CATS AND CAT CARE - 1940s - 1960s: FEEDING
Copyright 1996 - 2013 Sarah Hartwell

This article is part of a series looking about cats and cat care in Britain from the late 1800s through to the 1970s.

MAJOR SOURCES:

Cox-Ife, Grace; "Questions Answered About Cats" (1947)
France, Sydney W; "Siamese Cats" (1949)
Soderbergh, P M; "Your Cat" (1951) (using 3rd edition; 1959)
Soderbergh, P M; "Pedigree Cats, Their Varieties, Breeding and Exhibition" (1958)
Tenent, Rose; "Pedigree Cats" (1955)
Jude, Albert Charles; "Cat Genetics" (1955) (reprinted 1967, 1977)
Mery, Fernand; "The Life, History and Magic of the Cat" (1966) (originally published in French)
Vesey-Fitzgerald, Brian, "Cats" (1958)
Cats Protection League (various leaflets from 1960s & 1970s)

Other sources are as credited in the text with additional personal information and commentary.

INTRODUCTION

GENERAL HISTORY OF FEEDING OF CATS

At the beginning of the 20th Century, many cats had access to the outside world and, apart from milk and table scraps were largely self-sufficient. City cats were more dependent on owners and their diet mirrored the owner's own diet. If the owner's meal consisted of something the cat did not eat, the owner was advised to cater specially for their cats, for example something from the larder or a lightly-boiled egg was recommended (except in London where eggs could not ‘be depended upon’!).

A typical cat diet began with breakfast of brown bread soaked in warm milk or milk porridge (oatmeal). Dinner might be fresh cooked meat with potatoes and boiled greens or carrots with milk pudding for dessert. Supper was the same as breakfast, possibly with the addition of meat or fish. The usual meats were stewed shin, rabbit, liver, tripe or lights (lungs; remarkably low in nutritional value) or the owner could boil a sheep's head, rabbit's head or cods’ heads until the flesh fell off the bone. These would be served with broken dog biscuits, hard-baked bread crusts or home-made cat bread (see below). A cat which had lost its appetite could be perked up by a raw chicken's head complete with feathers or a fresh-killed sparrow, served feathers and all.

During the First World War, the Cats Protection League magazine "The Cat" carried meal suggestions, for example bread soaked in milk with a gravy of yeast extract. The excess milk was poured off to be used in a later meal. Gravy was made from a small quantity of yeast extract (e.g. Marmite) and a teaspoon or two of "gravy" was poured over the milk-soaked bread. The editor of "The Cat" recommended making a good solid pudding as a substitute for meat. The pudding comprised table scraps such as bread, potatoes, vegetables and cheese, all moistened with Marmite gravy, mashed together and baked in a pie-dish for about an hour. When cold, this set into a firm slab and could be sliced and cubed to provide several days' food.

By the 1930s, experienced cat-owner Arthur M Turner, advocated a diet of raw meat and water, but only for domestic shorthairs since "fluffy cats are, or have been, so artificially bred that they seldom take to a natural diet. Some of them will eat almost anything." When the cat reached 6 years old, it could also have a little beef liver. At the weekend, cats were allowed raw or stewed rabbit, but according to Mr Turner they preferred it raw. "Sunday mush" for the cat might be rabbit sop (bread in rabbit gravy), bread and milk with a little sugar, and mashed vegetables in gravy. Mr Turner disapproved of tinned foods, finding tinned salmon useful for an emergency, but "a healthy, well-fed cat will seldom eat tinned stuff a second day." Indeed, the tinned foods of the time were not well-balanced in nutritional terms and not suitable as a staple diet.

The cat's meat man

Up until World War II, the cats' meat man was a familiar sight in British towns. He sold wooden skewers of meat trimmings unfit for human consumption and horse meat. It was sometimes dyed blue-green to prevent it being re-sold as human food and was sometimes too rotten or foul for cats to eat. Skewer sizes ranged from a ha'penny snack to a threepenny feast. With regular customers, he would post the skewer through the letterbox and be paid weekly. Owners had to carefully inspect it, dipping it in weak vinegar and water, or in plain boiling water, then rubbing it with a cloth to remove flies' eggs and maggots. During wartime, many families kept a stockpot warming on the back of the range. The stockpot contained plenty of water, bones from meat joints (for the gravy) and any leftover meat along with grains and pulses. A rabbit could be added when available. The stock was boiled for a few minutes daily and a little poured over well-toasted bread crusts or served as mush.

