Pets. Pets, animals kept for pleasure and companionship, usually domesticated and selectively bred for coexistence with human beings, as is the case especially with dogs, cats, and horses. Nearly any animal, however, can be a pet: mammals such as hamsters and skunks; birds such as canaries and falcons; tropical fish; amphibians such as frogs and salamanders; and reptiles, including harmless snakes and turtles. Even insects, such as crickets, are sometimes kept as pets. Endangered species, however, should not be considered potential pets. Besides their value as loved and loving companions, pets serve utilitarian purposes, protecting homes and property, destroying vermin, and providing means of transportation. They may also serve as emotional outlets for the elderly or the childless. Recently, the benefit of pet-facilitated psychotherapy has been demonstrated. In addition, pets may be kept for their beauty or rarity or, in the case of birds, because of their songs. Today, pets are generally purchased from breeders, pet shops, or animal shelters rather than individually captured and tamed. The advantage of buying directly from an animal breeder is that the prospective owner can obtain information about a pet's genetic history. Pet shops, however, offer a variety of animals to choose from, and because they do not depend on the sale of one particular species or breed, may offer more candid advice on the desirability of one type over another to fulfill specific needs. Private or civic shelters for abandoned animals or animals given up for adoption are also good places for acquiring pets of all descriptions free or for a nominal charge. In any case, the healthiest-looking specimen should be sought, and a guarantee of good health for at least a 2-week period should be requested. A veterinarian should examine the pet before purchase if possible or immediately thereafter. When a pet is introduced into the home, it should be allowed time and space to adjust to its surroundings. A regular schedule of feeding and watering, cleaning, brushing, and exercise should be established, with specific areas provided for these routines. Pet owners should bring their newly acquired animals to a veterinarian, who will examine them for congenital and contagious diseases and for parasites and will initiate a routine vaccination and examination schedule. The veterinarian will also make recommendations for proper care and feeding. Domesticated animals may occasionally become destructive or a nuisance. In such cases, on the advice of the veterinarian, qualified animal trainers may be consulted. When circumstances no longer allow an owner to keep a pet, it should be placed in a good home, or with a responsible animal-rescue organization. The animal can also be left with one of the various humane organizations, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or shelters, where it may be given up for adoption or, if necessary, quickly and mercifully destroyed. Contributed By: Alfred Grossman Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.