When and what company is credited with inventing commercial cat food in the United States?

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Gaines Food introduced canned cat food in the 1930’s, but you need to explore the overall start of the commercial pet food industry to really answer this question, because they are intertwined. Commercial dog food started a little earlier than cat food.

Commercial pet food started in 1860 when James Spratt, an Ohio-based traveling salesman, invented the first dog biscuit in England. Made from vegetables, beef blood, wheat, and beet root, his biscuits were very popular and other companies soon began making their own versions of the treat.

By 1890, commercial pet food manufacturing had spread to the United States. It wasn’t until the 1900’s that commercial pet food really gained popularity and, in 1907, F.H. Bennett formed a company in New York City that began making Milk Bone dog biscuits.

Ken-L-Ration introduced canned horse meat for dogs after World War I, and then Gaines Food introduced canned cat food and dry meat-meal dog food in the 1930’s.

During World War II, items were rationed and pet food was classified as “non-essential,” so canned pet food wasn’t available and the production shifted to dry foods. By 1946, dry food represented 85 percent of the total market.

At this point, there were two kinds of dry food– biscuits, or crumbled biscuits known as kibble, and pellets whose ingredients had to be hand mixed. After World War II, with the economy booming, people could afford the luxury of pet food once again. In the 1950’s and 60’s, many companies added pet foods lines to their “human lines” of products. These include companies like Quaker, Heinz and Lipton, among several others. Most canned cat food at that time was fish-based.

The next big innovation came in the 1950’s with Purina Cat Show. Convenience was the biggest marketing point with these foods. Today, the shelves are stocked with an assortment of flavors for both canned and dried cat food, giving pet owners lots of choices.

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