Top 10 Reasons to Feature Pets in Romance

by Carly Silver, Assistant Editor for Harlequin Romantic Suspense

If you know me, you know I love pets. Dogs are (hu)man’s best friend; cats are loyal, if occasionally incomprehensible, companions; and who doesn’t love an unusual tale of a rabbit becoming a human’s BFF? Pets make great additions to romance novels, as well – but why?

1. They bring out another side of a hero or heroine: If a character is emotionally closed off in front of other people, your reader might not see their softer side as often…unless they have a pet! A fuzzy friend can reveal another dimension to a character that can play a big role in emotional development.

Animals add a bit of levity: Whether you’re cuddling them or watching a pup romp through a mud puddle, animals can jerk readers—and characters—out of a dark mood. For example, we dare you not to smile while watching this gif:

3. Having a pet gives a character more to do: A hero or heroine has to take care of a pet like any real-life person would; in doing so, they put themselves into situations that can create great conflict. What if your heroine’s poodle gets off the leash at the dog park and starts barking at the hero and his Lab? Talk about a meet-cute!

4. Unusual pets can bring a unique quirk to a character: Sure, dogs and cats are great, but what about rabbits or lizards? What makes someone want one type of pet versus another? Giving your hero or heroine an unconventional critter to love can add an unexpected dimension to their personality.

5. Animals are people, too: Romance is all about a relationship between human beings, but animals definitely make up part of the forever family that a hero and heroine can create. They provide love, affection, and joy that round out a household.

6. The universal appeal of cute creatures can draw in non-romance readers: You might be not that into romance novels for whatever reason, but poking through the shelves at Barnes & Noble, you spy an adorable Basset Hound waddling across a book cover. You pick up the story and become engrossed in the fairy tale of a handsome bachelor and his pup finding true love…It’s always possible!

7. They’ll stand out to animal-loving editors: Like yours truly. How the critter is used in a story is incredibly important, but animal-obsessed editors like myself are immediately drawn to pitches that contain dogs…and that’s just science.

8. They’re a fact of real life: If you’re writing a high-stakes romantic suspense novel, for example, perhaps there’s a threat of a bomb going off near your hero and heroine. What kinds of creatures are best at helping sniff out such threats? Why, dogs, of course! Animals are everywhere in our lives, just as they can be in your characters’.

9. Fixer pupper: A dog might help a guy realize he’s ready for love in a way no other creature could. He opens his heart to a pup and then to a woman…

10. The ultimate exacta: Hot guy + cute animal = knee-weakening, swoon-worthy romance. Every time.


Can’t wait to get your hands on some adorable puppy love?  Check out these titles from your favorite Harlequin series!



6 replies on “Top 10 Reasons to Feature Pets in Romance”

Most people have pets, so it makes the characters more believable. I think of pets in my stories as another way to define the characters. Well, of course, the Heroine’s going to dote on her loveable, really old Golden Lab. That’s just the kind of girl she is!

“I’m sorry. Can I give you a present just to make myself feel better about it?”
“Oh, Jack.”
Robin diapered the baby, her hands moving seamlessly now. She had all the power. But, she was a merciful queen. “I want a dog.”
“A dog?”

I am a pet/animal lover more than a tree-hugger and I am a HUGE tree-hugger. So maybe Nature Lover would be a better title for me? I like to add cats to my stories because I love their hilarious antics. I love dogs too, but I am a true feline purrson. I’ve owned nearly every kind of domestic pet and several wild ones over the years, including my brother’s six foot gopher snake Elvis. He was fun to scare people with. We also owned a skunk, Jasmine, d-scented and neutered of course. My kids raised and showed guinea pigs and rabbits through their 4-H programs. We’ve had it all. If there is a desire to see more pets in books, I can do that. I also worked for a vet for years. Lol.

You’re killing me with cuteness, Carly!!!! (I was cat-talking to my Petey when he was on top of the fridge, above eye level, and he reached out and punched me in the eyes…similar to your cutepic#9!)

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