We are what we eat (part I)

We are what we eat (part I)

Humans & Felines

Cats are no different than humans when it comes to living a healthy life. So just like with us, the key to helping keep your cats as healthy as pawsible all starts with what we put in their bodies.

Just go to the store, buy some cat food, and feed it to your cat… and you should have a healthy cat. Right? Well, not exactly. If you want a long, healthy life together, you’re going to have to think outside the can.

Have you ever wondered about our wild animal friends, and the prevalence of things like chronic renal failure, heart conditions, or digestive issues? How about our pets from 100 or even 1000 years ago? Were they also riddled with so many chronic diseases like so many pets are these days?

No! And it’s not because of the air pollution, nor the emf’s from all our electronics. It’s the food. They lived much simpler and more natural lives, but most importantly, they ate a more holistic diet.

Looking back

Let’s go back to mid 19th century, to when the industrial revolution was over but still in recent memory, and entrepreneurs were eagerly looking for new avenues of profit. Sometime around 1860 a businessman by the name of James Spratt, a former electrician, introduced the first commercially-prepared pet foods in England. Dog biscuits made from wheat meal, beet root, veggies and beef blood. Spratt is credited for pioneering commercially produced dog food, and is believed by some to have started the first commercially produced cat food as well, while others believe William H. Danforth to have pioneered commercially produced cat food, under Purina-Mills.

Spratt’s business efforts were so successful that by 1870 Spratt’s operations were expanding into U.S. markets, taking root in New York City. Soon after Spratt’s death in 1880 his company was made public and continued to dominate the market. But things were changing, and new companies were entering the playing field. In 1894 Ralston-Purina (or Purina Mills) was founded by William H. Danforth, who began what many consider the first cat food company, and in 1907 F.H. Bennett founded the company that created Milk Bone dog biscuits, also in New York City. The U.S. pet food industry was experiencing its first boom.

Going Retail

By 1922 the first ever canned dog food was made available to retail consumers, which was called “Ken-L Ration”, a play on the similarly named combat food rations being introduced to the U.S. armed forces in the 1910’s and 1920’s (A-ration, B-ration, & C-ration). Horsemeat was the canned pet food line’s main ingredient, which was not frowned upon at the time and considered an acceptable lean red meat.

Soon after, in the 1930’s, Gaines Food introduced the first canned cat food, as well as the first dried meat-meal dog food. Cat food had been considered a luxury product up until the introduction of canned pet foods in the 1920’s and 1930’s. By 1940 Quaker Oats had aquiered Ken-L Ration, validating that a whole new level of business potential for the pet food industry was in the works.

What about cats?

That’s not to say there weren’t those ignorant few whom had been advocating home-prepped meals for cats, such as oatmeal, milk-soaked bread with sugar, and other cat-inappropriate foods, for almost 100 years prior to the second pet-food industry boom of the 1950’s. But up until the introduction of canned cat food and dried meat-meal options in the 1930’s, most cat owners had been allowing their cats to fend for themselves (since they are excellent predators), while only a select few had the luxury of feeding their cats fresh meat scraps between mice, frogs and other small game. And even the first canned cat food options were all made from fish-meal and fish scraps/byproducts (note: fish is not an ideal meat source for cats – more on this later).

Follow the money

By the 1950’s the world economies were recovering enough from World War II to allow for leisure activities. Pet food sales were booming once again. Convenience, in the form of access and affordability, became the driving factor behind pet owners choosing what to feed their pets. Easier feed options gave way to an increase in pet ownership, which in turn increased the demand for pet food products, making them even more available as new producers continued to join the already booming market.

Enter grains – the solution to the greedy ambitions of our modern pet food industry. Grains and cereals can be baked, and baked foods hold a decent shelf life and are much easier to distribute than dehydrated meats. This gave way to modern kibble, which was developed using cereal production equipment and subsequently also cereal ingredients. Puppy Chow and Cat Chow were of the very first major players in the dry-food race, using a primarily grain/cereal based food, providing a very affordable feed option for mid-20th century pet owners, and at a time when there was not enough understanding about the importance of species-appropriate diets to stop it.

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