Sharing decadent meals and living space with humans, eighteenth-century pets were often compared to guests who were lavishly treated by their hosts. This article examines the intersections between eighteenth-century pet keeping and hospitality in the writings of William Cowper. In The Task and several other works, Cowper depicts himself as a benevolent caretaker who generously provides shelter, food, and protection for his apparently grateful pet hares, but this representation of pet keeping coexists uneasily with the more skeptical and impartial accounts of interspecies hospitality found elsewhere in his poems and letters. Conveying his culture’s ambivalence about pet keeping and hospitality, Cowper’s writings raise questions about the motivations behind each practice, about the benefits and dangers of close interspecies relationships, and about the nature and implication of humans’ and animals’ responsibility and responsiveness to each other.

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