For as long as humans have been domesticating animals, they’ve been keeping certain types of them as companions.
Archaeological evidence indicates Humans have had pet dogs for at least 12,000 years. Ancient Greeks and Romans openly grieved over the loss of their pets. The emergence of the middle class in 19th century Britain transformed pets from a decorative symbol of status into an integral part of the family. In the 20th and 21st century, pet rocks, virtual keychain pets, and robotic pets have become budget-, space-, and time-friendly companions for many.
A ubiquitous part of the human experience to date, pet ownership is also well represented in the Trek future, with Vulcans, Klingons, Betazoids, Cardassians, and other species known to keep pets.
Some of the most familiar pets to Trek fans include Livingston, the lionfish that lived in Jean-Luc Picard’s ready room aboard the Enterprise-D; Porthos, Jonathan Archer’s pet beagle; and Spot, Data’s notoriously untrainable cat.
While these three have received by far the most screen time, pet appearances and references can be found all over Trek.
When Liam Bilby faced certain death at the hands of the Orion Syndicate, Miles O’Brien promised to care for his cat Chester. Even after four years in the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway was comforted to learn that her former fiancé had found homes for her Irish Setter Mollie’s entire litter of puppies.
Lwaxana Troi held her pet vine in such esteem that she brought it to her daughter’s engagement banquet. And a newlywed General Martok lost his beloved pet targ to the call of Kahless when his bride “accidentally” left the front door open as she moved into his house.
While Trek pets are often portrayed as treasured companions, the connotation is not always so benign. Q once derogatorily referred to Neelix as Janeway’s “pet Talaxian,” turning the word into a slur. Jadzia Dax, upon seeing a palukoo for the first time, guessed that Bajoran resistance fighters kept them as pets and sang songs about them around the campfire.
Given the desperate circumstances of the Cardassian occupation, Kira Nerys perhaps unsurprisingly shattered Dax’s misconception by correcting, “No, we used to eat them.”
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