Dried cat food began in the 1930s; inspired by stale ships' biscuits which sailors threw to dockside strays. Spratt's cat food cost a penny-halfpenny for a packet or 3 shillings for a 7 lb bag. Dried foods were advertised as being free of the messiness of home-prepared cat foods. Kit-E-Kat canned food first appeared in the late 1930s. It vanished during the Second World War and reappeared in the late 1940s. Early canned foods were not nutritionally complete and cats fed primarily on them often developed eczema.

FEEDING IN THE 1940S

In "Questions Answered About Cats" Grace Cox-Ife (editor of "Cats and Kittens" magazine, part-author of "The Care of Your Cat") recommends weaning kittens using dried milk "One of the patent dried milk foods is best. There are several made especially for animals and instructions are printed on the container" and later notes "Cow's milk may be given - it should be warmed to blood heat, and a few drops of lime water added to prevent curdling - but kittens do better on a more concentrated milk food." and elsewhere she adds "Lime-water should be added to milk given to. young kittens." 

For weaning kittens, she advised fresh fish finely mashed with a little of the liquor in which it is cooked or alternatively well-cooked rabbit mixed with brown breadcrumbs or a teaspoonful of finely scraped lean raw beef or mutton. Meat or fish meals should be given once a day up to the age of eight weeks, then two solid meals a day up to nine or ten weeks. Milk meals should be given as well, making a total of four meals a day, milk and meat should never be fed together and there must be four hours between each meal.

Later, the diet could be made more varied using chopped cooked carrot or greenstuff, barley porridge, any cereal food, brown bread, cooked tripe, cooked liver, milk pudding, meat gravy, eggs either raw (beaten up) or cooked. However, potato should not be given, and any starchy food should be given in small quantities only. Meat given in pieces large enough to he chewed before being swallowed would provide exercise for the teeth. Other foodstuffs could safely be fed as occasional titbits, since some cats had strange tastes - these included occasional titbits of tomato, cake or cheese. She suggested that small amounts of finely grated cheese could be used to make a biscuit meal more attractive.

Cox-Ife noted that many cats were fond of the dry biscuit foods prepared especially for them and would sometimes eat it dry. However, the advised approach with biscuit food was to moisten it with either warm broth or warm milk, but not so much that it becomes sodden.

Seriously ill cats which refused all food could be fed with glucose dissolved in water, meat juice, milk and lime water, or a few drops of brandy in water. Convalescent cats should be given steamed fresh fish or scraped raw beef alternated with meat jelly or finely minced rabbit may be given, but the most important thing was to get the cat to eat something! "Convalescent cats frequently have capricious appetites and anything likely to appeal should be tried. Do not weary the animal by over persuasion, but try something else later on if the first offer is refused. Sometimes the most unlikely foods will be taken. One cat recovering from a severe attack of distemper refused all offered food but helped himself to some cooked greens from the dinner table. After this he returned to a normal diet. Beaten-up raw egg is a rapid conditioner for cats that have recovered from illness."

Cox-Ife noted that fresh horseflesh, either raw or cooked, was both good for cats and liked by most cats, but if there was the slightest suspicion of its freshness, it must be cooked. Offal should always be cooked because of parasites and their eggs. France mentioned the merits of cooked whale meat. To show just how much times have changed, in the later part of the 20th Century, the British Pet Food Manufacturer's Association's code of practice prohibits the use of whale or horse in commercially prepared cat foods. Whalemeat is prohibited on environmental grounds while the prohibition of horsemeat is due to a peculiarly British food taboo.

Some cats were considered to have more delicate digestive systems than others. According to Sydney W France's book "Siamese Cats" published in 1949, Siamese cats were more problematical than most!

