So you want to have a story about pet Nearly Normal Animals or Partially Civilized Animals. You want them to go on adventures and run around without much issue. How can you do this if they're a pet? After all, pets have owners to come home to, if they're even allowed to leave their houses.
Simple: make them feral or stray animals (domesticated animals without human owners). note
They don't need elaborate excuses to leave their owners, it won't seem weird how you rarely mention their owner, and they can do whatever they please, unless the Diabolical Dog Catcher or some other antagonistic human comes along. You can even give feral animals their own societies, religions, and beliefs created due to their lack of human supervision.
This trope is a general staple of Xenofiction. It can be seen as the animal equivalent of Conveniently an Orphan. Sometimes the protagonist will go From Stray to Pet at the end, though it's even more common for the main characters to start as pets who became strays (instead of being born feral).
- Free Collars Kingdom is about the adventures of a group of stray cats who've been either abandoned or abused by their owners to the point that they ran away.
- Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin starts out about a boy and his dog, Gin. Less than ten episodes into the series Gin runs off to be with a pack of feral dogs and the series' focus turns to him.
- The manga Nyankees is about clashes between gangs of street cats who, in an inversion of Furry Lens, are often drawn as human delinquents.
- The 1977 anime short The Rose Flower and Joe (Bara no Hana to Joe) is about a homeless dog named "Joe" who falls in love with a rose flower. Joe has to protect the rose from a mean spirited crown. The short is based on a children's story by Takashi Yanase and made by Sanrio.
- Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure is about Lady's and Tramp's only son Scamp, who hates being a pet and wants to be a stray. He escapes his home, befriends a female puppy named Angel with the opposite views from him, and hangs out with a group of strays. Ultimately this is deconstructed he decides being a pet is best and goes back home.
- Leafie, a Hen into the Wild is about a factory farm hen who manages to escape. Leafie tries to home with the farmers more well-kept chickens however they refuse to have a hen like her around. Leafie ends up living by the local lake and raises a duckling. Deconstructed as by the end Leafie is noticeably sick and aging, even taking into accord chicken lifespans. She's not suited for the wild and likely would have died soon even without her Heroic Sacrifice.
- There are some implications that the goats in One Stormy Night are domestic goats, such as Mei owning a scarf and the fact that they live near an abandoned barn.
- Chirin from Ringing Bell (known as Chirin no Suzu in its native Japan) is a farm lamb that runs off to get revenge for his mother after a wolf kills her. Ultimately he adapts well to the wild, as he has to be trained by the very wolf he desires to get his revenge on. He matures into a predatory form of ram and when he tries to go back to his old farm after killing the wolf, they are unable to accept him back due to being shocked by what he has become, both appearance and nature-wise.
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is about a feral stallion who is captured by humans. They try to tame him but ultimately fail to. In the end Spirit returns to the wild along with his mate, who was presumably born into captivity.
- The Underdog centers around a dog who is abandoned by his owner and is then taken in by a team of stray dogs seeking a place without humans, especially because they are constantly on the run from a sadistic Egomaniac Hunter.
- The Benji series stars the titular stray dog.
- The film Its A Dogs Life is the life story of a Bull Terrier told from his point of view. He goes from the streets of the Bowery to the lap of luxury.
- Wanted—A Master is a comic short film about a stray dog that needs to find an owner so it can escape a city roundup of stray dogs.
- The Call of the Wild is probably the Ur-Example. It is told from the perspective of a dog who becomes a sled dog during the Yukon gold rush, and begins to act increasingly feral as he fights off the other dogs. In the end, his last owner is killed and he joins a wolf pack.
- Catwings is about a stray city cat who gives birth to kittens who have wings.
- Doglands by Tim Willocks is about a half-Greyhound puppy named Furgul born into a camp for racing Greyhounds. He runs away after the abusive owner tries to kill him. Furgul ends up living on his own from thereon. He gets taken in by humans temporarily but leaves less than a year later because he can't handle life as a pet. He wants to find the legendary "doglands"—a place where dogs roam free—and save the rest of the racing Greyhounds back home.
- A Dog's Life is about a dog named Squirrel who was born in a shed in New York. It goes into detail about her life as a feral dog from puppyhood to seniority. She's ultimately taken in by an elderly woman and renamed "Addie". Unlike most examples, the story doesn't sugarcoat the life of a feral dog. Squirrel and the other dogs she meets are presented as suffering from malnutrition and frequent illness. Squirrel is constantly moving around and she gets into several fights with other starving dogs.
