How To Pet ANY Animal: The Ultimate Guide
And Why You Probably Shouldn’t
Did you know you can pet any animal?
I mean, some animals you can only pet once because it’s usually fatal, but technically you can befriend and pet any living creature on the planet. This handy guide will help you accomplish just that so you can live your ultimate Disney Princess fantasy - but first, we gotta do the disclaimer part.
Befriending wild animals and petting them can be incredibly dangerous for all parties involved. You need to think very carefully about the decision and use your common sense to guide you. This guide will detail the risks involved as best as possible, but please be sensible. If you pet some mad shit and die, don’t come crying to me with a basket full of blame. This guide isn’t just for wild animals though, it will even work with unfamiliar pets. So if you like walking home drunk at 4AM making friends with random street cats then I got ya covered.
Risks to Humans
- Most animals have teeth, claws, beaks, or tails that can cause considerable damage.
- Wild animals scare easily and so are more likely to attack in self-defence.
- Some animals are venomous, toxic, aggressive, or just straight-up deadly.
- Some wild animals carry diseases.
- Befriending wild animals may take away their fear of humans, which means they may start pestering other humans to behave the same way.
Risks to Animals
- Some animals may become stressed around humans.
- Many animals may not feel comfortable with your big hands all up in their business.
- If you befriend groups of animals, there is a chance that they can pass diseases between themselves.
- Wild animals may lose their fear of humans and some people are straight-up dickheads who will kill or hurt animals.
If you’re unsure of the difference between venomous, poisonous, and toxic then listen up because this is really important shit:
Venomous - If it bites you, you die.
Poisonous - If you bite it, you die.
Toxic - If you touch it, you die.
Don't dick around and skip the research stage because lots of animals can be any or all of the above, including but not limited to, snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, mammals, arachnids, and fish. If you're unsure if your chosen creature is dangerous then your best bet is to just leave it the fuck alone.
Step One: Research
First, you need to know what species of animal you’re going to make friends with so that you can begin to prepare yourself. You may not have decided yet or you may just want to know a little of everything in case you should ever need it. If this is the case, you’ll want to search up all of your local wildlife species online. From here you’ll be able to judge whether or not it’s a good idea to make friends with an animal.
It would be a good idea to look through these lists and get an idea of each entry so that if you’re ever out and about and you see a cute critter, you’ll be able to answer your own question when you start squealing ‘OMG can I pet it?’
Now you’ll probably have a good idea of what you’d like to make friends with, your next step is to learn more about them.
How do they communicate?
Most animals speak their own language that changes from species to species, so you need to become a multi-lingual bitch if you’re planning a future as Doctor Dolittle. Sometimes it’s specific noises and other times is body language created through purposeful actions. Have you ever seen that meme about Duolingo? The one where the owl comes to get you if you don’t complete the lessons? Well, if you skip this part then you’re likely to have a real owl coming for you. No joke.
Most people will already be familiar with basic animal body language: dogs wag their tails when they're happy and cats wag theirs when they're mad. But it actually goes much deeper than that, for example, did you know that cats actually wag their whole tail when they’re content? If they're getting annoyed they just flick the end of their tail and if they’re really pissed off they beat their tail on the floor like their personal war drum.
It’s these things that you need to find out about your chosen animals, specifically: what do they look like when they’re super mad or about to attack? This will help you gauge how the animal is feeling and help you make a quick getaway if you suddenly have to run like Joe Fuck. Also, how do they look and act when they’re super happy? This is important because you will need to learn how to mimic this behaviour. When you come in contact with the animal, you want to be able to communicate to it that you are super fucking psyched in a language it can understand.
This step is absolutely crucial because you need to learn how to mimic the sounds and actions for when you finally meet your new buddy. You will feel like a muppet but stick with the learning because it’s essential knowledge. Some behaviours liked by one species may be seen as a direct threat to others, I.e if you smile at a random person they’ll be like ‘Aww, that person is happy...I bet they secretly farted’ but if you did that to a chimpanzee you wouldn’t even have time to arrange your funeral.
And yes, before you ask I am fluent in several animal languages but I’m most accomplished at speaking Rat.
What do they eat?
Now, this part is not just about finding good bribes for the fuzzy mafia, it’s crucial to the animal's safety. Never feed an animal if you are not 100% certain about what they can and cannot eat. We all know that dogs can’t eat chocolate, but every animal has a naughty list for food and sometimes we try to do the right thing and feed an animal only for it to get sick and die because they can’t eat that food.
