Some academics claim that the words "pet" and "owner" are insulting to animals, and might even affect how they're treated. So from now on, please start using the term "companion animal," instead of the p-word, when referring to Binky/Mr. Winkles/whatever the fuck embarrassing name you gave the poor creature. You're not Andy Capp, after all—you're a "human carer."
While you're at it, also stop using cliches such as "drunk as a skunk" and "sly as a fox"; the majority of skunks are teetotalers, and as for foxes—well, maybe you're just jealous of their mental and physical agility. Oh, and don't call animals "critters," "beasts," "wild," "wildlife," and other nasty names, either. If they're not "companion animals," then they're "free-living." Free, unlike you—who are shackled to your outdated terminology and reliance upon stereotypes.
Modern-day cats, dogs, hamsters, and other common companion animals are much more liberated and self-respecting than their ancestors, suggest the academics, in an editorial published by the Journal of Animal Ethics . "Despite its prevalence, ‘pets' is surely a derogatory term both of the animals concerned and their human carers... Again the word 'owners,' whilst technically correct in law, harks back to a previous age when animals were regarded as just that: property, machines or things to use without moral constraint."
It isn't altogether clear how the academics determined that "pet," "critter," and other words actually offend animals, given that most animals can't articulate their emotions very well.
But after giving this matter a ponder, it does seem somewhat obvious that the words "pet" and "owner" promote a hierarchical relationship structure in which the animals are expected to be subservient. With that in mind, it's probably true that no self-respecting hamster (or cat, dog, etc.) would ever go along with being someone else's "property."