Skepticism

AI: Impractical Pets

As most of you know by now, Tim3P0 and I just got home from three weeks on the road.  Many long hours in the car tend to yield a little bit of interesting conversation, and a whole lot of unfettered silliness.  At one point on our way home, somewhere in Colorado, my lovely husband spotted a baby coyote, and decided that, practicality be damned, he wanted one as a pet.  This led to a ridiculous debate on whether or not it was a good idea to attempt to tame a non domestic species, in which I finally gave in and went to sleep.

If you could have any animal as a pet, and have it magically be domesticated and friendly, what would you choose?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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82 Comments

  1. The brilliant Dolphin. We could sit for hours in the hottub and discuss oceanography plate tectonics, the documentary movie The Cove, concepts of evolution from the point of view of an aquatic mammal, and whether or not a shark, with it’s simple brain, though it functions superbly as an eating machine, is smarter than Jenny McCarthy or not.

  2. A cheetah. They’re so awesome and they’re the biggest cats that purr and they’re about to go extinct because evolution overspecialized them to the point where they’re all essentially clones of each other and they don’t have enough genetic diversity to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

  3. I always thought it would be cool to own a big cat, like a lion or a tiger.

    On the other hand, safety issues a side, even if it is 100% domesticated and 100% friendly (except maybe to the Jehova’s Witnesses) Just feeding a cat would be a tremendous effort once the JWs got smart and stopped coming around. I don’t know that I’d be up to the task. Also, I don’t know that it could survive Wisconsin winters. Having an indoor litterbox that suited a lion would be…… frightening.

    Maybe if I lived somewhere more remote and it could catch it’s own food and do it’s business away from the house.

    Otherwise, maybe a bird… an eagle… Some of them could easily take down a Jehova’s Witness if trained right….

  4. If I can have it magically domesticated and housebroken, can I also have it magically brought back from extinction? If so, I’ll go for a T-Rex. I’ll feed it with the flesh of my enemies.

    If not, I’m a lot less certain. Apes are awesome but I think it might be cruel to keep them as pets. Maybe a rainbow-farting unicorn or something. Or a komodo dragon but I fear they might be a bit smelly but they don’t shed hair everywhere.

  5. Actually I DO have a non-domesticated animal companion. I can hardly call my Umbrella Cockatoo a pet. He talks to me.
    The reason cockatoos and parrots in general not are considered domesticated is because they are only one or two generations away from their wild parents. This is as opposed to dogs or cats who are hundreds of geerations away from their wild ancestors.

  6. I’m gonna vote for large cat, although I think a lion or tiger would be too big. A cat about the size of a German Shephard would be nice, though.

    Bobcat or Lynx, maybe.

    I’ve always been fond of jaguarundis, with their round ears and flat little heads, but they’re not that much bigger than domestic cats, and are endangered in parts of their range, so probably not a good idea.

    A smallish puma, on the other hand, would be awesome. I’ve heard some stories about tamed (not domesticated) pumas that would melt your heart. (Imagine 200 pounds of “making biscuits”.)

    I was at the Cincinnati Zoo a couple of years ago, and I’m not fond of zoos in general, but they had a great variety of small jungle cats and fisher cats that had me fascinated, while my companions were all, “C’mon! Let’s go!”

    Obviously, my next cat will have to be a Bengal or a Maine Coon, and I will love him and feed him and pet him, even though he won’t be the pet puma or bobcat of my dreams.

  7. @Brian’s A Wild Downer: Oh, man, Brian. Do you have any idea how not likely that is? Talk about a wild downer.

    My favorite 19th c. skeptic, Ambrose Bierce, wrote at least two short stories that feature our friend Puma concolor:

    The Boarded Window

    The Eyes of the Panther

    Needless to say, he was not a fan of the species.

    (NB: I’m running Firefox with AdBlock Plus. For all I know those links are going to be filled with ads and spawn popups and whatnot. Still, free literature, right?)

