The idea that dogs and cats should not eat raw meat came about in the mid-1800s when the Industrial Revolution led to a growth of the middle class and with that came many societal changes. One of which is that dogs and cats more commonly became pets and often lived in the house. Many people believed they should be “civilized,” and since wild and working dogs ate raw meat and cats were kept as mousers, pets should eat cooked food. Since the middle classes also were more affluent they were a ready market for commercially prepared foods.
Kibble (dry, crunchy food) first came about with Spratt’s Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes, a biscuit first commercially produced in England in 1860. The dog food industry was slow to develop. Then, in 1931 the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) bought the F.H. Bennet Biscuit Company, which was the first company to manufacture dry puppy food. It was Nabisco that put dog biscuits and food into the grocery stores and out to the masses.
The dry dog food industry got a real boost thanks to WWII. By 1941 canned dog food, around since the 1860s, had 90% of the market share. When the US entered WWII, metal and meat were both rationed. This was really launched cereal-based dry food. Consumers were delighted: dry food was easier, less messy, definitely less aromatic. And, like plain crackers, flavor coatings were sprinkled and sprayed on the dry food so dogs and cats gobbled them up.
It wasn’t until 1951, when the Ralston Purina Company (a company that began as Purina Mills in the US corn belt) experimented with their breakfast cereal extruders to create a more palatable dog food. The cat food industry followed right along with the trend.
The Pet Food Institute, a pet food industry lobbyist launched ad campaigns in 1964 in an effort to convince consumers that the only good food to feed was commercially prepared food. The campaign was hugely successful. The advertising industry has been so successful that most people today wouldn’t know what to feed their dog or cat if kibble wasn’t available.