Miss Cuddlywumps considers how cat food has changed over the years
Once upon a time, cats did not get served special breakfasts or appetizers, they did not get to choose between pâté or a grilled entrée, and there were no special packaged broths to enhance their dining experience. In fact, cats could hardly be said to “dine” at all. Instead, they ate, and what they ate was whatever happened to be available. A cat that lived indoors, or partially indoors, might be fed scraps from the humans’ kitchen, which I suspect many a cat supplemented with whatever tasty vermin they could catch (those were dark days, my friends). Commercial pet food simply was not available until the mid to late 1800s.
1913 advertisement for Spratt’s pet food:
“The best food for dogs, game, and poultry.”
And yes, they made cat food too.
Public domain, via Library of Congress.
The 19th century: Enter the dog biscuit
In about 1860, a man named James Spratt introduced the world’s first dog biscuit (this happened in England; Spratt, though, was an American). Some creative cat owners began feeding the dog biscuits to their cats (yuck), and eventually the Spratt’s company added cat food to their line, as well as food for poultry and other livestock.
The 20th century: Greater variety
In the 1930s, canned cat food was introduced (yummy). This was followed in the 1950s by dry cat foods made on equipment adapted from machinery used to make breakfast cereals. The 1960s brought an expanding variety of cat food products, notably with the introduction of Purina Cat Chow in 1963, though it was still nothing like what cats enjoy today.
The 21st century: Cat food goes gourmet
This is the century of premium pet food. According to a recent story by the Institute of Food Technologists, 40% of the $26 billion spent on pet foods in 2013 was for premium products (that’s $10.4 billion, in case you don’t want to do the math yourself). What are people looking for in pet food these days? “Excitement,” says the IFT story. The things that entice them to spend all that money are “flavors, gravies, look-alike human recipes, and meal specific foods such as appetizers and breakfast.” Yes, the modern cat can enjoy special breakfast foods, appetizers, and broths (which 33% of cats think are gross, according to an unscientific survey conducted among She of Little Talent’s three actual cats; go figure).
What’s coming next in cat food? We can’t imagine. But whatever it is, we bet people just like old SoLT will buy it (especially if the commercials feature that adorable white Fancy Feast cat, because old SoLT is an absolute fool for that cat).
Pet Food Institute: http://www.petfoodinstitute.org/?page=HistoryofPetFood
Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). "Dog food goes gourmet: Nine emerging trends in pet food." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718114543.htm (accessed August 5, 2014).