“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanuel Kant

Guess what I’m talking about today. 🙂 Brilliant guess. Animals, more specifically, pets as found in m/m books. (Thanks to the lovely Kris for letting me expand on her theme.) Some people love books that have animals in them (or on them), others fear that it will end badly for the pet and dislike reading about animals who are hurt or die. I don’t either. No Marley and Me for this reader. Generally I’ve found the pets in m/m to be well cared for and from time to time, quite as important a character as our heroes. I’m going to talk a bit about pet traits and some of the pets I’ve come across that have stuck in my mind and other readers can add outstanding  pet characters they fondly remember.

Cats – I have two cats, so I guess am considered a cat person, although I like dogs as well. Why are cats good pets? They don’t need to be taken out for walks, you can leave them alone for the weekend while you run off to have hot smexin’ with that new love interest, they don’t need a lot of attention (great for workaholics) and they are relatively small so don’t eat/cost much. However, if you like lots of adoration and admiration you’re out of luck unless they’re in the mood, you may find your furniture in shreds and they refuse to come when called. Some books that I’ve read where cats have played a role are The One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile and Madeline Urban. I was so glad that in their revised version they included Mabel because I was desperately worried about the poor thing left alone for weeks. In Amy Lane’s If I Must, Manky Bastard and her successor Manky Bitch played a great role in bringing the guys together and in ML Rhodes’ Under My Skin you have Hennessy and Morgan, because naming your cats after booze should be mandatory.

Dogs – Big (or small) lovable dogs. They love you always, they come when you call, they make you feel like a king (or queen) and they can protect you from the bad guys. On the other hand, they have to be taken out for “walks”, aka poop trips, no matter the weather, they can be loud and annoying, and depending on their size, the food budget can be that of a small third world country. My colleague and his partner just got a Great Dane puppy. I suggested he invest in a shovel and buy a truck to haul the food. Some literary pups that I’ve enjoyed were Ponchito in James Buchanan’s The Good Thief. I loved that little ‘rat dog’. 😉 Also in Man and Wolf by Kate Roman, Bella and Mutty were major characters in the story. And who can forget PITA in J.L. Langley’s Without Reservations or the adorable Winston in Lynn Lorenz’s Edward Unconditionally?

Rodentia – I am also a bunny mommy, but I’ve never had a hamster, ferret, guinea pig, etc. On the upside they are quiet and they don’t take up a lot of space or eat much. Of course they aren’t always that friendly and cuddly. A rat is less-likely to curl up on the couch and watch Glee with you than a dog. Although I’m sure some are cuddlier than others. The only pet in this category I can think of is Karma in Tory Temple’s Keeping Karma. No guys with bunnies. 🙁 We’ll have to work on that.

Birds – I’ve always thought I’d like an orange canary. Not sure why. Birds are pretty easy to care for. Most don’t require much; food, a clean cage and a little attention. Granted, they don’t give much either unless you have a large parrot who likes to be around people. Small birds just kind of sit there and look at you while chirping, sometimes chirping too much. I can’t think of any books that featured a bird as a pet either. Anyone?

Reptiles – This is sooooo not my thing. Reptiles and I do not get along. shudder But I know people love their cold-blooded babies. They are also quiet, lizards don’t wake you up barking in the middle of the night, and I think they are pretty easy to care for; feed them and keep them clean and warm and they’re happy. Of course I wouldn’t call one cuddly either. They also tend to freak people out (aka me), so inviting guests over can be an interesting proposition. In Keeping Karma there was also a snake as a pet but I can’t think of any other stories where it was a pet and not something to run away from.

Horses – Of course EVERY cowboy story has horses, but sometimes they are just tools of the trade and sometimes they are characters on their own. Horses are useful and they can be very friendly and loyal, however, they do need a fair bit of space and are expensive. Not something most city folk own, much to my daughter’s dismay). Keeping a horse in the garage is just not practical. Two horses that I remember were in J.L. Langley’s The Tin Star. Jamie’s horse George and Ethan’s thieving horse Spot added greatly to the book. Also in Sutcliffe Cove by Ariel Tachna and Madeleine Urban, Gerald’s relationship with Misfit was an important feature.

