|Needs updating. This page was never truly finalized anyway.|
Hunters are a ranged combat class, which makes them unique by itself, but their most noteworthy characteristic is their animal companion by their side. Being attuned to nature, the hunter has the ability to "tame" a beast to join him in his travels. In addition to being an extra source of damage, the pet also serves as protection for the hunter. The single most important thing the pet does is keep the hunter's opponents away from him so he can continue to shoot at it.
A hunter has the ability to tame most Beasts, within reason. No dragons or aquatic creatures. A good rule of thumb is anything smaller than a bear can be tamed. With the eponymous 51-point talent in the Beast Mastery tree, even "exotic" pets such as devilsaurs and chimeras become available.
Pets only become available to a hunter at level 10. At that point, their local class trainer will send them on three missions to tame nearby creatures with an item. After bringing each of these creatures back to the trainer, the hunter will know how to tame a beast. Note that there is another quest that follows this one that will send the hunter to their capital to learn how to feed and revive their pets, both of which are essential skills to learn.
Once the hunter has this skill, they can go into the wild, locate a beast that is not higher in level than they are, and attempt to tame them. The beast will fight back against the hunter for the length of the taming. During this time, the hunter cannot move or take any other actions. (However, they can do things beforehand like activate Aspect of the Monkey or put down a Freezing Trap.) If the hunter survives the taming, the beast will join them, and become their pet.
Hunters can have only one active pet at a time. If you wish to obtain a new pet, or switch pets, you will need to visit a Stable Master.
The first important thing to notice about the pet is that there is a health bar for it beneath the hunter's, and a second bar below that that is orange. This bar is for the pet's focus, which is what the pet will eventually use to activate abilities. With the exception of the family ability for that pet, you will need to train the other skills using the pet's talent points.
Next to the health and focus bars is an icon that is red in color. This means your pet is hungry! If you offer your pet a piece of food that it will eat, it will start to gain happiness, which increases its effectiveness.
The second part of the screen to notice is the action bar above your's. This pet action bar contains 3 commands at the left end, Attack, Follow, and Stay, as well as three attack modes on the right, Aggressive, Defensive, and Passive. See Controlling Your Pet for a further explanation of these ideas.
Pets can be sent to attack a target by clicking on "Attack" on the pet action bar. Most hunters bind this ability to a convenient key, like the tilde. The pet will also attack things on its own, depending on which mode you put your pet in. On defensive, your pet will fight back against anything that harms either it or you. If the pet is set to aggressive, it will simply lash out against any hostile targets that it draws near. A passive pet will take blows without retaliating, waiting for your command.
Once a pet is attacking, pressing the follow button will tell it to return to your side. Follow is also used to undo the command Stay. A pet that is told to stay will remain exactly where it is. If it told to attack, it will move into range to attack the target, and then not leave that location. Since pets will often follow the hunter using strange paths, the stay command is often useful for keeping the pet where you want it, and moving it later with the Eyes of the Beast ability.
The central four slots of the pet action bar are for pet abilities. It is possible to make the pet automatically use these abilities whenever possible by right-clicking them on the bar. This is known as autocast.
Controlling a pet properly is very important for playing in a group. While the hunter will normally set their pet to defensive while soloing, the pet should be left on passive during a group and commanded manually. Growl should also be disabled.
Happiness determines the pet's damage output. When a pet is happy, it will deal more damage than when it is content or unhappy. Feeding a pet will increase the happiness, as well as a few pet talents. Though it is not very visible to the player, Happiness is out of a meter of 1050 points total, with each section -- happy, content, and unhappy -- representing one third of that amount, or 350 points.
The Pet attribute screen is part of your character window. While you have a pet, look for the tab at the bottom for "pet". You will get a screen very similiar to your character screen, but concerning your pet's statistics instead. You can find some important information here, like the pet's diet.
Level gain/experience can be determined on the pet attribute screen. Like your character, hunter pets gain experience and levels. Pet experience gains come strictly from fighting enemies, and not from quests or discovery. Pets will never gain experience if they are at your level, so that you can never have a pet above your level.
Diet refers to which kinds of foods the pet can be fed. Some pet families will eat almost any kind of food, but others are more finicky, perhaps only eating meat. You can see your pet's diet on the pet attribute screen, although it is always the same for members of a particular pet family.
Family refers to the generic class of beast that your pet belongs to. For example, all cats are part of the same family, regardless of what kind of cat they are. Family also determines the talent tree your pet has, which food types it will eat, which unique ability it possesses, and has a slight affect on the amount of health, armor, and damage output the pet has.
