Follow TV Tropes


Pets Versus Strays

Go To

I should think that my sister is very comfortable and very genteel. Probably if she met me she would turn up her nose with the utmost disgust and rush indoors to her spinster-mistress with squeals of indignation. "Squeak-squeak", she might say, "I very nearly came face to face with an alley-cat." So you did, my darling, so you did. For an "alley-cat" is what I am and proud of it — as you shall hear. Not for me the comfortable parlour where my sister probably, at this very moment, snoozes while her mistress watches a boring programme on the electrical picture box.

In a world of Talking Animals, one commonplace issue amongst them is whether animals should live amongst humans or not. On one side are pets who tend to think stray animals are unmannered, disgusting, and/or pity cases who don't have the luxury of living amongst humans. On the other side, stray animals will often mock pets for being overly pampered playthings who are owned by humans (who might themselves be either looked down upon or feared by strays, especially if they were abandoned or abused in their past).

Depending on how it's written this trope can have parallels of classism and racism. This may also sometimes have an allusion towards humans with the same problems, i.e those poor ones who live in the streets vs those born into a stable (if not rich) society.

A Pet into the Wild will likely face mockery and discrimination from strays who find out that he is, or used to be, a pet.

Note that tropes are flexible and that this doesn't just apply to pet animals. Any animal kept in captivity counts.

A subtrope of Animal Jingoism and Fantastic Racism. Also comparable to Cat/Dog Dichotomy and Dogs Hate Squirrels. See also From Stray to Pet and Abandoned Pet in a Box, for ways to get a character experienced with both sides of life.


    open/close all folders 

    Film — Animation 
  • In The Aristocats, alley cat Thomas and pampered pet Duchess have a conflicting points of view on being housepets. Thomas believes that humans don't truly care for their pets and doesn't see the issue in cats running off, while Duchess is very devoted to her owner and can't imagine leaving her. In the end Thomas is taken in by Duchess' owner.
  • Bolt: Mittens is a stray cat who acts like that makes her superior to the pet dog Bolt. She was a housecat who was abandoned by her owners.
  • In Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure the Junkyard Dogs (except Angel) look down on pets and feel it's best to live on your own. Tramp and Lady's son Scamp tires of being a pet and runs off, but he soon finds out being a stray dog has many downsides and ends up returning home.
  • The Movie of Little Bear milks the series' Furry Confusion to the max when Little Bear befriends a wild bear named Cub. Cub lives in the woods and eats raw meat. He's astonished by Little Bear's tame life of living in a house and hanging out with humans.
  • The Dingo Pictures version of Pocahontas features Wabuu the raccoon teasing Princess the pet cat for being unable to hunt her own food.
  • Rio 2: A major conflict of the movie is between Blu, who was raised as a pet by a human owner as shown in the first movie, and Jewel's family of wild blue macaws, especially her father Eduardo who resents Blu for this reason. No matter what Blu does to try and ingratiate himself into the rest of the flock, his unfamiliarity with their customs as wild animals only makes things worse and worse, eventually resulting in him having a falling out with Jewel herself as well. It's only when Blu rallies the jungle fauna to fend off a group of illegal loggers, with the help of his former owner, that the wild macaws finally come around and accept him as one of their own.
  • The Secret Life of Pets: The Flushed Pets are a gang of runaway and abandoned pets who hate humans and tame pets. Duke and Max pretend to be pets who killed their owners in order to impress the Flushed Pets. When the Flushed Pets discover that Duke and Max lied and still live with their owner they become furious and attack the pair.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Homeward Bound:
    • In Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, much of the tension between Sassy, Shadow and Chance stems from the fact that Sassy and Shadow have been lifelong family pets, whereas Chance was a stray for years.
    • Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco: While Riley's band of strays are generally friendly, albeit lost on why any animal would want to have anything to do with humans, there are other strays that keep hounding the group and being a nuisance until they manage to make it out of the downtown area.

  • In Discworld novels featuring Gaspode, this happens inside his head. He is proud of being a stray, except when he lies and says he has an owner but is allowed his independence. Some part of him dreams of this being true, but when it actually happens he lasts less than an hour before running away. Another part dreams of being a wolf, but he knows he wouldn't survive outside the city. According to the books, all dogs are like this, but Gaspode's tragedy is being intelligent enough to understand it.
  • Erin Hunter:
    • In Warriors Clan cats look down upon almost any cat not in the four Clans. Pet cats, or "kittypets" as they're called, are especially looked down upon by a large number of cats as fat, lazy, and inferior. The first lead, Firestar, has to deal with a lot of teasing for having been born a pet. Even his nephew Cloudtail, who was only a 1-month old kitten when he joined ThunderClan and didn't even know he was born a pet until he was five months old, suffered discrimination from even adults. On the opposite side, most kittypets are either scared of warriors or at the very least pity them for living in the forest.
    • Leashed Dogs in Survivors are often looked down upon by wolves, Lone Dogs, and Wild Dogs as "soft". Some dogs, like Alpha, openly detest Leashed Dogs to the point where they think they're better off dead. Lucky was born a pet but became a stray after he escaped an abusive owner. As a result of his past, he doesn't like longpaws much and doesn't get why a dog would want to wear a collar and be pet. In contrast, his sister Bella doesn't get why Lucky prefers being on his own and thinks that dogs should be with people.
    • Luna from Seekers is a black bear cub who was raised in a zoo. She escapes into the wild to give another character a message from their mother, but has to deal with wild bears pitying her and judging her for being raised by humans and not being in touch with her instincts.
  • One of LaFontaine's fables has a starving wolf ask a well-fed guard dog what he does. The dog responds that his duties aren't that difficult and the food delicious, but for the wolf, the fact that the dog is chained up, unable to go wherever he wants whenever he wants is a dealbreaker.
  • Pufftail from Stray (1987) was born a pet but has spent much of his life on the streets. He prefers the streets to the demeaning, lazy life of being a pet. He enjoys his independence and isn't too fond of humans. In his minds, cats should be independent. He tells his grandson, who lives as a pet with his mother, "If this is civilization, you can have it. Why your mother submits to it I do not know."
  • Cats in Tailchaser's Song see humans as their servants. Many live amongst them but this is a point of contention amongst non-pets, especially because humans tend to neuter their cats (which turns them fat, lazy, and can make it so a male can be mistaken for a female). Near the end, after finally finding Hushpad, Tailchaser temporarily lives with humans. He, however, finds it suffocating and boring, so he runs off and that is that.
  • Varjak's family (minus Varjak himself) in Varjak Paw look down upon stray cats for not being purebred Mesopotamian Blues like them.

  • The Vocaloid song, “Ah, It’s A Wonderful Cat Life!” depicts Len and Gumi as a pair of cats, with Len being a stray and Gumi being a pet. Len tries to convince Gumi to ditch her owner and run away with him so she can enjoy a life where she gets to be free and do whatever she wants, to which Gumi argues she’d rather deal with baths than risk getting hit by a car. Neither of them end up changing their lifestyle, but Gumi does request that Len come visit her again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pugmire is a Humanity's Wake setting populated by Uplifted dogs. Dogs who live outside the walls of "civilized" Pugmire, whether by exile or choice, call themselves "Strays", while the Pugmire nobles call them "pariahs".

    Video Games 
  • Discussed in Pokémon: the reason why wild Pokémon attack the player and their team is that wild Pokémon view the trainer as special and are jealous of your Pokémon for the devotion you show them.

  • Housepets!: Which group he fits among is Zach Arbelt's (Rabbit) initial conundrum after being adopted from a pet store. At home, among his new brothers, he feels like a third wheel to their friendship and longs for somewhere he can be more accepted. So, he runs with a stray raccoon off into the woods, where he finds good company among the non-domesticated population. Just when things look to be going well for them, he stumbles into their Animal Religion and accidentally deifies himself. Once again, he's prevented from feeling like an equal to the people around him, only now he's on top of the pyramid instead of at the bottom. In other words, the pets don't care about him and the strays can't even see him as a person.

    Western Animation 
  • The "Oms" in Fantastic Planet are treasured as pets to coddle during meditation, but are systematically exterminated every year in the wild to keep their numbers mild. What are Oms, you ask? Simple: Human beings.
  • In the Figaro short Bath Day, Minnie Mouse's pampered kitten Figaro gets into a one-sided "fight" with a scruffy alley cat.
  • One of the recurring villains in Foofur is Pepe, the pet chihuahua of Mrs. Escrow who is always trying to exposed the gang of stray dogs and a cat who live in her unsold house. Another character who is a pet is Burt, a high class dog and Foofur's rival for his Love Interest Dolly.
  • The titular character of the Disney short Lorenzo is a pet Persian who mocks strays from the comfort of his window.