See also: List of Stable Masters
You can have up to 5 pets with you at all times, depending on your level. But if you want to tame more than 5 pets (of course you want to tame more than 5 pets!) then you'll need to store the rest with a Stable Master. This FAQ explains how to use a Stable Master to stash your inactive pets safely while you go out hunting.
A Stable Master is a special NPC who will store your hunter pets while you aren't using them.
A stable is the UI that we use to interact with the Stable Master in order to store and retrieve our pets.
To use the stable you just speak with the Stable Master the same way you would speak to a vendor.
It's easy! Find your nearest Stable Master and click on them the same way you would a vendor or quest-giver. This will cause the Stable Master to open up the stable UI.
The stable UI is a little like a minature bank. There are multiple pages, each displaying ten inventory-like pet slots across the bottom of the window, and five spots down the left-hand side.
The five spots on the left are for your active pets. The spots on the bottom are for your inactive pets.
(The next question explains more about the difference between active and inactive pets.)
When you select a pet in the stable UI, whether it is active or inactive, you will see some information about the pet, including its name, level, family, diet and talent tree. You also see a 3D image of the selected pet.
To put a pet into the stable, you drag and drop the icon from an active spot into an inactive spot. To remove a pet from the stable, you drag and drop the icon from an inactive spot to an active spot. If you move one pet icon on top of another they will swap positions.
Inactive pets are pets that are stored in the stable. In order to interact with these pets you have to visit a Stable Master.
An active pet is one that you can access without visiting a Stable Master. You can see them in the pet spots down the left-hand side of the stable UI, but these pets aren't in the stable - they are 'with' you wherever you are. You can call your active pets with the Call Pet abilities.
Check out Calling You Pet for more info on active pets.
All hunters can have up to 50 inactive pets in their stable, plus 1-5 (depending on player level) active pets with them.
You don't have to unlock stable slots or purchase them - they are available as soon as you enter the game.
In addition, for each level of Call Pet that you learn you unlock another active spot. You can learn more about active pet spots in Calling Your Pet.
Short answer: No and no. The only way for a pet to get into the stable is for you to visit a Stable Master and put it there.
But let's clarify some terms while we're here.
When you dismiss an active pet, it is still 'with' you - it just isn't your current pet anymore. In order to get it back you need to use the Call Pet ability for that pet.
When you abandon a pet, that pet is gone for good, permanently, period. You can't call it, you can't retrieve it from the stable -- it's just gone.
Absolutely nothing happens to a pet in the stable. They're enjoying a well-earned rest.
No. Your pets are always the same level as you.
Nope. Stables are for hunter pets only.
And since you have a handy UI panel just for mounts, you don't need a stable for your mounts anyway!
Stables are for hunters only. The Stable Master will not open the stable UI for non-hunters.
Loyalty to a pet companion is an admirable thing, but at some point in your life as a hunter you will want to experiment with different pets.
In fact, the best hunters find that having several different pets helps them fill different roles in the game. You may want one pet for questing and another for the battlegrounds, for instance.
But you certainly don't want to abandon your pet every time you try out a new one! The stable allows you to store a lot of pets safely while you try out others.
And with over 30 families with more than 200 different looks, there is plenty to try out.
We're glad you asked! Check out our handy List of Stable Masters.