Pet food for thought

At the big box store, I'm standing in front of a giant, glass-doored refrigerator full of beautifully packaged non-GMO chicken, grass-fed beef and yummy-looking vegetables. Every package extols how pure, natural and wonderful-tasting the food is. And it's already prepared! I don't have to waste my precious time cooking it. Just put it on a dish and dig in.

Where has this wonderful stuff been all my life?

"It's been in the dog food aisle, you idiot," said my soon-to-be ex-friend, Charlie. "You can't afford food like this. This is for pets."

"You mean it's for Ed? The dog that drank out of the toilet this morning, and spends his outdoor time sniffing the leavings of other dogs? Gee, how could you think of feeding him anything less than the best?

"Or it's for Buster, the cat that's so extremely picky about his food that he left the mouse parts that were too disgusting, even for him, on the back porch? Yes, surely he deserves the most expensive food money can buy!"



Who are we kidding here? We all love our pets; we all want them to be healthy and happy and to live long, full lives. But -- and I know I will get pushback on this -- they are not humans. They may be better than many humans. They may be better-adjusted, and better company. But they are not humans.

Why are we worrying about their food so much? Of course, we all know that dogs can't eat chocolate, and that cats can't eat -- well, I've forgotten what Buster can't eat, but I'm sure it's something. I don't have to worry about it because they only eat whatever's on sale in the pet food aisle the day I go shopping. I've never heard either of them complain. Except for deep-fried chicken from a popular chain, Buster doesn't even like people food. Which really makes me wonder what's in that chicken. Maybe it's not "people food" at all. Now I remember! Chicken bones. That's what you're not supposed to feed cats. Don't worry, Buster only eats the boneless parts that I like best, the little piglet.

But here's my question: If you're already one of those concerned shoppers who is eating healthy, organic, free-range, cage-free, locally sourced, unprocessed food, why would you need special food for your pets? Just let them eat what you eat, if the only difference is that it says "pet food" on the label.

"What did pets eat a couple of hundred years ago?" Charlie wanted to know. "There was no such thing as pet food, yet dogs and cats survived." They must have eaten what we ate, or what we didn't want.

So I looked it up. Dog biscuits seem to date back to some guy in England, who started making them in 1860. As for pet food, before cars, cities were full of wagons and the horses that pulled them. We always think of horses running free with the cowboys out West, but most of them were in the city. When the horses died -- pet food problem solved. The canned stuff came along later.

When one now-popular pet food brand was first introduced in 1922, its main ingredient was horse meat. They, of course, have changed with the times. I think their main ingredients now are gluten-free organic rice and kale. The pets can't seem to tell the difference.

In case you want to point out that our pets will live longer and happier lives eating the free-range chicken and antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef, I will point out that if you feed your pet anything, it is already better fed than half the humans in the world. Maybe if the homeless and starving were cuter than cats and dogs, there'd be less of a problem finding them homes and food. It's kind of sad to think that the answer to world hunger may not be sending the less fortunate food and money, but sending them dog and cat costumes.

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