History of Cat Food

Purina Chow Warehouse 1910-1920

Purina Chow Warehouse 1910-1920

My motivation for creating the spreadsheet above, which shows the history of cat food in chronological order, was to see when dry cat food was first manufactured and also to see whether there had been any attempts by the manufacturers to improve its quality. By improving its quality I mean whether they have attempted to reduce the carbohydrate content which is far too high. There appears to have been no attempt over the ensuing 60 years when extruded kibble was first manufactured to make it more healthy for cats – not a great recommendation for the pet food multinationals some of whom still indulge in animal testing. The only way to remove the carbohydrates is to change the way kibble is manufactured.

There is an inherent failing unfortunately with dry cat food in that it is dry and by now most people realise that cats do not compensate adequately by drinking more water if they feed on dry cat food and therefore they are liable to become slightly dehydrated which brings with it potential health problems to add to the potential health problems created by the high carbohydrate content e.g. diabetes. It is ironic that the domestic cat does not have taste buds that taste sugars and therefore these hidden carbohydrates are completely unknown to the domestic cat.

It is also ironic that the dog can taste sugars and depending upon the individual dog, like sugars. It seems that the dog is better placed anatomically to deal with dry food high in sugars whereas if one is honest it is unsuitable for the domestic cat, which begs the question why it is manufactured, the answer to which is that it is commercially highly profitable. It is highly profitable because it is highly convenient for cat owners to store and use and also highly convenient for the manufacturers and retailers to store and ship.

It would seem that World War II was to blame for dry cat food but I doubt whether that is the entire story. You will note from the spreadsheet that the beginnings of dry cat food is World War II because businesses were not allowed to use metals allocated for the war effort. Someone dreamt up the concept of dry cat food perhaps following on from the dry dog biscuit and was able to retail it in packaging other than tin cans. There was little thought, no doubt, about whether it was good for a cat or not and whether there might be health consequences. These are business decisions.

The 1950s, in the USA in particular, was an era of great expansion and activity with respect to the pet market. Not only was there a proliferation in the introduction of commercial pet food companies but at that time more cat breeds were being created by the cat fancy while a little later on the wild cat hybrid was being created which at the time was a very high profile domestic cat creating lots of excitement amongst the members of the cat fancy and cat owners alike.

Pet owners have become more sophisticated and knowledgeable due mainly to easy access to information on the internet. A percentage have become more discerning and a small percentage make their own raw cat food diet – a return to the way it was many years ago. For commercial reasons veterinarians resist recommending or educating cat caretakers on raw diets.

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History of Cat Food — 2 Comments

  1. Very interesting! I remember cat sitting for someone in the 1960s and the only tinned cat food they had was Kit E Kat, it had a very strong fishy smell.
    Kit E Kat is very different now it’s known that cats really prefer meat to fish.

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