It happens a lot with pet horses, people see them in the field and want to pet them and feed them. It recently happened in the area that I live and the well-meaning people gave the horse some chicken feed that was lying around. The horse got very poorly and the owner was obviously gutted but the people who did it probably thought they were just being kind. Some people give milk to hedgehogs not knowing that’ll it’ll most likely make them shit themselves to death.
So find out some nice, healthy treats that you’re chosen friends would appreciate. No, not pizza or sweets or beer. They’re human treats, put them back. I’m talking fresh fruit and veggies, grains, nuts, seeds and stuff that looks like a lottery win for the critters. You’ll need to pick a few things that are healthy for them and that they might not be getting in the wild. I say a few because they might be picky and because you want to have some top tier prizes for when you introduce yourself to the animal kingdom.
Can I deal with this commitment?
Whether you intend to feed and observe or feed and befriend, you need to be aware of the consequences and the commitment you’re about to make. If you start feeding wild animals regularly you cannot just stop. The animals may come to rely on you as a main source of food and if you just stop they could be massively impacted. There’s also all the other risks I laid out at the beginning of this article, so please review them.
What are the possible consequences of befriending an animal?
Always expect the unexpected because befriending wild animals can have consequences that you might not expect. Animals can become emboldened and start attacking other people, like this lady who raised a crow army that attacked her neighbours. They may break into houses to steal food and there are lots of stories featuring monkeys, tigers, bears, rats and lots of other would-be burglars doing just that. The animal may get spooked and kill you, a’la Steve Irwin and the stingray (RIP).
Do they like to be touched and how do they like to be touched?
Yes, this article is long - don’t get touchy about it! Or maybe do, but be very careful.
Hands are great but they can also look scary to a sweet little fluff dumpling, so don’t pet things unless they want to be petted or you will get big ouchies. Some animals like strokes, some like gentle scratches or tickles whilst others prefer a delicate, brief boop. Lots of creatures have a no-touching rule but are happy to just chill in your presence. Again, do your research and please reread the risks to yourself and the animal. Be sensible, not selfish. Don’t touch deadly things, don’t squash small beans and don’t be a dipshit, ok?
Step Two: Building Trust
Feed them and Observe. Whether this is leaving food out in a safe place for them such as your garden or throwing it over to where they are if for example you’re camping and there’s an animal nearby. Keep far away and out of sight at first, or if you’re already in sight just stay very still.
If you’re in it for the long haul then continue the daily feeding schedule, if you’re in a spur-of-the-moment situation just keep the treats flowing, send them right over to the animal so it doesn’t have to move.
If you’re enticing animals to your garden then you can slowly start making yourself visible but keep your distance still. If it’s a spur of the moment you can start throwing the food a few paces in front of the animal to encourage it to step forward a little. This is a slow process so don’t rush, you are building trust right now. When you get within hearing and seeing distance start using sounds and body language of your chosen animal species. Don’t make direct eye contact as most creatures see this as a threat. This is why the research is so important because now you need to communicate “I’m so happy to see you, I am a friend and not a threat!”
It helps to talk in your mind like you would converse with a person. No, the animal can’t hear you but it will help your body language to improve and animals can sense how your feeling. Calm yourself and radiate good energy and it will help with the trust-building.
Continue with feeding, moving a little closer and speaking their language for as long as needed. If the animal trusts you enough so that you can get physically close then always move slowly and purposefully so they can interpret your intentions.
Step Three: Pet That Shit
I can’t instruct you from here because the rest is up to the animal. If you’re allowed to touch it, it will let you know. If you’re not allowed then back the fuck off!
If you find an injured wild animal then contact your local veterinarian clinic. Most vets will treat local wildlife free of charge or will be able to provide you with contact details for rescue centres.
I’ve petted some mad shit in my time because I used to own an exotic pet shop, which obviously means I’ve been bitten by some mad shit too. Since I live in England and prefer animals over people, I’ve also got some handy tips when it comes to British wildlife. So I thought I’d offer a little guide to stuff you might want to pet and stuff you definitely shouldn’t!
Befriending birds is usually a safe bet because they’re not too dangerous and it’s pretty easy to gain their trust with food and time. Unless of course, you live in a country with big birds that might rip your face off. Make sure that you commit to feeding them though because they may come to rely on you as a main source of food and if you cut them off (particularly in winter) they may get hurt, sick or die.
