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Free-Range Pets

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Pets are allowed to go anywhere they please.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on Sep 12th 2013 at 8:01:46 AM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on Feb 26th 2018 at 2:03:58 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

In real life pets generally don't stray far from their home. In fiction this is ignored, whether it be in order to anthropomorphise the animals or simply create more plots. Occasionally the Diabolical Dog Catcher is referenced, or there are worries about being taken to a shelter, but other than that no one seems to bat an eye at a dog walking around town.

This is most often seen with cats, as many people in real life do let their cats run free and in comparison it's illegal for dogs to run around without an owner in many places, but appears in other species too. Stray animals are obviously exempt from this trope.

See Free-Range Children for a human equivalent. Contrast with Stray Animal Story, where the animal characters are allowed free-range because they have no owners.


Examples

Anime and Manga

  • In Whisper of the Heart, there's a cat who walks around the neighbourhood that is somewhere between this and stray, as various people give it food and even names.
  • Luna from Sailor Moon regularly goes out investigating by herself and even set up a secret base in the Game Center. It's justified as Luna is an alien cat who understands humans.
  • Esper Kitten is apparently Ichimatsu's pet according to an article on Osomatsu-san but is treated like a stray more than an outside cat.

Film — Animation

  • Several of the cats in Felidae have owners but they're as good as feral. They spend most of the film on their own with little note of their owners.
  • This is played with on the Wallace & Gromit films. Although Gromit doesn't do much wandering around, he is more or less an equal partner with Wallace, his nominal owner, and is, for all intents and purposes, a human character who happens to be a dog. The one time he's on a leash is on The Wrong Trousers, where Wallace buys the titular Techno-Trousers specifically to take Gromit for "walkies". Gromit unleashes himself and lets the Trousers drag around a toy dog while he goes to the playground.
  • The dogs in Balto spend a lot of time walking around on their own, especially odd for large dogs in such an open area. It could be Deliberate Values Dissonance due to the films taking place in the early 1900s.

Film — Live Action

  • The Bumpus Hounds from A Christmas Story are allowed to roam where they please by their owners, including into the houses of their neighbors, regardless of permission.

Jokes

  • A woman is invited to a very refined lady's house for tea. When she arrives, a very large, very dirty dog goes through the door with her, and proceeds to run around the house upsetting furniture. The two women drink their tea, but the conversation is strained due to the dog's antics. Finally they finish, and as she leaves the house's owner says "And next time, do leave your dog behind, won't you?" "My dog? I've never seen him in my life!"

Literature

  • In the All American Pups series, the titular pups frequently run around out of their yards, playing and visiting.
  • In Warrior Cats, all "kittypets" - cats owned by humans - seem to be free to explore wherever they want, aside from a few rare occasions when a character gets shut inside. This opens up plenty of opportunities for them to join the Clans in the forest (like the main character of the first series does), cause conflict, and act as supporting characters. A cat in the manga A Cat In Need named Violet worried about her housefolk while out, but she's an exception more than a rule.
  • Bailey from A Dog's Purpose is allowed to wander around town when his family isn't home. As Bear/Buddy, he still does this, however he's treated with more caution. People eventually begin to notice the sickly, collar-less dog who plays in the dog park unsupervised and call animal rescue. This is likely due to Society Marches On. As Bailey he lived in the 1950s/1960s while Buddy was alive during the 2000s/2010s.

