In America, in the early 1870s, it appears that Spratts were advertising commercially prepared cat food. Their primary market was for dog food. I don’t know if the 1870s was categorically the start of “cat food” meaning food designed exclusively for cats but it is probably fair to say that it occured around this time. They may have been some small manufuacturers of which we don’t have records today. The late 1800s was the time that the cat fancy (breeding and showing cats) began.
The advert below is undated sadly. However, the letters of recommendation below the advert are dated but they refer to dog food.
An outline history of cat food as shown in the spreadsheet below tells us that just after the Second World War things started to take off.
It was during the Second World War that the concept of dry cat food was first tried. It was successful because it was convenient and then during the era 1950 to 1970 and beyond there was a proliferation of pet food lines and products. The manufacturers of human food jumped onto the bandwagon.
A major development was to create extruded dry cat food which although first developed in the 1950s is still the same today. The great deficiency in this process, which makes attractive looking albeit inappropriate cat food, is that it requires carbohydrates to work. The high level of carbohydrates in dry cat food is not there by choice but by necessity and only because the process demands it. That is not a good reason why dry cat food is high in carbohydrates.
Domestic cats cannot taste sweetness and therefore they have no concept of the sugary taste. The domestic cat is unaware that the dry cat food that they may be fed full-time is not a replica in terms of constituents and ingredients of what they would be eating if they were preying on mice.
The 1950s was a time in America when there were the greatest number of new cat breeds. It also seems that at this time, let’s say about 10 years after the Second World War, when the domestic cat went through a surge in popularity and the cat fancy was at its height in the twentieth century. Just after this period the wild cat hybrids were first developed indicating an active cat fancy in their desire to expand the number of cat breeds.
An interesting development was the idea of marketing dry cat food as a food that can improve health with respect to certain illnesses. You will see from the spreadsheet that pet food to ameliorate health problems occurred for the first time in the 1930s. This was canned wet food for dogs. As for “prescription diets” it is said that this concept is a con.