The latest 2011 Taste of Country Awards category to be announced is by far the most adorable. Best New Pet looks at all the furballs (no one got a new turtle or bird that we know of) country artists have brought home over the past 12 months. The majority were strays or came from a rescue. Some artists are known for bringing home multiple new pets, so there were some tough decisions to be made about which of her (we're looking at you, Mrs. Blake Shelton) new pets were the best. The nominees include cats and dogs owned by Kellie Pickler, Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift and Jake Owen.




Chunk (Owner: Kellie Pickler):
Kellie Pickler rescued this big boy over the 4th of July holiday and slowly nurtured him back to health. She says he was in a bad situation, so she and Kyle took him in, but only temporarily. It sounds more like she said Chunk -- a chocolate Pit Bull -- was just a guest, but she cared for him as her own. Pickler admits to having a bad habit of bringing home critters for keeps. Last we heard she was still looking for a good home for him.






Hobbs (Owner: Hillary Scott): Scott first posted pictures of this little ball of fluff in early November, but since that car ride he's appeared backstage before performances on 'Dancing With the Stars' and concerts in places like Savannah, Ga. He's a Goldendoodle, and as this picture shows, he's already competing for attention with Scott's fiance, Chris Tyrell.







Ilsa (Owner: Miranda Lambert): Ilsa wandered up to the Shelton/Lambert home one cool Saturday morning and quickly found comfort in the 'Baggage Claim' singer's arms. Lambert tweeted multiple pictures of the feeble kitten. It's the second time in a month an animal has strolled up to her front door. Earlier, Ophelia came knocking.







Meredith (Owner: Taylor Swift): Swift's new road buddy first appeared about a month ago and has since been the subject of quite a few pictures and even a video. We figure before the end of her next tour she'll have taught the kitten how to play fiddle or at the very least how to keep away boys who end up as subjects for her songs.







Merle (Owner: Jake Owen): Merle is Owen's second Bulldog, following Vern who was on the road with the singer for the first few years of his life. Vern is fine; in fact, he's likely at home napping right now. But the younger, more frisky Merle has taken to enjoying the bus couches a little more than his 3-year-old brother these days.




Vote for the 2011 Taste of Country Awards’ Best New Pet here, or on the 2011 Taste of Country Awards full categories page. Voting ends on Jan. 1, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Winners will be announced on Jan. 3, 2012.

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