Newspaper Comics

  • Get Fuzzy inverts this. Even though Bucky and Satchel live relatively free-range lives, because they both have different levels of childlike mentalities, Rob doesn't usually allow them out by themselves. In fact, this was deconstructed when both Bucky and Satchel had week-long arcs detailing all of the reasons why they're not allowed to go out by themselves; in Bucky's case, it's because he'd cause all kinds trouble (harassing humans and dogs, sitting on people's food, trying to hit on female cats, etc.) while for Satchel it's mostly because he'd probably get himself into some kind of trouble (wandering around sniffing telephone poles, eating piles of poop, forgetting where he lives, etc.)
  • In Peanuts Snoopy zigzags this. Originally he wasn't even Charlie Brown's dog, he was just a neighborhood dog that hung out with the cast. Meanwhile he goes and has adventures of his own. In Snoopy, Come Home he visits many different places, on his own, all of which have a "NO DOGS ALLOWED" sign.
  • Garfield: Garfield is just as likely to be seen wandering around the neighborhood as he is lazing around at home. He's even been seen eating with Jon at the local diner, sitting at the counter like a person with no response from the waitress. (One early arc does have Jon disguising Garfield as his son to get at a restaurant.)

Video Games

  • Jake from Dog's Life is technically owned by someone (though he seems to think poorly of the humans nearby), but is a farm dog who is given pretty free range. The plot has him running away and going cross country to save his crush. The only thing standing in his way is the Diabolical Dog Catcher that appears a few times to try and get him.
  • The Sims 3 Pets allows your dogs, cats, and even horses to just wander wherever they want to all by themselves just like the human Sims.

Web Comics

  • The Civilized Animals pets in Housepets! are allowed to roam Babylon Gardens on their own. When they go somewhere like a mall, they are are required to wear leashes however are allowed to wander about freely if they hold onto their own leash.

Western Animation

  • The protagonist of Binka is a cat who has three owners. He's constantly going between them without issue.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
    • Generally averted. Despite the pets being much more sentient than real-life animals and acting in many respects like humans, whenever any of them want to leave the pet shop, Blythe or Mrs. Twombly has to take them, sometimes on leash. Anytime they do leave the pet shop without an accompanying human, it's without anyone's expressed permission, and usually an emergency (e.g. they're chasing a pet who left the pet shop by accident).
    • Downplayed in "Sweet (Truck) Ride", where Blythe allows the pets to roam free in the Sweet Delights truck without her direct supervision.
  • The dogs from Clifford the Big Red Dog are allowed to run around town without issue, including the extremely giant titular character who realistically is a safety hazard.
  • Tom from Tom and Jerry is very frequently depicted as a pet cat, yet he is allowed to go wherever he pleases
  • In Hey Arnold! every pet inside Arnold's building is free to go as they please as a giant pack.

Feedback: 22 replies

Sep 12th 2013 at 8:38:37 AM

An old joke: A woman is invited to a very refined lady's house for tea. When she arrives, a very large, very dirty dog goes through the door with her, and proceeds to run around the house upsetting furniture. The two women drink their tea, but the conversation is strained due to the dog's antics. Finally they finish, and as she leaves the house's owner says "And next time, do leave your dog behind, won't you?" "My dog? I've never seen him in my life!"

Sep 13th 2013 at 7:33:49 PM

  • The protagonist of Binka is a cat who has three owners. He's constantly going between them without issue.

Sep 24th 2014 at 12:03:32 PM

Am I supposed to know what game "Jake" is from?

Sep 24th 2014 at 12:18:44 PM

The title might work better as Pets Running Free, as Pets Running Wild sounds like a trope about when a pet goes berserk and destroys their owner's stuff.

Sep 24th 2014 at 12:53:47 PM

  • In Whisper Of The Heart, there's a cat who walks around the neighbourhood that is somewhere between this and stray, as various people give it food and even names.

Sep 24th 2014 at 1:44:48 PM

In the All American Pups series, the titular pups frequently run around out of their yards, playing and visiting.

Sep 24th 2014 at 2:08:36 PM

Newspaper Comics

  • Get Fuzzy inverts this. Even though Bucky and Satchel live relatively free-range lives, because they both have different levels of childlike mentalities, Rob doesn't usually allow them out by themselves. In fact, this was deconstructed when both Bucky and Satchel had week-long arcs detailing all of the reasons why they're not allowed to go out by themselves; in Bucky's case, it's because he'd cause all kinds trouble (harassing humans and dogs, sitting on people's food, trying to hit on female cats, etc.) while for Satchel it's mostly because he'd probably get himself into some kind of trouble (wandering around sniffing telephone poles, eating piles of poop, forgetting where he lives, etc.)

