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).
- 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.
- 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.
- A significant amount of Pokémon fanworks about the Pokemon themselves revolve around wild Pokemon, usually in a forest environment.
- There are some implications that the goats in Arashi no Yoru ni are domestic goats, such as Mei owning a scarf and the fact that they live near an abandoned barn.
- Chirin from Ringing Bell is a farm lamb that runs off to get revenge for his mother after a wolf kills her.
- 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. Somewhat 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.
- 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 he decides being a pet is best and goes back home.
- 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 film It's a Dog's 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.
- The Benji series stars the titular stray dog.
- 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.
- 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.
- Survivor Dogs, which is written by writers using Erin Hunter's (the writers of Warrior Cats) 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Guardian Cats And The Lost Books Of Alexandria, a group of cats are enclosed with protecting a library of mystical books from evil hands. It stars a pet cat named Marco who becomes homeless and comes across the descendants of the original cats. An elderly cat named Cicero decides to take Marco as his trainee so that he can become the next protector of an important book.
- 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.
- 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.
- Catwings is about a stray city cat who gives birth to kittens who have wings.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 straved.
- Top Cat is an animated show starring a gang of Funny Animal stray cats.
- 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.
- 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.