In these short stories about animals for adults, an animal plays an important role in the action or plot of the story. Usually, the animals in these stories are real, or are presented as real, in the case of a fantasy story. For short stories where animals talk or are stand-ins for humans, see:
The following animals and related subjects have their own pages:
Short Stories About Animals for Adults
A White Heron | Sarah Orne Jewett
Nine-year-old Sylvia lives in the country and has a strong connection to animals and nature. One day a young man, a hunter, comes through the area and stays with Sylvia and her grandmother. He is looking for a rare heron to add to his collection.
“A White Heron” can be read in the Amazon preview of A White Heron and Other Stories.
The Princess and the Puma by O. Henry
Josepha, princess of a large ranch, and Ripley, a ranch foreman, have an encounter with a Mexican lion.
This is the second story in the preview of The Selected Stories of O. Henry.
“Flight” by Doris Lessing
An old man tries to hold on to a beloved bird and a beloved granddaughter. (Summary)
Esme | Saki
In the countryside, a baroness and her friend encounter a hyena. It wants a snack.
This is the first story in the preview of The Chronicles of Clovis.
A Passion in the Desert | Honore De Balzac
A captured French soldier escapes but gets stranded in the desert, and encounters a panther.
This is the second story in the preview of Great Short Stories of the Masters.
“The Cat, A Goldfinch, and the Stars” by Luigi Pirandello
An old couple owns a goldfinch. It used to belong to their granddaughter, who died at fifteen. It helped them during their grief, and they started looking after it. The couple keeps to themselves, putting all their time into the goldfinch.
This story can be read in the preview of Stories for the Years. (68% in)
“Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child” by Joy Williams
Baba Iaga has a pelican daughter, as well as a dog and cat, and they all live in a little hut. The hut has chicken legs that turn the door away from visitors, as they like to be left alone. When Baba Iaga has to go out, she warns everyone not to let any strangers in. One day while she’s away, a man approaches the hut, saying he’s an artist and wants to draw the beautiful bird who lives there.
This story can be read in the preview of My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales. (33% in)
“She Unnames Them” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Someone has been persuading all the animals to give up their names. Most accept it without much resistance. It makes them feel closer. (Summary & Analysis)
“The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang
A parrot muses over humanity’s desire to communicate with an extraterrestrial species, referencing the creation of the Aricebo radio telescope. It talks about the Fermi paradox as the reason for the silence. The parrot presents its own species as the thing that humanity is really looking for.
When Twilight Falls on the Stump Lots | Charles G. D. Roberts
A young cow gives birth to its first calf. Nearby, a gaunt she-bear hungrily but patiently waits for a chance to strike.
The Boy Who Talked with Animals | Roald Dahl
When a large turtle lands on a resort’s beach, people want to kill it for the meat and shell. A boy tries desperately to save the turtle.
Strayed | Charles G. D. Roberts
A young domesticated ox has a wild nature—he longs to escape his yoke and flee into the forest. He remembers good times there and wants to live free in an endless summer.
Coco | Guy De Maupassant
A young farmhand beats and starves a nag in his care.
The Saint Joseph’s Ass | Giovanni Verga
A little-valued donkey is sold several times, always working hard for its new owner.
The Merino Sheep | Banjo Paterson
The narrator takes it upon himself to explain the true nature – and extreme stupidity – of the merino sheep.
Shooting an Elephant | George Orwell
The narrator is a British colonial policeman in Burma. He gets a report that there’s an elephant loose, causing damage in the marketplace. While looking for it, he comes across a dead Burmese man, crushed by the elephant. This escalates the situation and he’s not sure if he will be able to avoid shooting the elephant.
Brilliant Silence | Spencer Holst
Two Alaskan Kodiak bears are part of a travelling circus act. They do various tricks and become crowd favorites.
What Happened During the Ice Storm | Jim Heynen
There is freezing rain one winter. Everyone thinks it’s beautiful until it gets dangerous and the livestock have to be moved inside.
Read “What Happened During the Ice Storm”
Zlateh the Goat | Isaac Bashevis Singer
Hanukkah is approaching, and Reuven doesn’t have enough money for the necessary supplies. He sends his son, Aaron, to sell the family’s beloved goat, Zlateh, to the town butcher. On their way, the weather turns unexpectedly, and they get lost in the storm.
The Tiger Lodgers | Julio Cortazar
A family decides to lodge a tiger. They describe the practical and moral difficulties it entails.
The Trout | Sean O’Faolain
A young girl and her brother find a fish in a narrow well. She doesn’t know how it got there, and she thinks about how it has been alone for so long.
Unexpected Guests | Heinrich Böll
The narrator has grown used to all the animals living in his home. His wife is always taking in a new stray creature. She also cannot say no to peddlers, so they have numerous useless item on hand. They are low on money and food.
Evil Robot Monkey | Mary Robinette Kowal
Sly, a monkey with an implant in his brain, is working clay at a potter’s wheel. He is startled by a group of children outside his Plexiglass window. He makes his displeasure known to the group.
The Leopard | Ruskin Bond
The narrator sees a leopard in a ravine. The ravine’s wildlife are used to him walking thru. There are some hunters looking for the leopard.
The Tiger in the Tunnel | Ruskin Bond
Baldeo is the watchman for a section of train track that leads into a tunnel. He has to signal if the tunnel is clear. There are dangerous animals in the area, but Baldeo carries a small axe which he uses skillfully.
Grandfather and Toto | Ruskin Bond
The narrator’s grandfather buys Toto, a monkey, for five rupees. He brings home a lot of animals, so they want to keep it secret from his grandmother. Toto gets into mischief and causes many disturbances.
The Steel Cat | John Collier
Walter Davies arrives at the Hotel Bixbee with a black box that he guards carefully. He gets the bell-hop to bring him a piece of cheese. They start talking about Davies’ new invention, the Steel Cat. He offers the bell-hop a demonstration, which involves his mouse, Georgie.
The Canary | Katherine Mansfield
A woman talks about her old pet, a canary. She doesn’t want to remove the big nail where she hung the cage. It sang beautifully. It kept her company throughout her daily routine. She loved him.
Babycakes | Neil Gaiman
All the animals disappeared a few years ago. The world wasn’t ending, it was just the animals that went. After a short period of uncertainty, people figured out how to continue.
Bird of Prey | John Collier
A married couple has a pet parrot. One night, it gets mysteriously attacked, possibly by an eagle.
Read here (Warning: Spoiler in the top description)
I’ll keep adding short stories about animals for adults as I find more.