Remember, birds beaks are incredibly strong and they will use it to defend themselves. Even small birds can give you a nasty peck if needed.
Lots of people end up getting close to wild birds in an attempt to rescue them, I know I’ve certainly had my fair share over the years! So with that in mind, here’s a short rescue guide:
Find your local bird sanctuary or rehab volunteer.
If it has been attacked by a cat, it will most likely die. This is because cat saliva contains toxins and the added stress is usually difficult to recover from. Take it to a bird expert immediately.
If it has fallen out of a nest, leave it but keep watch. It may not have fallen, it may be learning to fly. If it has really fallen its parents will probably find it and if you’re stood there like a big oaf then they’ll be too scared to come back. If it’s still in need after a few hours then place it in a cardboard box in a warm, quiet place and get an expert.
Seagulls can get stuck in small, enclosed spaces because they need an updraft of air to take off. Try and guide them to higher ground or open space. Seagulls are fucking hench, so if you have to pick one up then use a blanket or towel to shield yourself from their powerful beaks.
If you find a nocturnal bird that has fallen down during the day and is confused, place it in the nearest shaded tree possible.
Crows, Ravens and Magpies are really intelligent and often make friends with humans. They can bring you gifts and even learn to talk, but there can be consequences to raising a bird army.
Owls will tear your face off if you fuck with them.
Birds of prey have very sharp beaks and claws so proceed with caution.
Chickens should be treated like velociraptors until you earn their trust. Then they’re basically bird puppies.
Birds enjoy being stroked and scratched on the top and back of their head, which is handy because you don’t want to go near the beak.
We’ve all fed ducks before, it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures and the easiest and most relaxing way to chill with wild animals. Most of the time swans, geese and seagulls will join the feast and if you become a familiar face they will practically sit on your knee.
Be respectful though, as ducks, geese and swans all have serrated beaks with teeny tiny teeth and they can bite hard. Also, swans can literally break your bones if you piss them off and they can get very territorial during mating and laying seasons. When swans lift their wings, puff themselves up and honk deeply it means you need to back the fuck off before you get kneecapped.
Most people are edgy around geese because it’s well known that they are utter bastards, but there’s something behind that adage about saying boo to a goose. Geese get their jollies by scaring people and if you run they’re probably going to chase you just for fun. They are the chavs of the bird world, but if a goose is giving you grief you just need to mirror and amplify their aggressive behaviours. Make yourself look bigger, hiss loudly and flap a bit. If you can successfully out-goose them then you will be crowned Monarch of the Pond.
If you become a regular face, lots of waterfowl will come very close to you and allow you to stroke them and feed them by hand. If you get to do this, be very aware of where your fingers are. Bills and beaks are not accurate grasping devices so if you don’t watch your fingers they will accidentally get you.
When my daughter was small we used to feed the ducks daily and I befriended a lot of birds. One, in particular, stands out as a fond memory: ‘Crazy Goose’ was an old Canadian Goose who would go insane as soon as he saw me coming. He would scream and flap across the water before charging at me like he was launching a terrifying attack. I quickly realised it was just his way of showing happiness because after the noise and bravado he would eat out of my palm and let me stroke him.
Don’t fucking pet a wild badger, you absolute wally. Yes, I know they’re fucking adorable with their cute little tails and sweet faces, but make no mistake: they will rip your leg off, beat you to death with it and give you a grim disease. I suppose the latter wouldn’t matter if you’re dead.
Badgers are awesome but they have massive teeth, claws, and a bad attitude. You can pet a badger that has been domesticated through rescue and rehabilitation, but not a wild one. However, you can observe wild badgers using nocturnal cameras and I would definitely recommend this.
But what happens if you HAVE to handle a badger to rescue it? Well, a badger's greatest enemy is a blanket but it’s always best to get a team of blanket wielders.
Deer are the epitome of grace and beauty but you still need to treat Bambi with cautious respect or he will send your ass to Jesus. I’m not joking either, recent studies have shown that deer are technically the deadliest animal in America, with more people being killed by deer than by sharks, gators and bears combined. Most of the time it’s due to traffic accidents because deer have adamantium skeletons, but they are known to get aggressive during mating season and can deliver powerful kicks and headbutts.
Lots of places in the world have friendly deer that live in parks and reserves and are used to seeing people and getting fed, so if you want to pet a deer then go to one of these places. Stand to the side of the animal in clear view, move slowly and intentionally as not to startle it. Stroke or scratch their neck, chest, and shoulder areas. Always keep some distance between you in case you need to move away quickly.