Sep 24th 2014 at 2:13:33 PM

Question: Is this one type of Trope In Aggregate? After all, the draft does use the words "generally" and "often" in their first paragraph.

Sep 25th 2014 at 5:57:20 AM

Free Range Pets?

  • Examples section formatting
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
    • Blue Linked media section title(s).
    • Namespaced work name(s).
    • Added Dogs Life to the Jake example.
    • Alphabetized media sections.
    • Added a space between asterisks and the first word following them.

Sep 25th 2014 at 10:03:21 AM

In Peanuts Snoopy zigzags this. Originally he wasn't even Charlie Brown's dog, he was just a neighborhood dog that hung out with the cast. Meanwhile he goes and has adventures of his own. In Snoopy Come Home he visits many different places, on his own, all of which have a "NO DOGS ALLOWED" sign.

Sep 27th 2014 at 11:25:42 AM

Generally averted in Littlest Pet Shop 2012. Despite the pets being much more sentient than real-life animals and acting in many respects like humans, whenever any of them want to leave the pet shop, Blythe or Mrs. Twombly has to take them, sometimes on leash. Anytime they do leave the pet shop without an accompanying human, it's without anyone's expressed permission, and usually an emergency (e.g. they're chasing a pet who left the pet shop by accident).

  • Downplayed in "Sweet (Truck) Ride", where Blythe allows the pets to roam free in the Sweet Delights truck without her direct supervision.

Just a question: would you consider that example as downplaying?

Sep 27th 2014 at 11:34:54 AM

  • The Sims 3 Pets allows your dogs, cats, and even horses to just wander wherever they want to all by themselves just like the human Sims.

Sep 27th 2014 at 11:41:32 AM

  • Luna from Sailor Moon regularly goes out investigating by herself and even set up a secret base in the Game Center.

Oct 15th 2014 at 4:36:16 PM

The titular character and his friends in Clifford The Big Red Dog go about their adventures without their owners much of the time.

Also, I second Free-Range Pets to go along with Free Range Children.

Apr 21st 2016 at 9:49:51 PM

  • In Hey Arnold every pet inside Arnold's building is free to go as they please as a giant pack.

Apr 21st 2016 at 10:09:04 PM

The Bumpus Hounds from A Christmas Story are allowed to roam where they please by their owners, including into the houses of their neighbors, regardless of permission.

May 4th 2016 at 6:54:32 AM

  • This is played with on the Wallace And Gromit films. Although Gromit doesn't do much wandering around, he is more or less an equal partner with Wallace, his nominal owner, and is, for all intents and purposes, a human character who happens to be a dog. The one time he's on a leash is on The Wrong Trousers, where Wallace buys the titular Techno-Trousers specifically to take Gromit for "walkies". Gromit unleashes himself and lets the Trousers drag around a toy dog while he goes to the playground.
  • Garfield is just as likely to be seen wandering around the neighborhood as he is lazing around at home. He's even been seen eating with Jon at the local diner, sitting at the counter like a person with no response from the waitress. (One early arc does have Jon disguising Garfield as his son to get at a restaurant.)

Jun 27th 2016 at 11:46:03 AM

The Luna example from Sailor Moon should have a justification since she an alien cat and is actually intelligent.

May 20th 2017 at 3:44:07 PM

What's the difference of this and the Stray Animal Fiction draft?

May 20th 2017 at 3:58:02 PM

These aren't strays and they're not necessarily the protagonists.

May 23rd 2017 at 10:22:28 PM

Literature:

  • In Warrior Cats, all "kittypets" - cats owned by humans - seem to be free to explore wherever they want, aside from a few rare occasions when a character gets shut inside. This opens up plenty of opportunities for them to join the Clans in the forest (like the main character of the first series does), cause conflict, and act as supporting characters.

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