AHS staff share their favorite animal-centric books and movies

January 21, 2021
Woman cuddling with cat while reading

Many of us at AHS consume a lot of animal-related content. Books, articles, movies, endless cat videos, and so on. But what stories do we find ourselves coming back to time and again?

We asked our staff to share their top book and movie recommendations for animal lovers, and compiled a list just for you. From classic films to lesser-known publications, these staff favorites will leave you both entertained and thankful for the bond we share with our pets. Plus, we hope they’ll help you occupy some of your extra time spent at home these days.

For some animal lovers, though, watching or reading animal tales — however heartwarming — can prove too emotional. In fact, that’s the case for some of our compassionate staff, who find animal stories too much to bear after working so closely with animals each day. For those in the same boat, you can rarely go wrong with a night of Netflix and chill — cuddled up with your furry, feathered, or scaly best friend, of course!

Book recommendations for animal lovers

1. The Art of Racing in the Rain written by American author Garth Stein

Written from the perspective of Enzo, a loyal, loving, and perceptive canine. Enzo documents life with his racecar-driving companion, Denny, as their shared world evolves to include a growing family.

“I love books like this that bring the personality of a pet to life. Reading from Enzo’s perspective, you can only imagine what your own pet’s inner monologue would be. The book really epitomizes a pet’s devotion to its humans.”

2. The Lion in the Living Room written by Abigail Tucker

New York Times bestseller about how cats conquered the world and our hearts in this “deep and illuminating perspective on our favorite household companion” (Huffington Post). From befriending our ancient ancestors to becoming Instagram famous, cats may be the only animal on earth who chose to be domesticated.

“Until you’ve read this book, you have no idea what type of magnificent creature is curled up on your lap. Let’s face it, we’ve always known cats were running the show.”

3. The Story of Ferdinand written by American author Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson

All the other bulls run, jump, and butt their heads together in fights. Ferdinand, on the other hand, would rather sit and smell the flowers. So what will happen when Ferdinand is picked for the bullfights in Madrid?

“This was the first story I remember that taught me to be myself, even if it was not what others wanted me to be.”

4. Redwall written by British writer Brian Jacques

Set in the English middle ages, this charming series features mice and other woodland creatures battling classic foes and preforming heroic deeds. This wonderful adventure series for young readers is sure to be a favorite of any fantasy book lover.

“I loved how beautifully the books were written, incorporating poetry, songs, and many strong examples of courageous female creatures. The books are written for older children, but any adult who loves animals and stories of fantastical worlds would appreciate this series.”

5. All Creatures Great and Small written by Yorkshire veterinarian James Herriot

A book detailing the best and worst of being a veterinarian in rural northern England during the 1930s.

“If you ever dreamed of being an animal vet, you’ll get lost in this book (and all seven others written by James Herriot). I laughed out loud and cried in almost every chapter.”

6. Where the Red Fern Grows written by Wilson Rawls

Set in the Ozarks, this story captures the powerful bond between a young boy and his two Coon Hounds, Old Dan and Little Anne.

“I first read this book when I was in fourth grade, and again in high school, and for a third time in my 20s. It’s a story full of hope, affection, adventure, and deep sadness. If you love dogs, read Where the Red Fern Grows.”

7. Good Dog Carl written and illustrated by Alexandra Day

A series of children's picture books centering on a babysitting Rottweiler named Carl and a little girl named Madeleine.

“I loved (still love) Good Dog Carl children’s books. Carl takes care of the young girl when mom goes out. They get into all kinds of mischief but by the time mom comes home, all is well.”

8. Trumpeter Swan written by E.B. White

A story of a trumpeter swan that was born mute and was discriminated against. He’s in love with another swan and he can’t sing her any songs. With the help of a young boy, he learns to play the trumpet and eventually read and write in an effort to get the girl.

“As a kid I wished I could find a wild animal that I could befriend and teach it all these skills.  As an adult I appreciate the theme of not judging those who were born differently.  Everyone has their own strengths and skills that make them unique.”

Movie recommendations for animal lovers

1. A Dog’s Journey

The family film, told from the dog’s perspective, follows the multiple lives of Buddy as he seeks to fulfill his destiny. It is a moving story of unwavering loyalty and a love that crosses all barriers.  

It was sweet watching the little girl be taken care of, emotionally, throughout her life by the same spirit of a dog. It made me think of my childhood dog and how much she meant to me when I was growing up.

2. Tangled

A girl and her chameleon...we can all relate on some level. In addition to the comic relief Pascal offers, this special chameleon listens to Rapunzel and provides her with conversation, friendship, and comfort.

During Covid quarantine most of us wouldn't have survived without our pets, and Pascal shows us how necessary animal companionship is when you find yourself unwillingly in isolation. And if lizards aren't your thing, there's also a horse that acts like a dog. Four paws up!

3. Best in Show

A "mockumentary" comedy film that sheds light on the highly competitive and cut-throat world of dog-shows through the eyes of a group of ruthless dog owners.

“Most dog movies make me cry, this one makes me laugh until I cry. Full of quirky dogs and their even quirkier humans.”

4. 101 Dalmatians (Disney animated version)

An animated adventure film in which a litter of Dalmatian puppies are abducted by the minions of Cruella de Vil. The pups' parents journey to rescue them before their captor uses them for a diabolical fashion statement.

“I love all the Disney animated stories. It’s a simpler time. … It all probably got imprinted on me as a kid and then relived when I shared it with my kids. They did such a good job with dogs and cats and knowing animal mannerisms and physical characteristics.”

5. Benji

This classic film follows the adventures of a stray dog, Benji. When two children Benji loves are kidnapped and held for ransom, the dog springs into action, taking it upon himself to foil the crooks and save the day.

"When I got in trouble for my role in a variety of mischievous deeds-i used to tell my mom that not all of those who do mischief are bad. I’d say: “look at Benji. He was always in trouble and he always saved the day!” 


Featuring an all-star cast, this cute animated film provides entertaining music for kids of all ages.

“You’ll find yourself rooting for the characters chasing their dreams and finding their voice in SING.”

7. The Aristocats

In this animated film, a smooth talking tomcat helps a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner as they try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.

“I just love the personalities of all the cats.”

8. Togo

The story of Togo, the sled dog who led the 1925 serum run yet was considered by most to be too small and weak to lead such an intense race.

“I love a good dog-sledding story. This Disney-fied tale is about a literal underdog who reaches hero status when he helps fetch a diphtheria serum for the kids in Nome, AK in 1925.”

9. Air Bud

In the first installment of Air Bud (a movie series), a talented circus dog, who recently escaped from a cruel master, joins a school basketball team.

“There’s not a lot to say about this family-friendly classic. It just makes me smile.”

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline