In Western society, pets have never been more popular. Many homes are graced with the presence of a cat or a dog—or a hamster, turtle, goldfish, chinchilla, newt, parakeet, or gecko. Everything from albino pythons to hissing cockroaches are caged and kept as pets. The Bible does not really address the issue of keeping pets. The only possible example of a pet owner is the poor man in Nathan’s parable, a man who “had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him” (2 Samuel 12:3). We can draw some conclusions about pets, however, based on what the Bible says on other topics.
Psalm 147:9 tells us that God is concerned for all His creation, including the animals He created: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.” In Psalm 104:21, we see that “the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God”; it is implied that God feeds them. Also, in Luke 12:6 Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”
If God cares for the animals, so should we. In fact, it is God’s care for animals that most fully explains our desire to have pets. God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:27), and we have inherited the part of God’s nature that cares for the animals. At the very beginning, God blessed the people He had made and commanded them, “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).
When a child maintains an aquarium, for example, he or she is reflecting the nature of God, to a certain extent. An aquarium is creation in microcosm. The child creates the environment for the fish to live in, maintains the habitat, and feeds and cares for the creatures in the tank. The fish depend fully on the child to meet their needs, much like all of creation depends on God. Keeping a pet, then, is a weighty responsibility—it is modeling the Creator and exercising dominion over a portion of creation.
Many parents introduce a pet into their home to teach their children responsibility and other positive character qualities. Such life lessons are definitely biblical. Pets also provide companionship, amusement, and unconditional love. It’s why pets are taken to hospitals and nursing homes to interact with people in need. Any animal that helps us show love more freely is a good thing.
Those who have pets should love them, provide for them, and care for their needs. Loving an animal is not wrong, as long as we love people more. The care we show an animal entrusted to us is a gauge of personal integrity: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10).