"Feeding Siamese can be something of a problem. By no means do all of them like milk, and of my present company there are only two who are addicted to this liquid. Incidentally, I think Siamese cats drink more water than other varieties, and I make a point of seeing that there's always a clean small basin full available. For kittens, four small meals a day, at eight o'clock, twelve, four and eight o'clock in the evening are best, but for adult Siamese I recommend but two meals a day, nine in the morning, and six o'clock in the evening. The supply of food for these meals is comparatively simple, the fishmonger saves the shoulders from cod, and also the heads of cod, Halibut and Conger; also the heads of Plaice, and sometimes if the carcasses are large, those of plaice. These are placed in a saucepan with very little water and simmered for only about a quarter of an hour. For kittens, the bones are carefully removed by finger and thumb, and for the senior cat, most of the bones that can be felt, and those that may be left with the fish must only be soft ones. Leave the meal down for only a quarter of an hour, if it isn't eaten by then, its not wanted, and should be taken up.

Milky puddings and dishes are to be avoided as they only disturb the stomachs of Siamese, and make them "loose." Kittens love whale meat cut up very small with scissors, it's best either fried or lightly roasted in the oven. I've not tried it out regularly for senior cats as it would prove too dear, but from experiment I know how much they like it. Meat for animal consumption is unfortunately hard to get, but whenever available, I like mine to have it, as like humans, Siamese cats like a change of diet, and however much they like fish, will become wildly excited over meat."

Two years earlier in 1947, Cox-Ife (who had also been editor of "Cats and Kittens" magazine) also gave special mention of Siamese cats "whose digestions tend to be weak in yearly life. Many breeders give meat at an early age, but, personally, I prefer fish up to the age of three months. Tinned pink salmon, when obtainable, is ideal, and the soft bones should be crushed and mixed with the flesh."

1953 SURVEY ON PET FOOD BUYING HABITS

The Daily Herald ("the paper of the wage-earners") reported on the buying habits of its readers in the field of mass market commodities. One second report dealt with Pet Foods. The questionnaire included:

(l) Households owning pets ;
(2) Type of dealer from whom last purchase of pet foods made ;
(3) Frequency of purchase of branded foods ;
(4) Amount spent ;
(5) Types of food bought ;
(6) Brands bought:
(7) Brands by type.

It was based on a nation-wide sample of 6,010 doorstep interviews made during March and April 1953 and dealt solely with branded cat foods, not fresh or home-prepared foods, nor supplements. The respondents were housewives. 27% of Daily Herald households kept one cat; 2% kept two cats; and 1% kept three or more cats. The average number of cats per 100 households was 34 (average number of dogs being 25 per 100 households).

About two-thirds of dog owners bought branded dog food, as against one-third of cat ownerswho bought branded cat food. Unsurprisingly, more of the younger families than of the older families bought those foods, which would have been seen as a convenience. Older families no doubt being used to preparing fish or meat scraps. Most purchases of cat food were made at the grocers (41%). The average monthly amount spent on cat food was about 4s. 3d. The younger housewives spent more than the older. At that time, adverts show that Kit-E-Kat cost between 9d and 1s per can (the price was reduced as the product got more popular), and the Whiskas product that was mixed with table scraps was similarly priced. Both came from Chappie Ltd. Wiles was also 9d. Red Heart advertised that one of its 9d tins contained 3 or 4 meals.

The most popular type of branded cat food consisted of meat and fish. Kit-E-Kat (86%) was easily the most popular brand. Kit-E-Kat was well-established by 1953 and regularly ran whole page advertisements in cat magazines, compared to the half page ads taken out by Spratts, Red Heart and Wiles. Whiskas had been launched the previous year as a mixer, no doubt to appeal to that older generation who did not regularly buy canned foods.

SODERBERG ON FEEDING OF CATS (1951)

After the Second World War, meat remained in short supply and could not be wasted on pets. Whale-meat and horse-meat entered the human diet and was also fed to cats. One recipe was cooked horse-meat or whale-meat with brown bread and either broth, green vegetables or raw grated carrots. The evening meal was bread with gravy, or fried bread cubes or baked crusts. Once a week white fish was added if any was to be had.