Polecats, Ferrets, Weasels & Stoats
What’s the difference, amirite? No, no I am not right. I’m just hilarious and stupid, sometimes simultaneously. These longboi critters are all members of the mustelid family and while they all look similar they’re all different. Ferrets are basically domesticated polecats, while weasels and stoats are both smaller species.
Should you pet these? Yes and no. Petting a wild one probably wouldn’t be a good idea, though you certainly could befriend one and try. It wouldn’t be hard to befriend one because they’re actually very social, inquisitive creatures. But remember - these cuties bite hard. Their jaws lock when they latch on and then they death roll like a furry little croc. You also must remember that they are predators and will likely kill other wildlife once it realises you’re a free meal ticket and moves into the neighbourhood.
Though it’s difficult to tell ferrets and polecats apart, there are a few differences. If you see one in the wild and it’s friendly and wants to interact with you, there may be a good chance that it’s a stray ferret. Lots of people use ferrets to hunt rabbits and sometimes the ferret gets lost or doesn’t come back, so they just get left. I’ve actually acquired three ferrets over the years who were stray and came running up to me for help. They are all very vocal creatures and they are very playful and silly, but if you don’t know their body language, their chirps and erratic movement could be seen as scary. Familiarise yourself with the way they communicate because it will allow you to communicate with them.
Snakes are obviously a grey area since many species are venomous to the point of being deadly. If you want to pet wild snakes then you need to do some serious research so that you can stay safe. Just stay away from wild snakes really and instead stroke a pet snake.
Again, lizards are a grey area because there's so many different species and some are harbingers of death. Petting a gecko is a bit different from trying to pet a Komodo Dragon, so use your noggin. Also, some lizards and other critters may be protected wildlife, which means no touching whatsoever. I fucking mean it, pal.
Yes, fish like getting attention too, which means you'll definitely get wet! Fish like to get their sides and bellies tickled, but a lot of fish have teeny tiny toothypegs that can slash you like a razor and many more fish have barbs and other venom delivery devices. However, should you happen to have found a pond of Koi Carp they will usually let you pet them. Wiggle your fingers on the water's surface like a worm, their bite doesn’t hurt it’s just a gentle sucking. Don’t get any bright ideas though, eh?
Scorpions are badass and it goes without saying that a wild one will fuck you up, son. Pet ones that are used to being handled can be quite tame though. I used to have a thick pair of electrician gloves to handle the Emperor Scorpions in my shop because safety first, but one day the little blighter caught me with a tail whip and its barb went straight through the mesh-lined gloves. Luckily the gloves were way too big on me, so the stinger just hit air. What I’m saying is they’re powerful as fuck, do not touch. If you have to touch, carefully pick up your Scorpi by the sides of its stinger.
Spiders and Tarantulas
Come on, you should know the tune of this song by now: don’t pet wild shit that can kill you. Not all tarantulas have sworn a death oath to the Gods to end your existence though, some a cute little tipper-tappers with dinky feet. The fuzzy little fangs should indicate to you that these little shites can bite, but did you know they can also fire their arse hairs at you like a weird Nerf gun? Yeah, I know you’re laughing but believe me when I tell you that shit is unpleasant! Those tiny arrow-like hairs sting like momma’s old cough syrup and itch like I can’t even describe. But tarantulas who have this defence mechanism are more likely to try this attack before chomping down, so think of it as an early warning system. Most spiders like warm, dark, moist (ooooh, I said it) places and are happy to hang out with you and sit on your lovely warm body. While you sleep. Sweet dreams.
Rats and Mice
Rats and mice are highly social creatures but also very wary, you can’t blame them really - pretty much everything wants to eat them! Contrary to popular belief rats and mice are really clean creatures, they wash and groom themselves and each other even more than cats do. You’re not likely to catch a disease from one, they do carry diseases and viruses but no more than any other wild animal. Most only get sick when they live in urban areas where food and living conditions are substandard. Rats and mice grind their teeth when they’re happy to make a crunchy little chittering sound, once you master this you can befriend any rodent. Rats and mice are just as intelligent as people, so if you befriend them you might end up with some terrible roommates.