  8. My wife chose a lion. I chose another lion. ‘Cause having two lions hanging out in your living room would be bad-ass. However, feeding them would probably be a nightmare. Our two cats eat a little over a half pound of cat food a day. What would the lions eat? (besides the cats. And the rabbits. And the mice. And the neighborhood dogs).

  9. A cheetah, but it would have to get along with the two small felines that deign to live with me. Or a wolf, but it would have to learn not to take apart the furniture to see what’s inside the cushions. Or a puma, see same conditions as cheetah.

    One of the small felines has taken to eating cardboard when she can find it. I’m beginning to think she has a vitamin deficiency. Or maybe cardboard just tastes good.

  10. Great White Shark, though there is simply no way to have a tank large enough on my budget to keep one. :( Other than that, probably a wolf. (Yeah, I’m lame, but wolves are awesome)

    @Rei Malebario: All of a sudden I am thinking of the scene from “Meet the Robinsons” with the T- Rex.

    “I have a big head and little arms. I’m just not sure how well this plan was thought through.”

    Not a great movie, but that scene was hilarious.

  11. Having worked with wild animals (including in a zoo) I just wouldn’t feel right without saying it is a terrible idea to keep them as pets.

    But since there is magic involved…

    My first choice would be a Clouded Leopard. Not only are they gorgeous, they also have playful personalities, are excellent climbers, and have enormous teeth. There is also still a lot not known about them so I could just study them all day.

    As a side note, I love pumas, but they scare the crap out of me. I worked a little bit with an adult pair that were hand raised after their mother was killed. They made it clear they wanted to tear me (and everyone else) apart. Scary.

    @Akusai: Cheetahs are awesome! However, while cheetahs are overspecialized, the reason they have such low genetic diversity is likely because of population bottlenecks that occurred at the end of the last ice age and due to overhunting.

  12. @DominEditrix: is the cat eating the cardboard or just chewing on it? one of ours loves boxes for this reason. i think she just likes the way it feels on her teeth. any box left out in the open at our house ends up with a ring of cat teeth marks all around the flaps :D

  13. @davew: Reminds me not to be so mammal-centric.

    I would love a raven, or some other corvid. If it’s a girl, Lenore. If it’s a boy, Edgar.

    Ravens are clever as all get out; right up there with apes and octopuses and dolphins.

  14. A gorilla. Not a chimp because they would tear everything up. But a nice Gorilla around the house would be so cool. And nobody, I mean nobody, would give you any trouble. Imagine walking down the street with this big silverback walking along beside you.

  15. Corey Hart circa 1985. He was so moody and dreamy. Well, only if I were 13 again.

    Today I’d probably pick a Ring Tailed Lemur. I love their little faces and hopping gait. I enjoy watching footage of them in documentaries, and they were my favourite part of my Primatology class in university.

  16. @carr2d2: I think she’s actually eating it, as I’m not finding bits of chewed cardboard around the house. For all I know, she stashes it under the bed. I’m going to ask my step-son-the-vet about it. The poor thing is already so neurotic [she’s a rescue kitten with abandonment issues – I haven’t been able to pee in peace since she arrived] that I don’t want to try to dissuade her unless it’s dangerous.

  17. I want a hippopotamus!
    They scare the poo outta me as they are, what with being arguably the most dangerous animal in Africa and big enough to kill me completely by accident even without their quick tempers, but if one were tamed and I had enough land to support it, it’d be awesome and I’d ride it everywhere and I’d be that weird chick that rides a hippo to work, spawning laws that are incomprehensible to anyone outside the area who doesn’t know the context, such as “It is illegal to park your hippo within 50 feet of a bus stop”

  18. That’s easy: a raven, but not just any raven.

    I was visiting the Tower of London once when I found my path blocked by a raven. Knowing that they can bite your fingers off, I figured that I’d just stand still until the bird got bored (yes, ravens do get bored. They’re much too smart for their station in life) and left.

    So, I’m standing there and I hear a voice say, “Rodney, what do you think your doing?” I look over my shoulder and saw the a Yeoman warder (it turned out that he was the assistant to the Raven Master – somewhere a Goth is using that name).

    OK, I was about as confused as I could get, so I asked the Yeoman warder how he knew my name and he looked at me like I had just stepped off the short, yellow bus and said, “The RAVEN’S name is Rodney.”

    With that Rodney the Raven cocked his head, looked at the two of us as if to say “Small world” and wandered off.

  19. I have seriously always loved crocodiles. There is something so awesome about an animal that is impossible to actually domesticate, that would eat me immediately. So scary, so perfect. The ultimate killing machine as a pet is indeed an impossible dream! I’m a vegetarian that loves vicious carnivores, go figure.

  20. Lion, definitely. It would be a great way to deal with door-to-door missionaries.

    “Hi, I’m Elder Larry from the Church of Jesu–”
    “Hold that thought. FLUFFY! Here, girl!”
    “Oh, you have a–OH MY GOD!!!”
    “What? You guys are always saying you’re True Christians, we’re just testing that theory the old-fashioned way.”
    “SWEET HEAVENLY FATHER, MAKE IT STOP!!!”
    “Fluffy, leave the book. That can’t be good for you.”

  21. a Snow Leopard that stays about the 30-35 lb size. I had the opportunity to pet a leopard once, and discovered that warm-weather big cats have scruffy coarse fur. so a cat from a very very cold environment must have incredibly thick soft fluffy fur. and they’re adorable. but it would have to be smaller than they normally get… we get injured enough from our housecats playing and making biscuits.

  22. @elianara: thank you! you have made my quest to have a pet baby coyote that much easier.

    the other pet i would love to have, a Mandrill named Pete. though i’d have to teach him to not eat guests’ faces off when he gets into one of those moods.

  23. @Montsecor: Since there was magic involved anyway, I’m kind of surprised it took this long for someone to come up a mythical animal. Though, I’d say a dragon, because, well, why wouldn’t I want a giant, flying, fire breathing reptile?

    However, if we have to stick with real animals, I think I’d have to say some sort of pterodactyl. Or a dodo, just for the novelty factor.

    If I’m forced to pick a real and non-extinct animal, maybe a nice little crocodile or something.

  24. Hmm… a Penthouse Petâ„¢ would talk. So that’s out.

    Non-extinct: Probably a black bear, because a grizzly just wouldn’t fit in the house.

    Extinct: Any feathered, two footed dinosaur between 10 and 50 pounds. As long as it didn’t eat my dog.

    Extinct Mammal: Pigmy Mammoth.

    Semi-Aquatic: If I had a space for them, otters. Maybe I could set up a tank with circulating water in the back yard.

  25. I would love a pack of highly trained flying squirrels. This would being include potty trained, able to fetch objects and transport them to where I like, and able to do my tedious work tasks on the computer without downloading nasty viruses.

    Maybe a few lemurs. I love how they hop around.

    I have always been quite fond of T-rex too. I had a plastic one as a child that I carried around and talked too. Would be nice to have a flesh and blood T-rex that could handle traffic issues, pesky new agers, and other such nuisances for me.

  26. Okay. I’ve thought about it some more and I’ve got to go with, since there’s magic involved, a Mapusaurus roseae. Bigger than a T-Rex and carnivorous. So I’d take it with me to Same Sex marriage rallies and let it eat Fred Phelps and his people.
    An it’s name shall me Mr. Whuffkins

  27. Can’t believe I’m the first one to say this, but I would choose penguins! Preferrably, of the Adele or Rock-Hopper variety.

    If I couldn’t have penguins, then a tiger or otters (sea or river type). All three love the water as I do, so we could frolick in the waves and then go down the water slide.

    Then again, a black bear or a kangaroo would be really cool, too.

    Aw, I can’t make up my mind!

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