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Have you ever been flipping through the ads and seen a picture of a wonderful-looking stew, or a beautifully displayed entrée, and then realized that it was an ad for dog food? This has happened to me, and to be honest it gave me the creeps.

I’ve seen dogs eat, and I have never noticed that they take time to admire the plating of their meals. Since canines are mostly colorblind, I doubt that they are impressed by the colorful array of vegetables. There’s a good reason behind the expression “wolfing down your food.” So far as I’ve observed, dogs will eat almost anything; and if they throw it up, they might try it again on the off chance that it will be better the second time around.

One of my dogs would eat anything, even pineapple. She hated pineapple, and would give us piteous looks whenever we put (or dropped) some on the floor; but she ate it anyways, obviously fearing that if she didn’t she would never get anything to eat ever again.

My mother said that she didn’t realize how many crumbs landed on the kitchen floor until the dog died.

Cats, on the other hand, can be finicky. I’ve even heard that a cat will starve itself to death rather than eat a meal it doesn’t like; but I don’t believe it. I do know that they have definite preferences. My wife and I even conducted a taste test between brands of dry cat food, and fortunately our cats preferred the cheapest of the major brands.

Cats also have the strangest cravings. One of my cats was absolutely crazy about canned corn. Another has a yen for tapioca pudding (but not rice pudding); and she comes running when I open a cup of yogurt, but she’s always disappointed because she doesn’t like yogurt. Yet a third cat had such a love for anything in the squash family that she once chewed through a friend’s pocketbook to get at a loaf of zucchini bread. She would sit by the oven whenever we baked a pumpkin pie.

I’ve had several cats that liked table scraps that had lots of chili pepper in them. (No, I don’t generally give my pets table scraps, but when the cat is clawing at your leg to get to the four-alarm chili…)

None of our recent cats had any interest in Fancy Feast, crystal stemware or not. I wound up donating a case to the Humane Society shelter.

It’s pretty obvious that the marketing is aimed at pet owners, not pets. After all, cats and dogs can’t read; they generally don’t even look at the pictures.

I’ve certainly heard pet owners say some pretty odd things:

  • One woman cautioned me that I should always give my cat a teaspoon of canned cat food (hence the aforementioned Fancy Feast) each morning, because “we know that they don’t drink enough.” I thought that was nuts: only a sick animal would go thirsty in the presence of a bowl of water; and a teaspoon of canned cat food doesn’t have that much liquid in it, anyways, unless it is the really cheap stuff.
  • There are people who only give their animals kosher pet food. That makes sense, theologically, because they wouldn’t bring anything non-kosher into their homes for any reason. It’s their money to spend.
  • There is a lot of marketing copy that makes meat byproducts sound like offal (which they are). The thing is, though, that dogs and cats didn’t evolve to eat only the finest cuts of steak: they evolved to eat entire animals, especially the organs that supply nutrients they wouldn’t otherwise get. When you’re a carnivore, stomach contents are the equivalent of Flintstones Vitamins.
  • There are vegetarian pet foods out there. For a human being, vegetarianism is an ethical or health related choice. I can see that the ethical stance could extend to everything in the household, just as the kosher/non-kosher thing does; but how anyone can imagine that a vegetarian diet is healthy for a dog or cat is beyond me. Since there are nutrition standards for pet foods, the manufacturers must have found some way to get protein into them. More tofu, Killer?

Here are a couple of other tidbits I’ve picked up:

  • The “magic ingredient” in dog food is yeast. Apparently, dogs love it.
  • The “magic ingredient” in cat food is garlic.
  • Pet food isn’t good for elderly people. The balance of nutrients is all wrong.
  • Milkbone and certain trendy crackers might taste similar, but Milkbones contain grit that will damage your teeth.
  • Cats prefer cat food to mice, although mice make better toys.
  • Felines of all kinds have a genetic peculiarity that makes them immune to the allure of sugar.
  • The same company that makes M&Ms is the largest seller of animal food, worldwide.

It’s lunch time, so I have to go.

Bon appetit.