"For thousands of years, in cultures around the world, people have cared for some animals simply because they like them. People like the looks of some creatures, or the sounds they make. They find that some animals are good company and show attachment to people. Such animals usually are not expected to work for their keep, nor are they eaten. They are considered "pets," a word that appeared in the English language as early as the 1600s. "
This is a quote from Dr. Katherine C. Grier's book Pets in America, published in December 2005 to accompany an exhibit she curated at the University of South Carolina's McKissick Museum. The book's website is full of illustration and detail, providing a virtual tour of sorts through the exhibit. There's a timeline of pets in early photography, loads of special features, and an activities section, among many other things.