The ownership of pets, we're often told, is one of the secrets to a long life, and that's a secret that Electronic Arts has taken full advantage of in extending the life span of each of its Sims games for the last 11 years. The Sims 3: Pets marks the third pet-based expansion for the franchise, and like the others, it makes its appearance just as the parent title shows signs of losing momentum after the release of multiple expansions. While The Sims 3: Pets doesn't change much of the core gameplay aside from extending many of the properties of human sims to their animal companions, its wealth of customization options and its welcome focus on horses make this expansion a treat for any animal lover.
While the console version takes place in a cramped suburban community and requires enduring loading screens every time you want to move behind the immediate cluster of houses, its PC counterpart centers on the spacious expanses of the Appaloosa Plains. It's a nice place to hang around, particularly if you're in the mood to try out the horse content. Not only are there a decent number of ranch-style country homes available to move into, but facilities specifically aimed at improving the lives of your equine friends dot the landscape. Horses can learn how to jump at the equestrian training grounds, for instance, and they can match their skills in racing and jumping against other horses at the equestrian center.
Unsurprisingly, dogs and cats make up a lot of the pet-related content beyond horses, although you can also own low-maintenance pets such as chinchillas, birds, fish, and snakes. Players seeking an overdose of cuteness might balk at the realization that you can't create puppies and kittens--that's an option exclusive to console players--but you can use the extensive customization options to create almost any type of pet imaginable, provided it's at least somewhat based on pets that real people would have in their homes. More than 100 core breeds are available for cats and dogs alone, for instance, and you can customize these according to fur length, traits, and the color and texture of their coats. Later on, if you're of a mind to breed your pets, the physical attributes you chose at the create-a-pet screen sometimes appear in their offspring.
Pets also have skills such as digging and hunting, but they're more grounded in reality than the oddball pet careers that featured prominently in The Sims 2: Pets. That's not to say that they can't bring in money. Dogs, for instance, can occasionally dig up valuable chunks of meteorite worth several thousand simoleans. Meanwhile, cats can exercise their predatory skills on rodents and beetles and even the occasional low-maintenance pet. Best of all, dogs, cats, and horses are all individually controllable, which means that you can focus a lot of your attention on the pets at the expense of your human sims if you're so inclined. This goes a long way toward filling the waiting periods that occur when the pets' owners are at work.