user pointing out that the "excited" dog actually looks miserable and malnourished, and writing a short essay on why denying meat to your dog is a very bad idea.
- The problem is that not everything the angry guy says is correct, and some of it is actually rather stupid.
- He says several times that dogs don't produce Cellulase, which is the enzyme that breaks down Cellulose. The problem is no vertabrate produces it. It is produced by bacteria in the gut. So if cows pancreas doesn't produce it, what makes you think that a dog's would?
- Secondly, he mentions that a dog isn't capable of getting proteins out of carbohydrates. A. this isnt how herbivores get their protein, and B. neither are humans. This means vegans must consume food that isn't starchy, i.e. nuts and legumes.
- Finally, there is in fact plenty of evidence that dogs AND wolves are in fact omnivores. They eat a lot of berries and roots in fact. The only thing dogs can't handle seem to be grasses and grains, in fact.
- It gets worse. Take another look at the picture◊; the tray that the owner is holding obscures every part of the dog's body except for her head (and even with just her head showing, she looks like she's been through the wringer several times). This could be a coincidence, but it's also very possible that the owner positioned the tray like that on purpose in order to hide the dog's obvious malnourishment. If this is true, it would mean that she knows that the diet is bad for the dog and is still forcing it on her.
- The problem is that not everything the angry guy says is correct, and some of it is actually rather stupid.
- Related to the above, there was a post that made the rounds on Tumblr of a vegan stating that their cat "lived for six healthy years" on an all vegan diet. The problemnote ? The average lifespan of a house cat is twenty years. Whoops.
- 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. One of the creature's animations might even be lampshading this: it actively and repeatedly tries to escape the Containment Unit by climbing the front wall.
- Keeping a falcon in a birdcage and letting it perch on you without a glove on are bad ideas. Sims also seem to feed it birdseed for some reason. Granted, the falcon isn't stated to be one and is essentially a Palette Swap of the parrots, but it looks accurate (it's based on a male American Kestrel) and then doesn't work like a real falcon at all.
- It turns out to be a moot point since he's hardly a normal fox, but upon encountering Miyabi in his fox form during the prologue of Enchanted In The Moonlight, the protagonist feeds him some of her fried tofu and then takes the apparent wild animal into her bathroom and strips naked in order to give it a bath. Had she done this with a real wild fox instead of a transformed kitsune, it would most likely have quickly become a painful experience.
- Parodied in a flashback in Out at Home, which shows Herman telling his then-six-year-old daughter over an open Christmas gift box, "Next year we'll remember, hamsters like airholes..."
- In Girls with Slingshots Hazel tries to put her cat Sprinkles on a vegitarian diet to cure its excessive flatuence. It almost kills poor Sprinkles.
- In Prequel, Nah(?), a perfectly normal human woman and is in no way a vampire attempts to lure a kitten full of blood with some grape jelly. This attempt fortunately fails to succeed.
- In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Jared is apparently the only person to ever actually feed and pay attention to his Pokemon, or feed an obviously carnivorous Gyarados meat. He becomes a Pokemon Professor for this.
- In The Order of the Stick, Lord Shojo feeds his nephew Hinjo's animal companion, Argent a tub of frosting (calling it "table scraps"). Though it's implied that this was deliberate (Shojo often used Obfuscating Stupidity), as the silver fillings Argent needed to get afterwards make his bite effective against demons.
- In Shotgun Shuffle, Ellie shows her love for animals by overfeeding them until they look like furry basketballs. It should kill them well before then.
- The early strips of El Goonish Shive occasionally show cats playing with yarn. An unsupervised cat is likely to either become entangled or accidentally swallow yarn, the latter situation pretty much guaranteeing a trip to the vet. note This is averted in the commentary of many strips, written years later, wherein the author clarifies that he didn't know better at the time and advises against giving cats yarn.
- Oddly, he even goes into this when the one playing with yarn is a cat-girl. This is likely just to reinforce the idea not to give pet cats yarn, but it's still pretty funny.
- 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 the cat "Doom Kitty" eating muffins with chocolate chips. Not a good idea. Chocolate contains theobromine (a bitter alkaloid compound found in the cacao plant), which is very toxic and potentially fatal for most animals. Most vets will flat out state that animals shouldn't have any, ever, no matter the concentration, just to be safe. Though, given the nature of the show, Doom Kitty may already be dead.
- 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
- A diet of nothing but carrots would kill a rabbit, the which is noted as something that rabbits don't normally eat and should mostly be given as treat food . The deal with carrots was Bugs Bunny paying homage to a Clark Gable movie called It Happened One Night. This got Lost in Imitation, and carrots became the Stock Animal Diet of all cartoon rabbits, with disastrous real-life consequences.
- Parodied in an episode of Futurama, where a hippy claims to have taught a lion to eat nothing but tofu. We then see the lion scrawny and pale as hell, clearly starving to death.
- Scooby-Doo: It's pretty obvious that no Great Dane would have Scooby's famous cast-iron stomach. This is mildly averted in the second theatrical film where Scooby turns down drinking a chocolate milkshake in favour of a strawberry one.
- The ducks in Breadwinners eat nothing but bread, which would kill a real duck.
- One episode of Johnny Bravo had an emu being fed avocados, which are poisonous to birds.
- Jake of Adventure Time mentions in "Slumber Party Panic" that he can't eat chocolate or fudge since he is a dog, but in "The Pods" he's able to eat chocolate ice cream without having any ill effects. In some episodes, he's shown drinking coffee. Granted, he's a magical dog (he's shown on one occasion to be able to increase the size of his liver to better metabolize poison).
- Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
- "Topped With Buttercream" has the pets enter the pantry of a sweet shop and stuff themselves full with sugary treats. The only ill effects they suffer are a sugar high, some hallucinations, and a stomachache. In real life, that much candy and sugar would likely be lethally poisonous to those pets.
- Zoe, a dog, has been shown to be freely given chocolate cake by Blythe at the end of "Bakers and Fakers". It's not as harmful as straight up dark chocolate would be, but it certainly isn't good for her.
- Really, the main premise of the show could count. Multi-species pet day camps don't exist for a reason. Aside from the obvious risk of predatory behavior, each of these animals needs different care that isn't really fulfilled by what's seen on the show. Also, small pets like Vinny and Russel could easily be left at home in a safe enclosure throughout the day, rather than needing to go to a day camp or having someone watch them.
- There is also a pet door leading from the day camp room right out onto the sidewalk. Why this isn't a good idea should be obvious.