Frogs and Toads
There are a few reasons you need to be careful when petting frogs and toads. The first is their toxicity - some can kill you just from touching them whilst others can literally shoot poison into your eyes and mouth. Secondly, frogs and toads breathe through their skin which is weird and cool as fuck but it also means that whatever is on your skin is going to be absorbed by the cute little snotball. So if you have perfume or cleaning product residue on your hands then you’re gonna fuck up some frogs. Always wash your hands before and after touching. Thirdly, when it comes to wildlings you need to be careful that they are not a protected species or you will have angry wildlife conservationists setting fire to your lawn.
It is not your business to be petting moo babies, usually because they belong to someone. Yes, a cow could totally kill you if it wanted to. Not all cows have horns but they have a mean kick and a thick skull so they will ram your ass to the moon if you look at them wrong. Most of the time though, cows are pretty chill and inquisitive and if you’re walking past a field they may come to get a look at you. If they do, feel free to talk to them and give their heads a pat. Never enter into a field or feed a cow, the land and the animals belong to a farmer and they already do a shit ton of work so they don’t need you dicking around with their business. Do not take your dog near cows because it may stress them out and they may kick your doggo to death. If you’re dealing with wild cows or other bovinesque beings then always have a barrier between you.
As stated earlier, do not interfere with animals that belong to other people when their owners are not around. Give them a stroke through a fence if they’ve come to say hi, but do not feed, enter the enclosure or take dogs near. Horses like their heads and necks stroked and patted. Do not try to pet wild horses unless you are a certified horse whisperer.
As above: No feeding, no dogs, no tampering, just responsible strokies. Also, look out for flying headbutts! (From sheep and farmers)
The previous farm animal rules apply. Pigs do love a good scratch though, bless ‘em! Stay away from their mouths because their teeth are like garbage disposal units and they will mangle your digits. They’re also dead strong, I once saw a pig throw a 5-foot steel gate off its hinges and about 10 feet into the air in a tantrum.
Turtles and Tortoises
The fancy umbrella term is Chelonia and while there are lots of different species there are still two basic types: tortoises live on land and turtles live in water. Both can be quite grumpy, though a turtle bite hurts much more than a tortoise bite due to their sharp, hooked mouths that are like hard beaks. When petting Chelonia it’s important to remember that their shell is attached to them and they can feel things on it. Their shells are actually their ribs, fused together in a protective shield over centuries of evolution. Be gentle.
Most bugs are gonna go splat if you boop them, but some bugs are big enough to stroke. Since this is such a wide category just make sure to research carefully, most bugs are weaponised like mini panzer’s so they can bite, slash, sting or pinch. Plenty have the ability to inject venom, so there’s that too.
We all love petting random cats in the street, but you need to be safe and respectful because your 5-minute kitty buddy is someone’s best friend. Never feed a pet without the owner's permission and make sure the cat doesn’t follow you. Cats like their heads and backs being stroked, but don’t like direct eye contact.
Most dogs will be accompanied by an owner, so the pet rules apply. Always ask permission to interact with someone’s pet. Dogs don’t like being faced head-on, so stand sideways and avoid eye contact at first. If you find a stray, be cautious! They may be scared and lash out, get them to safety and phone your local rescue centre.
If you need to know what the fox says then you’ll need to watch out for those sharp teeth or you’ll be saying “Yow-ow-ow-fuck-ow-ow-ow!”
Wild foxes are best fed and viewed on nature cameras. If you try to pet one it’s likely to run away or bite you and foxes can get rabies. Do you want rabies? If not, just find someone with a domesticated fox and pet the shit out of it. If you need to rescue a fox, treat it like any other carnivorous beast and phone an expert as soon as you have it in a safe place.
Newts and Salamanders
The same rules as frogs and toads apply to other amphibians, though newts and salamanders can often be fully aquatic and may sustain injury if you try to take them out of the water.
Rabbits and Hares
If you manage to get near a wild rabbit or hare then there’s a good chance it’s is very poorly or injured. Rabbits and hares get eaten by everything, so they will not let you get anywhere close to them. If they do, it’s often a sign that they have a serious illness like myxomatosis. Humans cannot catch this virus but it is severe and fatal to poor bunnies. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms so you can do what’s right for the bunbuns, I.e take it to a vet to be euthanised.
So there you have it, go forth and make friends of all species. Or don’t...especially if you live in Australia. I’ve petted and been bitten by some weird and wonderful things, but that is another story for another time...
About the author
🌕🔮Marchioness du Strange🔮🌕
Connoisseur of all things dark and whimsical.
Your faithful guide to the weirder side.
I dabble in tits, art, and everything dark!
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