Pets may not be a new phenomenon but pet food certainly is. In fact, two hundred years ago pet food did not even exist. Horses were just given grass, oats, grains, apples and anything else that was cheap to get hold of in large quantities. Dogs and cats mainly lived on scraps of meat and grains that their owners could spare for them. It was only in the mid 1800s when the American James Spratt was living in London and saw dogs eating discarded biscuits in a ship yard that the idea of creating food especially for pets was considered.
Spratt created bone shaped biscuits from a mixture of wheat, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood that he marketed as dog food. They were an instant success. By 1890 he had begun producing his dog food in large quantities in America, calling the company Spratts Patent Limited. Some years later a brand of dog food called Ken L Ration was created and sold in America, just after the First World War, that was in fact horse meat. The American government had seen it as not only a cheap but even a profitable way to dispose of dead horses.
Up until this point, the only pet food available had been marketed at dog owners. However, in the 1930s the company Gaines Food Co realised that almost as many people kept cats as dogs and so they introduced the first ever canned cat food. At the same time they also introduced dry meat meal dog food, which was longer lasting. At the end of the Second World War sales of pet food in America had reached 200 million dollars, so with such a popular product it is a wonder that no one thought of it before.
In the fifties Spratts became a part of General Mills and in the next decade it was bought by Spillers, a dog food company based in the UK. Even to this day, Spillers make bone shaped biscuits very similar to Spratts original ones. Companies such as Quaker Oats and General Foods saw pet food as a way of making a profit from leftover ingredients that they would otherwise have had to dispose of, so more pet food companies sprung up. Many of these companies paid vets to endorse them who advised against feeding their pets anything other than this pet food, to make as much profit as possible.
Today, vets and pet owners now realise the importance of a full and balanced diet that requires more than dry pet food alone that provide. Many of the soft, moist pet foods sold today are excellent and provide almost all of the nutrients that your pet needs, although occasionally supplements are also recommended to make absolutely sure that they are not missing out on any vital vitamins or minerals. Over 5 million kilograms of pet food are now produced every day, for common pets such as dogs and cats but also for small animals and for horses, which are now kept more as pets than for manual work.
Recent years have seen a new understanding into the benefits of natural and organic food for us humans, but now food experts and starting to realise that this has advantages over standard foods for our pets as well. Normal pet foods are highly processed and currently ingredients for pet food are still allowed to come from animals that are dead, dying, diseased or disabled and items not allowed for human consumption such as cow brains are still permitted in certain pet foods. It is therefore wise to always check the label to find out if your tin of natural cat food is made from fresh cuts of meat, or if it is made from ground bones and offal. There are however many brands that have latched onto this growing desire to feed our pets healthy, wholesome food and it is now possible to buy dog, cat and other animal food that is made from prime cuts of meat and vegetables.