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Free-Range Pets

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Candace: Seriously, a platypus crosses the Atlantic Ocean, finds you on the vast continent of Africa and no one feels this is worthy of a longer discussion?
Phineas: It's been a long day, Candace, go to sleep.
Phineas and Ferb, "Where's Perry: Part 2"

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.

There is some Truth in Television to this. Many people let their cats roam unsupervised. Outside cats often stray far from home. In more rural areas it's also not that uncommon for people to let their dogs roam.

There is Values Dissonance to this trope and whether it should be portrayed negatively/positively or not. In some areas, even dogs are allowed to walk around, but in others it's disapproved of, if not outright illegal. In North America most animal welfare groups and cat experts believe that cats should exclusively be inside cats; that it's both abusive and bad for the environment if cats are left outside unattended. In the UK, however, the opposite is true and it's abusive to keep cats inside constantly. Australia has a middle ground: letting your cats outside is a good thing, as long as it's daylight (because cats, being an invasive species and predator, are a danger to the environment at night).

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.


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    Anime & 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.
  • According to an article on Osomatsu-san, Esper Kitten is apparently Ichimatsu's pet. However, he is treated more like a stray than an outside cat.
  • A cat in the Warriors manga A Cat In Need named Violet worried about her housefolk while out, but she's an exception more than a rule. Most other "kittypets" don't mention their owners and walk around wherever they please.
  • The dogs in Massugu ni Ikou, ranging from Hanako the big Kishu to Sebastian the tiny Yorkie, often escape from their yards and are allowed to walk around town unleashed. People freak out when they enter buildings, but no one (even their owners) seems to otherwise care much about a group of dogs walking around.
  • All of the cats in Chi's Sweet Home are like this, including Chi herself. This is despite the fact that she lives in an apartment complex that doesn't allow pets, and her owners have to keep her hidden.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino normally roam around outside unrestrained, with Penny often being negligent about keeping her dog on a leash.

    Films — Animation 
  • Several of the cats in Felidae have owners but they're as good as stray. 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.
  • In Oliver & Company, no one in the '80s apparently thinks much about a pack of dogs (including a giant Great Dane) strutting down a New York City street. There are a lot of dog extras who don't seem to be strays yet are unsupervised.

    Films — 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.

  • 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!"

  • 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.
  • 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 they call animal rescue. This is likely due to society changing, as Bailey he lived in the 1950s/1960s, while Buddy was alive during the 2000s/2010s.
  • Due to taking place in ruralness Colorado, many dogs in The Good Dog run around unsupervised. McKinley can also open doors himself and exit his house when he wants.
  • The inciting incident of Pet Sematary is that the Creed family allows Church the cat to wander wherever he wants, Louis Creed even thinking of cats as the gangsters of the animal world. Unfortunately for Church—and everyone else—the Creeds happen to have moved into a new house that's directly on a highway, and when the obvious happens, Louis gets talked into resurrecting him. Which is, to put it mildly, a very bad idea.

    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.)
  • In Mutts, Mooch and Earl, along with their animal friends, are allowed to roam around the neighborhood (or around the world), have adventures, eat human food, etc. without their owners knowing. However, their owners are aware of their absence at times, but they don't seem to be too upset.

    Video Games 
  • Jake from Dog's Life is technically owned by someone (though he seems to think poorly of his owners), but is a farm dog who is given a lot of 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Becca’s cat, Benatar, in Melody. She once climbs into the protagonist's apartment (on Becca's romantic path only) while Melody is there, leading to some questions.


    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: The dalmatians are often seen leaving the farm on their own to go to various places around town, such as the mall, the movie theater, or the fair.
  • Similarly the dalmatians of 101 Dalmatian Street have sole reign of the house where they all live, freely traveling to the park and ordering their own food and items online, a trio of pups running a career as actresses to finance the household. Their owner is stated outside the series to live on a private island. Two episodes treat getting a human alternatively like getting a pet or inviting an adoption that'll separate the family.
  • 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.
    • Oddly, the pet daycamp room has a pet door leading out onto the sidewalk.
  • 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.
  • Steven Universe: Lion, who, as the name suggests, is an actual lion (albeit with supernatural powers due to having been resurrected by Rose Quartz). In Steven’s own words, he's sort of like a pet, but does his own thing most of the time.
  • Per the page quote, Perry the Platypus of Phineas and Ferb is the titular brothers' family pet. This doesn't stop him—or any of his coworkers, the majority of whom are also domestic animals—from being a secret agent. The Flynns think he's a normal platypus, but he does have to be gone for large chunks of time to foil his nemesis Dr. Doofenschmirtz, which they almost never notice.

    Real Life 
  • Very common with housecats, but virtually unheard of with other pets (at least the ones that don't double as farm animals). While inside cats are common, especially in modern day, it's equally, if not even more common, to see housecats wander around freely, especially in suburban or rural areas. Free-range cats are also more accepted because they keep rat populations down.