Among other ephemera from our past, Warren Dotz collects pet food labels. The best of his collection has been published in two volumes, Cat Food for Thought and Dog Food for Thought. While doing his research, Dotz found that food specifically for pets was first manufactured in 1860, and from then on, the campaign was on to stop pet owners from feeding their dogs and cats regular food.
For the burgeoning pet-food industry, this sort of homemade competition was an anathema. Accordingly, it preached the value of its products, which were designed for animals of different sizes and at various stages of life (for example, logic dictated that kittens and puppies had different nutritional needs than older cats and dogs, didn’t it?). “Right off the bat,” Dotz says, “the message was that to be a good pet owner, you had to feed your pet special foods. That’s how pet food has been advertised over the years. In 1964, an organization called the Pet Food Institute even started campaigning in magazines about the dangers of feeding pets table scraps and the importance of processed foods.”
Labeling was important to lure customers, and pet foods of the 20th century were full of artful, comical, and most importantly, cute images. You’ll see those in Dotz’s books and in the post about them at Collectors Weekly.
(Image credit: Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain)