Sapient Pet

Pet characters in most works are Nearly Normal Animals, whether with the ability to talk in Animal Talk or not. These animals, however, are just animals, not intelligent beings like humans.

This trope, on the other hand, is about pets who are intelligent and able to interact with their owners (usually a human, but can be a human-surrogate animal or alien) on the same level. Sometimes these pets are actually smarter than their owners and choosing to hide it, other times they are open about being sapient beings and are accepted as part of the human world as well as their own world.

Pets that shift between humanoid and "pet" forms do not go here and should be under Anthropomorphic Zig Zag instead.

There are several variations on this

  • Sapient Pets That Masquerade as Normal Pets Around All Humans: These beings choose to hide that they are at least as smart as a human. Sometimes this involves a disguise as a normal animal, other times the entire species plays dumb to stay hidden. The examples including Broken Masquerades would belong here, as a broken masquerade would suggest that there is a masquerade. Unlike the other variants, it doesn't involve animals being treated as pets and people simultaneously.
  • Sapient Pets That Masquerade as Normal Pets Around Some Humans: Unlike the above variant, these beings can behave like humans around some humans but not around others. Unlike the above variation, they are treated either like people if only those who know are around or as pets if humans who should not know they are sapient are around. They do not shapeshift to do this, they simply modify their behavior. Shapeshifters that turn from humanoids into pets and back in order to hide go under Anthropomorphic Zig Zag, not here.
  • Openly Sapient Pets: These are intelligent beings that don't hide that they are intelligent. Some of these beings are treated like non-sapient animals despite their sapience, and others are treated as the sapient beings they are. They may be accepted by humans around them or humans may react in horror. Either way, these beings are not afraid to "be themselves".

This trope also includes sapient animals and aliens who are service animals, lab animals, livestock, circus animals, or zoo animals.

Not to be confused with Anthropomorphic Zig Zag. Sister trope to Sapient Steed. See also Civilized Animal, Funny Animal, and the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism. Supertrope of Human Pet. Related to Amplified Animal Aptitude and Intellectual Animal. Many Weasel Mascots fit this trope too.

Sapient Pets That Masquerade as Normal Pets Around All Humans:

Comic Books
  • In Silver Age Supergirl comics, her horse Comet, who is really a humanoid who is in love with her but has been transformed into a horse. When a comet passes the earth he becomes a human for a short period of time.
    • Also Krypto the Superdog for Superboy. A doglike creature from the planet Krypton, he "speaks" through thought balloons much like Snoopy.

  • In Barnyard, and early episodes of its spin off series Back at the Barnyard, the farm animals all act like dumb, domesticated animals unless they're wearing disguises when humans are around, but stand on two legs and throw parties when humans aren't around.


Tabletop Games
  • In the Star Wars RPG Sourcebook, "Cracken's Rebel Operatives", Moff Jarnek's Cool Pet Daerlar is a Covallon. Because Covallon walk on all fours, it isn't widely known that they're a fully sentient race. Dearlar chooses to keep this fact secret rather than seeking his freedom because he is a spy working for Cracken, and his position is the perfect "cover".

Western Animation
  • The Wonder Pets are ordinary classroom pets, until school ends, and they put on capes, fly in a flying ship and rescue baby animals.
  • South Park has Lemmiwinks, the adventuring gerbil. Although he never speaks he is intelligent enough to use tools such as weapons and solve problems no gerbil would be able to solve while humans aren't around. Around humans he's just a gerbil.
  • Futurama has Nibbler the Niblonian, part of an ancient race of geniuses who pretend to be stupid in order to protect and monitor "lesser races" like humans. Standard procedure when The Masquerade breaks is to Mind Wipe anyone who knows how intelligent they are. Nibbler once forgets to do this; even though the crew remember that he is intelligent, they go back to treating him like a mindless pet until it becomes relevant because he seems to prefer it that way.
  • Fat Cat in the Pilot Episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, and only in the pilot. After his owner Klordane is arrested, he becomes anthropomorphic completely.

Sapient Pets That Masquerade as Normal Pets Around Some Humans:

Anime and Manga
  • Tenchi Muyo! has Rio-Ohki, the cabbit. Around her caretakers she is as smart as a human child. Around everyone else, though, she's a pet.
  • In The Familiar of Zero, magic school students are required to summon a familiar as part of their second year final exam, and the familair summoned is considered a pet, regardless of what ends up being summoned. The students themselves have no idea what will happen as the spell chooses their familiar for them.
    • Tabitha summons a large rhyme dragon she names Sylphid. We find out just how sentient Sylphid is when it's revealed that rhyme dragons are shapeshifters and Tabitha's "sister" Illococoo is really Sylphid's human form.
    • Louise summons Saito, a young man from the modern world. Though Saito is treated by everone else as a human (to the point that he is later knighted and thus legally a noble in wizard society despite being a muggle), Louise still treats him as a pet.
    • It turns out that "void mages" can only summon humanoid familiars, so by definition the familiar of a void mage is always a sentient pet.
  • Luna and Artemis from Sailor Moon can talk and have powers, but only do so to the Sailor Scouts.
  • Jiji the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service. Kiki, being a witch, is the only one who can understand him. She loses this ability once she loses her powers.
  • For a brief time, Shamisen in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, before Haruhi's powers returned him to normal. (Presumably.) While sentient, he avoided speaking in Haruhi's presence.

  • Salem Saberhagen from Sabrina the Teenage Witch is a warlock transformed into a black cat as a punishment for trying to take over the world. Around other witches and warlocks he is (mostly) treated as a person but around Muggles he acts like a normal pet cat owned by Sabrina. The premise is the same in the live action TV show.
    • It was also adapted into an animated television series, in which not only was Salem a talking cat, he would also occasionally stand upright and wear clothing, but typically only when not around Muggles.

  • In Disney's Aladdin, Jafar's parrot Iago is intelligent, but hides this from people like the sultan in the first movie.

Live-Action TV
  • Mister Ed pretends to be a normal horse, and only talks to directly Wilbur. He sometimes talks to other people but only when they can't see that he's a horse, such as when he makes operator assisted telephone calls, or sings when Wilbur is lip syncing, or insults a police officer when his back is turned.

Western Animation
  • Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb shows Funny Animal traits, wears a fedora, and goes by the moniker, Agent P around Doofenshmirtz and other humans, but masquerades a "normal" pet who lays around the house doing nothing around Phineas, Ferb, Candace, and their friends and family.
  • Unlike in Barnyard and early episodes of Back at the Barnyard, the later episodes of the same show has the animals' Masquerade grow more lenient to the point that their status leans toward the Openly Sapient Pet varaint.
  • The entire premise of Teacher's Pet. Spot is an ordinary housedog, but puts on clothes and goes to school posing as a boy.
    • Every pet can talk and do human things, but typically keep this a secret from their human owners, with the exception of Spot and Leonard's other pets who basically let their human owner in on the secret.
  • Monkey from Dexter's Laboratory.
  • Michigan J. Frog from the Looney Tunes cartoon, "One Froggy Evening," sings and dances when his owner is around, but just acts like a normal frog when any other human is around.
  • Kat from Kid VS Kat is a hyperintelligent cat-like alien. He can't speak in the conventional sense, but he is very anthropomorphized in his actions. However, around everyone except Coop, Dennis and later Fiona, he seems like just an ordinary house cat.
  • Fuu the dog from American Dragon: Jake Long. As a magical animal, he is usually is forced to act like a normal dog around humans in the mundane world. However, other than Jake who happens to be a human/dragon hybrid, Fuu is able to socialize around Jake's friends, Trixie and Spud, who are aware of the existence of the magical world.
  • The same trope is used in The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, with their pet pug, who has a Scottish accent.
  • Dukey from Johnny Test is always a straight dog around Johnny's parents so his sisters don't get in trouble. The Men in Black, Mr Black and Mr White, as well as their boss the General, know he's a talking dog. When he's out where other people will see him, he's usually wearing a shirt saying 'Not A Dog', and described as 'the kid with the hair disorder'.

Openly Sapient Pets:

Anime and Manga
  • Outlaw Star has Melfina the android. She starts out as more of a crew pet and accessory and slowly grows into a regular part of the crew.
  • Team Rocket's Meowth from Pokémon

  • In The Incal, Deepo, a so-called "concrete" seagull and pet of the protagonist John DiFool, gains the ability to talk thanks to an encounter with the mystical Incal artifact.
  • Raul the Cat of American Flagg! is a Talking Animal and quite intelligent, despite being an ordinary housecat in every other way.

  • Gremlins has the Mogwai which, when maltreated, become the even more intelligent and dangerous Gremlins.

  • In the Star Wars book The Approaching Storm, a Gwurran named Tooqi actually asks to become Barriss Offee's pet. His logic is that pets get free food, protection from predators and the affection of their masters, in exchange for a relatively minor amount of work. Certainly a better deal than living wild in a cave with the rest of his tribe.
  • In Heinlein's The Star Beast, Lummox is undoubtedly sapient ... as is John Thomas Stuart. The former escapes most people's notice due to language difficulties.

Newspaper Comics
  • Beetle Bailey: Sgt. Snorkle's dog Otto wears a uniform and walks around on two legs.
  • Dilbert's dog Dogbert is openly intelligent. After the first few years of the strip this morphed into him being Dilbert's roommate more than a pet.
  • Get Fuzzy

Video Games
  • In Furcadia Wyrmes keep furres as pets. Also, furres are not afraid to keep each other as pets. Generally the furres in question do not mind, either because they are well-treated or brainwashed.
  • In Dwarf Fortress it's trivial to do a Game Mod to turn any sentient species into one which can also be a pet, just by adding the [PET] tag to the right place in the right plain-text file. Of course, since the game designer never intended sentient species to be pets, this can lead to strange results, like a sentient pet being elected mayor.
  • In The Elder Scrolls the Daedric Prince Clavicus Vile keep a Daedra named Barbas as a pet. Barbas is frank about his relationship with his master when interacting with others, but usually takes the form of a dog.
  • In Touhou 11: Subterranean Animism, many of Satori Komeji's pets have lived so long under her care that they have become sapient youkai, who are still loyal to her out of appreciation and friendship.

Web Comics
  • The comic Housepets! is about a group of Funny Animal housepets who act more like children to their human families rather than pets.
  • Keidran from TwoKinds, by some of the nicer humans (of course, they're also seen as a source of cheap labour by more dickish humans). The Keidran are officially slaves.
  • Frequent in Homestuck. Both Jade Harley and Jane Crocker have godlike First Guardians as pets, which clearly display malign but ultimately protective sapience. Both Terezi and Tavros have clearly sapient lusii; Tavros even plays bizarre alien card games with his.
  • In Drowtales, there is a race of cat people with the approximate size and intelligence level as children. Normally, they're kept as slaves, but Ariel's is more like a pet. Also, humans are considered animals by drow, and one has been referred to as a pet.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, when Ice Kreelies are first introduced they're said to be smart enough to play chess, and are sold as pets and delicacies. Later it turns out that they become fully sapient if infected with a certain bacterium in adolescence, and their government is the biggest supplier of pet and meat Kreelies.

Western Animation
  • Wonder Dog in the 1973/74 season of Super Friends. A Non-Human Sidekick and Speech-Impaired Animal, he was as intelligent as a normal human being even though he couldn't talk
  • Family Guy: Peter's dog Brian Griffin.
  • Garfield is this in The Garfield Show. The other cats are generally assumed to be this as well.
  • The Wonder Twins from Superfriends had a monkey named Gleep.
  • Scooby-Doo is a prime example.
  • So is Astro from The Jetsons
  • Magilla Gorilla lives in a pet store; every once in a while he's bought to be a pet, but he's returned by the end of the short.
  • Peanuts: While Snoopy doesn't talk, the entire cast knows that he is sapient. For instance, he is somehow able to communicate to Charlie Brown that he is pretending to be the World War I flying ace. He has even acted as an attorney for Peppermint Patty (unsuccessfully, but still impressive for a dog.)
  • Sylvester, Tweety, and Hector from Looney Tunes are openly sapient around humans (including Granny) even though they are treated like pets.
    • Quite a few pets from Looney Tunes are like this too, including the cat and mouse in "Pizzicato Pussycat" and Marc Anthony the bulldog.
  • The titular cat and mouse duo of Tom and Jerry is this toward people, despite their lack of ability to talk.
  • In "Wags to Riches" and its remake "Millionaire Droopy," Spike the Bulldog (no, not the Tom and Jerry one) and Droopy the Bassett Hound are portrayed as this.
  • The titular dog of Martha Speaks
  • The cats of Slacker Cats
  • Malloy the bear cub from Brickleberry
  • The titular dog in Courage the Cowardly Dog

Examples That Show More Than One Variant:

  • James H. Schmitz short story "Novice". Telzey Amberdon's pet crest cat Tick-Tock changes from a "Masquerades as a Normal Pet Around All Humans" (including Telzey) to "Masquerades as a Normal Pet Around Some Humans" during the course of the story, as her sapience (and those of the other crest cats) is revealed to Telzey and several few high-placed human officials.

Video Games
  • In RuneScape, you can talk to a summoned familiar. Unless you have ten or more Summoning levels than your familiar requires, the familiar will just make noises back. If you do have ten levels more than your familiar, you can understand what it's saying, and carry on conversations proving the familiars are sapient. In some quests, the Summoning skill is used for speaking with non-familiar animals: in "A Clockwork Syringe" you establish a formal alliance with a wild seagull (Baron von Hattenkrapper), and in "A Void Dance" you discuss the options with a dying Void Leech. This raises the possibility that all Runescape creatures are sapient, but only sufficiently skilled Summoners can understand them.

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has different levels of sapience among pets.
    • Dragon cub Spike is sort of like an adopted son or little brother to Twilight Sparkle, but in some ways he is much like a pet; Twilight Sparkle's friends know him, he very much enjoys the attention he gets from them, and like a loyal dog he often works for them and tries to protect them, and he can be very dangerous when his behaviour gets out of control. Yet Spike also talks, and has some ideas that, had they been listened to, the ponies could have avoided a lot of trouble.
    • Angel Bunny doesn't talk, but clearly understands what Fluttershy is saying to him, and often tries to communicate his response in non-verbal ways.
    • This example has a lot of Furry Confusion going for it. Some of the non-pony animals, like sheep, are shown to be able to talk but for whatever reason, are treated like animals. The pets of the ponies, (like Angel Bunny, Opal for Rarity, and Owlicious for Twilight Sparkle) act more like their real life counterparts (except Angel, as stated, often pantomimes his wishes). It's hard to say what is and isn't sentient in that universe, considering Rule of Funny comes into play so often.
  • Gromit the dog from Wallace & Gromit wavers between Openly Sapient Pet and Sapient Pets That Masquerade as Normal Pets Around Some Humans.
  • Roddy from Flushed Away (also by Aardman Animations).
  • The farm animals from Rock-A-Doodle.

Alternative Title(s): Pet Funny Animal