A large percentage of people own a pet. Including one in your story will not only make it seem more real, but can be a great marketing tool. What dog or cat lover isn’t drawn to a story that includes their favorite animal? Just make sure the critter has a personality and a name so it’s more than just a prop.
Anyone who has had a pet will tell you they have a personality. I even have had a fish that had one. How could I tell? Because it’s behavior was unique. I actually had a cichlid who definitely displayed unusual actions and amazing intelligence! I swear, I’m not making this up. Seriously. I have witnesses.
For those of you unfamiliar with this tropical fish breed, they tend to be quite aggressive and have a distinctive school pecking order. The poor guy or gal at the bottom of the chain is often harassed by the others, sometimes to the point of death. Thus was the case for one of mine, as evidenced by his chewed up tail and other wounds. To help him out, I put an excluder in the tank, which is used when the have babies or you introduce a new one.
This little guy gradually got well and one day I noticed he was no longer in the excluder; he’d learned how to get out. But that’s only part of it. He’d jump out, swim around the tank doing the fishy equivalent of “Betcha can’t catch me!” to his hostile tank mates, who would then chase him. But much to their surprise, this fish, whom I named Homer, would swim back to his excluder and jump inside, then peer out at the others in triumph, no doubt chanting “neener-neerner-neerer!”
I don’t know how I’ll ever fit a Homer equivalent into one of my stories, but you never know. Just make sure if you do include a pet that it has a name and fits into the story in some way, even if it’s only a sounding board for your protagonist.