I routinely feed a group of wild magpies near my work and am able to hand feed some of them to the point that my workmates joke about them as my "work pets".

Similarly there are people who will feed other native or wild animals, such as ducks or squirrels, to a point beyond normal human-wild animal interactions.

Would questions about these pseudo-pets be on-topic?

Such questions that might be contentious would include:

  • What should I feed wild animal X?
  • Can I safely hand-feed X?

I'm asking this question not because I necessarily want these questions, but more to help identify the community's position on them. I think there may be some value in some questions, especially as the difference between an exotic and wild animal is how it was raised. But it's just as important to clearly define what's off-topic, as well as what's on-topic.

However, having a solid community stance on these types of questions, we can defer to will help when more users start using the site.

6 Answers 6


Copying my answer from the area51 discussion of What animals should we classify as pets?, as I think it is relevant:

I believe this can be simply addressed by "a pet is any animal kept in or around a household that is dependant upon that household for food, shelter, and care."

Yes, this definition includes livestock, but is that really a problem? What, if any, is the reason for excluding questions on livestock from this site before it even launches?

What is the practical difference between "how do I fix problem x with one of my goats?" and "I love my goat, Norman, very much! How do I fix problem x with Norman?"

I don't think I'd bring the concept of ownership into the equation, because what if someone wants to ask about someone else's pets? Is it off-topic to ask a question about my neighbor's dogs? What about asking for advice in picking out pets? What about domesticating wild or feral animals? My mother, for example, has rescued several feral cats; should they be off-topic until after she takes them into her home?

To address the specific question of the magpies near work, I'd say that no, they don't qualify as on-topic here.

  • 1
    I think people don't want to include livestock because we don't want to become farming.stackexchange.com. But, on the other hand, I would have no problem with questions about behaviour training applied to livestock, for example, so I wouldn't outright rule them off-topic either.
    – ThomasH
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 9:56
  • @ThomasH I'm hoping we can strike a balance between allowing some relevant questions on livestock, without turning into a resource primarily for farmers/breeders. It shouldn't be too difficult to maintain our focus while being a bit more inclusive.
    – Beofett
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 12:16

Not to get all pedantic, but the dictionary says that "any domesticated or tamed animal that is kept as a companion and cared for affectionately" is considered a pet, and I think that is pretty good definition that might work for this site, with caveats for feral animals and the like that become pets in a companion and care sense.

These birds are neat, certainly, but since you only feed them, and then only occasionally, and don't see to any of their other care, I think they are pets in only a tangential joking way, and I don't feel like questions of this type really match the tone and intent of this site. It is entirely possible the community won't agree, but I feel like this is a good way to determine what animals to ask about.

There will always be exceptions, such as the magpies that Skippy mentions, but I think that also considering the level of personal interaction with the animal is another consideration.

  • 1
    By all means, be pedantic! I just figured its an issue that may come up, and having a community agreed to position would be helpful.
    – user35
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 0:32
  • There are scenarios where I'd actively disagree with that definition, at least in regards to our scope. For example, feral pets that live in home (such as in this recent question of mine.
    – Beofett
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 1:28
  • @beofett I forgot about feral animals, which is kinda sad considering that is where most of my mother's cars have come from. I will try to edit to make it more encompassing.
    – user53
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 19:39

I would also exclude domesticated animals where the questions deal with the exploitation for commercial or other purposes. As an example, a question on how to get rabbits to the highest weight at 6 to 8 weeks of age implies non-pet centered motivation. Assuming there is no forth coming clarification bringing it into scope it should be closed and deleted. While questions about healthy steps to increase or maintain weight in rabbits (i.e. How can I help my adult rabbit gain weight? ) is in scope.

The type of animal is not important, it is the relationship that makes an animal a pet. Pretty much every domesticated animal (except maybe cats) have and (depending on culture) do fill dual roles as both companion (pet) and food source.

Related post on sister site Questions about wildlife support on The Great Outdoors


I understand we do not want an endless open door, but at the same time, we cannot afford to turn too many people away. I would vote for loosening the bounds a bit. In that people can have relationships with animals, that they do not own, but treat as pets. Perhaps not full time pets, but in many aspects.

I believe that any animal or group of animals that a human being has an interactive personal relationship with could be considered a pet.

For instance, I know of a man who would feed the local ducks daily at the same time, the ducks, although wild, would gather and wait for him. They would allow him to get close and pet them. Not other people. (smart ducks)

I agree livestock is out, that is why I suggested animals, that were typically used for livestock, that can be, occasionally kept as pets. Are questions about horses and/or farm pets on topic?

I lived in a house where we had generations of magpies coming into our garden. After a while the babies would let me hand feed them, while the parents (babies from the previous years) watched. I consider this to be valid as a question on pets, especially considering, I prefer to see the birds in the wild rather than in a cage.


I feel questions about town birds are OK.

There is no Animal Stack Exchange or Birds Stack Exchange.

Wouldn't it be kind of strange if people could post questions about tarantulas, but not about the magpies or the ducks in the local park?

Also, the people who care about the birds in their neighbourhood, are likely to care about other animals too, and have useful knowledge. When's the last time you heard someone say "I only care about the well-being of the ducks in the pond, not about the caged birds of my friend"? So let's welcome people with questions and answers about town birds into our community!

Besides, where else on Stack Exchange could you post questions about town birds? The alternative is to make a separate Stack Exchange for "Semi-domesticated animals", which would draw attention away from here.

I guess what I'm saying is, let's give people with questions/answers about semi-domesticated animals a place here. It helps them, it helps the birds, and it's good for us as a community.


Seems marginal. I think your example would be more on topic than questions about duck feeding at the local park. At the Royal Botanical Gardens here in Ontario, we can easily hand feed the local chickadee and chipmunk population, but I wouldn't call them pets.


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