There are several factors for choosing a particular pet. The primary one should be whether or not you like the animal. There are reasons to prefer one pet over another for accomplishing a particular task, however. Choosing a pet essentially comes down to two decisions:
All members of a particular family are identical in all ways except appearance, regardless of where they come from. (Some pets may start at a slightly lower level, but in the long run this shouldn't matter.) As a result, most of the decision-making process concerns which family you take your pet from. Once you have decided that, then one needs only to consider which beast they like the most.
When fighting on your own, your pet is your tank, and keeps enemies from reaching you. Most importantly, this lets you keep range to shoot them. However, pets tend not to hold aggro very well over the hunter, so a few considerations need to be made. The pet should have Growl and Dash/Dive on autocast. Try to avoid using many abilities against your opponent, especially early in the battle, or you will still probably rip aggro.
A Tenacity pet is probably most useful for soloing, although its damage output is lower and you may want a ferocity pet instead.
Pets are generally not incredibly useful for damage or tanking during PvP. Instead, they need to be used primarily as a tool. One thing pets are very good at doing during PvP is disrupting spellcasting. Send them after casters to keep them busy. Select family abilities has a particular skill that is beneficial to the particular style of PvP you are participating in. For example, scorpids were frequently used to poison enemies so that cleanse effects would be less likely to remove stings.
A Cunning pet should be the most useful for soloing, although this is highly debatable.
During groups and raids, the pet is generally relegated to the role of "killable DoT." The single most useful feature of a pet during grouping is damage output, and so the pet's focus should be directed toward killing the opposition. It is possible that some utility skills may be helpful during groups, but during raids in particular the pet will be focused on keeping itself alive in order to continue to DPS.
A Ferocity pet is the most useful for raids, and typically in groups as well.
Hunters are a class at tune with nature, and can meld well with simple animals. Dragonkin, for example, are considered too intelligent to be tamed as pets and do not always live in harmony with nature.
Hunters cannot tame beasts as riding mounts because their specialty is in combat, and their ability to train and handle beasts is one of preparing them for battle, not as a beast of burden.
Pets of a certain level are a certain size. When a beast is tamed, it will shrink to the appropriate level, and gradually grow as it levels. If beasts stayed the size they were when tamed, some hunters would tame the largest creature they could find just to serve as a nuisance. (In PvP, there could be real benefits to doing this.) In the original beta, experience with the oversized spider Lady Sathrah blocking access to mailboxes was a driving cause for the original pet shrinkage.
Pets start off named after their family. You may rename your pet one time, and one time only, by right-clicking its character portait and choosing rename. Pet names are still held to many of the same standards as character names, but there is no stringent filtering process for names.
Accessing a different pet requires the use of a stable master. If you wish to add a new pet to your stables, and do not have room, you will need to abandon a pet by right-clicking your pet portrait and choosing Abandon. This will cause that pet to leave you forever.
Feed Pet puts a buff on your pet that causes it to gain happiness. Additional feeding will not enhance this rate, and the effect lasts for about 20 seconds. Only feed your pet once. If your pet takes damage or enters combat, the effect will end immediately. The amount of happiness your pet gains from the food is determined by the level of the food. Any food that is less than 20 levels below the pet will generate 35 happiness per tick. Lesser foods will raise it by 17, 8, or not at all. Since Feed Pet ticks 10 times, a proper piece of food should raise a pet's happiness by 350, which is exactly the amount it needs to gain a happiness level. (This is also roughly the amount that a pet loses from dying.)
Starting at level 20, pets will gain a talent point every 4 levels. This means pets will have a maximum of 16 talent points at level 80, plus an extra 5 with the Beast Mastery talent. See Hunter Pet Talent Trees for more details.
Although damage generates threat, and some Tenacity skills also deal additional threat, primarily a pet relies on Growl to create aggro. Under current mechanics, growl has a certain amount it generates automatically, plus a portion of additional threat based on the hunter's attack power past a certain point.
There are some pets that, in the wild, have a mana bar. When tamed, their stats are generally inferior to that of other beasts, however they have increased intelligence and spell damage, which *may* lead to additional ability damage. Caster pets have been found primarily among Dragonhawks and Wind Serpents.
Quoted from Petopia: ''Pets get about 30% of the hunter's stamina added to their stamina. Pets get about 35% of the hunter's armor added to their armor. Pets get about 22% of the hunter's ranged attack power added to their melee attack power. Pets get about 12.5% of the hunter's ranged attack power added to their spell damage. Pets get about 40% of the hunter's resistances added to their own resistances.''
Petopia is the pre-eminent site for hunter pets. Another popular hunter site, TKA something, also has extensive information about hunter pets. Wowhead also has extensive information about pet families, and a Pet Calculator for training points. WoW Hunter Pets is another hunter pet resource with pet talent calculators and detailed listings on all wow hunter pets.
Hunter pets changed considerably with the advent of Wrath of the Lich King. Prior to the expansion, pets were considerably different: