Let's get one thing clear: I'm extremely fond of horses. If I were to list all of the animals in order of objective, intrinsic worth, I don't think it would be arrogant of me to say that horses would certainly be at the top.
The Sims 3: Pets caters to unbridled hooflust in ways previous Sims pets expansions wouldn't dare, introducing equine buddies to the already heaving assortment of available canine and feline companions. Dogs, cats and horses are now the three primary forms of petkind, while birds, fish, gerbiltypes and lizards steadfastly remain on the 'interactive furniture' side of animal husbandry.
Whether furry, hairy, scaly or feathered, pets integrate seamlessly into the life simulator. They can be inserted into new families from the outset, or adopted from other Sims or the adoption agency. And, because The Sims 3: Pets fills your town to the brim with wandering strays, your Sim can also befriend vagrant woofers, taking them off the streets and showering them in mind-smearing luxury.
Gone are the pet careers of The Sims 2, replaced by more realistic functions: dogs can hunt and dig for treasure. Cats can catch vermin. Horses can be ridden in races and made to jump over things for money. Riding itself is a skill Sims can learn, while hunting and other tricks can be taught and improved. The pets themselves can be controlled exactly as you would a human Sim, allowing you to placate their immediate desires (typically: sniffing and eating things) or attend to their needs without the interaction of a human Sim. And, just as with human Sims, wish fulfilment grants rewards – such as the ability to vomit at will.
The animations and animal vocalisations, are of an incredibly high standard – pumping immense, wet-nosed character and playful personalities into every pet. You'll want to crawl into your monitor to stroke the things, instead of stoically resigning yourself to proxy in-game cuddles and indirect cooing. Animals age and expire, too, flinging Sims into depressions of such crippling magnitude that, much like real life, you wonder if it's ever worth forming an emotional bond with a living creature ever again. But don't worry, you'll find some consolation in the customisation options in the pet creation suite. Maybe.
The pets expansions for the Sims have traditionally been the most, well, expansive, introducing players to a new emotional vocabulary through the unconditional and universally appreciated love of captive animals. The Sims 3: Pets is the most balanced of these expansions – more pragmatic than the wackiness of The Sims 2 superstar mutts, and… well, I doubt you even remember the awful state of The Sims 1's autistic, grid-based dogs. It's the only Sims expansion I'd ever insist upon, and a must for Sims 3 owners.