- Subverted and deconstructed in A Dog's Purpose. The protagonist is born a stray who is taken in by humans at three months old. He goes through several reincarnations throughout the book. The book shows how unfortunate a dog's life can be as a stray. The protagonist decides that a dog's purpose in life is to be around humans and that a dog that lives without them will inevitably end up broken down, defeated, and starved.
- The Dogs of the Drowned City series is about a German Shepherd named Shep. After a hurricane forces his human family to evacuate, Shep is forced to leave his home and venture out on his own. He ends up creating a pack with other dogs that he meets.
- Erin Hunter:
- Survivor Dogs, which is written by writers using Erin Hunter's Pen Name, is about feral dogs. A "Lone Dog" stray named Lucky who was staying at a pound manages to escape after an earthquake. He soon learns that all humans have exacuated the area and left their pets behind. Lucky ultimately forms a pack with a group of ex-"Leashed Dogs".
- Warrior Cats centers around entire societies of feral cats living in the wild and their interactions with each other/struggles against nature; the general consensus among the cats themselves is that Humans Are Cthulhu and should be avoided whenever possible. "Kittypets" in Warriors are looked down upon and some cats even consider them inferior. The series is considered the Spiritual Successor to Tailchaser's Song.
- The Good Dog by Avi is about a Malamute named McKinley who meets a wolf named Lupin who is trying to persuade dogs to leave their owners and join her pack.
- In Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria, a group of cats are entrusting with guarding several mystical books from evil hands. It stars a pet cat named Marco who becomes homeless and comes across an elderly cat named Cicero who is a current Guardian. Cicero decides to take Marco as his trainee so that he can become the next protector of The Book of Motion. Marco spends the rest of the book living as a library cat—he has no owner and goes as he pleases, but he stays at the library during the day and is a welcome addition.
- Men at Arms: One of the plotlines is a short, flatulent poodle preaching how awesome wolves are to dogs who've run away from home.
- The Silver Brumby is about the life of a feral horse named Thowra in the Australian wilderness.
- The Stick Dog series follows the eponymous stray stick figure dog and his friends on their quests to find and eat human food.
(from the first book) For as long as he can remember, this big pipe has been Stick Dog's home. And for as long as he can remember; he's always been alone. He's never lived with any other dogs. He's certainly never had a human family that he can remember.
- Stray by A.N. Wilson is a dark tale about a cat named Pufftail. It follows his life from a kitten to a grandfather. It shows Pufftail at different stages, from the various owners he's had to his time, being tested in a labratory, to his time on the streets.
- Tailchaser's Song takes place from the POV of cats who have their own religion and culture. They see "m'an" (also known as the "Big Ones") as generally unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, though many cats live with humans and see them as their servants. The main lead is a tom named Fritti Tailchaser. Tailchaser lives with humans but is a feral cat who takes advantage of human kindness, rather than their pet cat. Tailchaser and several other cats go on a journey to find out the cause of mysterious disappearances in their forest.
- The Tygrine Cat is about a stray cat named Mati who meets a group of street cats who live near a marketplace. Mati doesn't realize it at first but he's the last of an ancient, magical breed of cat who the Big Bad, a cat named Mithios, wants to kill in order to steal the spirits of all cats.
- Varjak Paw is about a pampered pet kitten who is forced to venture outside in order to save his family. Varjak must learn to adapt to living on the streets. He ends up befriending several strays and also gets into trouble with a local gang of cats.
- The Wild Road is about a pet kitten named Tag who begins having prophetic dreams. He leaves his home to go on a journey to fulfill the prophecies.
- Played with in Windrusher. Tony (or "Windrusher" as other animals call him) is a cat who is abandoned by his humans. The plot revolves around him trying to get back to them.
- Downplayed in Cats. It's a musical about a tribe of cats, but most of the cats have owners.
- Barking Island is a pretty grim story about how the government of Constantinople got rid of 60,000 stray dogs in 1910, all the more grim because it actually happened.
- The cartoon Foofur was about a group of stray animals (six dogs and a cat) living in the house previously owned by Foofur's owner.
- In his old cartoons, Pluto would often be seen as either Mickey Mouse's pet or as a stray, but he would always have his collar on.
- Top Cat is an animated show starring a gang of Funny Animal stray cats.