It’s amazing how often I am asked “Hey I’m a new hunter, what pet should I take?” I’m sure this applies to any hunter over 60. Back in the days of only having 4 pet abilities (claw, bite, growl, cower), I would carefully explain that there were 4 categories of pets based on their highest stat: armor, hit points, dps, and well-rounded. Each had its own place based on what you wanted to do. The spread was actually really well balanced so that you would notice which area the pet was strongest in, but not so far that it was too gimped in it’s weaker areas. (As an aside, I’m going to ignore attack speed and chase speed for this history lesson.)
In otherwords, if you really, really loved the look of a crocolisk, you didn’t really have to worry that it’s damage was too low. Damage was fine, just not as high as cat, the peak of the DPS pets.
Patch 1.7 came and along with fixing many other problems with the class, pet families were given new skills. Once again, the new abilities stayed more or less in balance. However, the limited number of families definitely made certain pets better than others. For example, cats and raptors have almost exactly the same stats and both can learn all 4 of the original abilities, but additionally, cats can learn prowl and dash which are both great PvP abilities. Purely from a gameplay standpoint, there was no reason to choose a raptor over a cat.
With the coming of BC, hunter’s received new pet families and new abilities for them to learn. Additionally, many other aspects of the class changed. The biggest being ‘Steady Shot’ which gave the hunter something to press every time an AutoShot fired whether soloing, PvP, or raiding. Yes, there is some variation, but pre-BC soloing basically consisted of AutoShots and Arcane or Aimed Shot whenever it was up, possibly throwing in a multi-shot if you really wanted to DPS.
The addition of Steady Shot is a source of damage that cannot be over looked in any hunter’s rotation, however this increase in DPS has not scaled with the threat that a pet can generate. Even as a beastmaster (read lots of extra pet damage) with poor gear (read only quested and BoE blues) and a high DPS pet with claw, bite, and growl, a simple Steady Shot rotation will easily pull agro away from my pet. Any other pet has even less of a chance unless it has an especially powerful ability. A crocolisk with only bite and growl cannot hope to create as much threat as any DPS pet.
Now when I am asked “what’s the best pet?” I no longer need to go into detail. I just point them to the high DPS pet list, instruct them not to take spiders, and mention that many like boars too for their charge ability in PvP. That’s 7 out of 23. The rest simply don’t pull their weight. Some of those other pets that aren’t bad if a hunter has some experience and the class knowledge to use effectively, but if you’re asking random people for advice, those are characteristics you probably lack.