I did not include any of the stories from the anthologies Animal Attractions I and Animal Attractions II, but they are great for stories that include some of the more unusual pets I mentioned. I only referred to stand-alone stories above. So share with us your opinion about pets in your romance and some of your favourite stories that have pets.


  • John Simpson’s ‘Condor’ books have a Terrier named Mary. TA Chase’s ‘No Going Home’ has Les’s horse. Which, of course, I’ve forgotten the name.

  • Mistreatment is not good. I’ve read a few books where the pets have been ill and it’s brought a vet and another character together and I’m okay with that because pets do get injured or ill, but not someone purposely hurting them.

    Our cats have no clue what a closed door is and if they happen across one they do that standing pawing thing until you open. Makes me nuts but they are spoiled now. 🙂

    • In Kiernan Kelly’s Caffeine For a Marine, F.B. has 4 Dobies named F*ck, Me, Hard, and Now. I thought that was pretty hilarious. In Sean Michael’s Catching A Second Wind, his character Dakota St. Ama is a vet and he has all kinds of critters (dogs, cats, sugar gliders, maybe more but I can’t recall). There was a really sad part in this one because one of Dakota’s dogs escaped his yard and got into poison and died. This was a really good book though. Ooh! And we can’t forget Rig’s Grimmy, Dick’s Lucy, or Mutt and Trouble (who are definitely NOT Rock’s dogs). I cried almost as hard when Grimmy died (he was old) as I did when Rig’s momma did. And in Julia Talbot’s Thatcher books, I love Jed Thatcher’s pack of mutts. In B.A. Tortuga’s Mud On The Tires, both characters have dogs (a cow-dog and a sheltie) that have great personalities of their own. And in Tropical Depression, Galen’s momma gives Shane a basset puppy he names Goober. If I’m not mistaken, Galen gets a Rottie or some other big dog at some point too. There’s a book with a cat that’s a sorcerer’s familiar that dies of cancer (the cat, not the sorcerer), and the vet and the sorcerer become a couple. Can’t remember what the name of the book was, but it was pretty good. P.D. Singer’s On Call: Afternoon is about a doctor and a vet who meet because the doctor steps on his cat’s leg and takes him to the vet who has several animals of his own.

      • Great list countrygirl. I seem to remember reading someone now with someone who had a sugar glider but I don’t think it was that book. I’m sure I’d remember that name. Hmmm. I hate now that I have that niggle in my brain and it will drive me crazy until I figure it out. 🙂

      • CoountrygirlXXOO

        I definitely remember the 4 Dobes in Caffeine for a Marine because I had a Dobe and I thought – why couldn’t I have given him a better name like the ones in the story? 🙂

  • I like a pet in a story as long as things don’t get too Disneyfied. A character I’m supposed to like in the book getting overly cute about a pet will put me off them. The “pet as baby substitute” is one I especially don’t like. A tiny helpless kitten that the otherwise hard ass hero is nice to can show us his softer side, but I’ll be unconvinced if he starts cooing over it too much. As long as he feeds it, maybe gives it a toy (and is too embarassed to look it in the eye when he does) and and lets it sleep on him if it wants, then I’m happy.

    • (and is too embarassed to look it in the eye when he does)

      LOL That’s a good way of describing it. I don’t mind cutesy sometimes but it has to fit the character. The guy you described would make you wonder what the heck is up with him.

  • LOL, I have a black cat named Oscar (I was reading Wilde when I got him…) and my husband calls him my shadow. I can’t go anywhere in the house without him following me, and you should hear him when my husband and I want some alone time…

    I love animals in stories, and I detest when they are mistreated. It turns me off the book, in fact I stopped reading the 7th Harry Potter book right when Hedwig the owl was killed…


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