Writing in 1951, Soderberg wrote: "This chapter deals with the feeding of cats which was possible before the war, and which it is hoped will again be possible in the not too distant future." and admits " Few breeders agree on the subject of feeding, which only goes to prove that cats as a race are very accommodating creatures. To keep a cat in good condition sound feeding principles are essential, but in practice one normally finds that choice is wide, and when one so-called essential is not available, a substitute can be found. The basic principle of all animal feeding is that the diet should be balanced. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats with trace minerals and vitamins must all be found in the diet before it can be considered satisfactory."

"Since 1939 a very serious situation has developed for cat breeders, for from that time many articles which had formed part of the customary diet were not available. There was also an Order issued by the Ministry of Food which forbade the use for animal feeding of all foodstuffs which were suitable for human consumption. Many breeders were compelled by these circumstances to cut down their stock. Few indeed gave up the unequal struggle and disposed of all their cats, for the majority, at the expense of considerable time and no little ingenuity, managed not only to keep their cats alive but also to keep them in good health and sound condition. For those who could obtain it, horse-meat was a great help, but where no source of supply was available, fish offal, when added to the ordinary scraps from the table, had to suffice.

Continuous feeding of this type, however, is not satisfactory, for it is too wasteful of effort and demands considerable care if the animal is to be well nourished and at the same time regard its food with enthusiasm. Lack of variety is not appreciated by cats any more than by humans, and even the most attractive foods pall after a time. This chapter deals with the feeding of cats which was possible before the war, and which it is hoped will again be possible in the not too distant future."

Before dealing with actual foodstuffs, Soderberg felt there to be several points which must be made for the help of the beginner. The first was that all cats must have fixed mealtimes since their condition "depends almost as much on regularity as it does on quantity and content. If a cat knows when to expect a meal, it will be in the right place at the right time provided it is hungry. If it is not hungry, no useful purpose is served by feeding it."

For fit adult cats, appetite could be taken as a fairly safe guide as to the quantity to be given. However kittens were another matter since "like children, rarely know when they have had enough, with the inevitable consequences. Thus kittens must be carefully rationed." Having allowed the cat or kitten to eat its fill - or to eat all that the owner deems good for it to have - the leftovers must be cleared away and no more food would be allowed until the next regular mealtime. As far as possible all meals should be served warm though adult cats were apparently not put out unduly by temperature. More importantly, frozen food must be thoroughly thawed before use.

Cod Liver Oil and Halibut Oil were valuable during winter months, especially as a source of vitamins to kittens born at a time when sunshine is lacking (a reference to rickets). Halibut oil was preferred over cod as the quantity needed was so much less. Soderberg noted that cod liver oil could upset the digestive system, but because the daily dose of halibut oil was so much smaller, this could be avoided. In addition, the small amount of halibut oil was far less noticeable to fussy cats than the larger dose of cod liver oil required for the same beneficial effect.

Boiled fish had long been a mainstay of cat food, but as Soderberg tells the read "The idea that all cats like fish is quite erroneous as some of them much prefer the pangs of hunger to a fish meal. If they can be persuaded to eat it, however, it is a most useful addition to the possible foods. In the case of kittens, a small quantity of steamed fish often constitutes their first solid meal. Fish must always be cooked before it is served, and much care has to be taken to ensure that all dangerous bones have been removed. When one is compelled to rely on fish offal, the heads of fish can be boiled in a pressure cooker to make a nutritious if not tasty basis for a meal. Biscuit food is a useful addition to this fish base."

Cats that did deign to eat fish apparently developed strong preferences, and though any type of fish may be used, fish-loving cats tended to become connoisseurs who looked "somewhat askance at the coarser varieties".

Another use of fish was to treat constipation. "The humble sardine packed in oil can prove a very useful addition to the food of a cat suffering from constipation, but the quantity used must be only small or the laxative effect is likely to be too great." Even in modern times, sardines in oil or pilchards in oil are used in this way while tinned fish in tomato sauce is useful for disguising medication!

The preferred diet for cats was lean meat, but the importance of fats in the cat's diet was not understood. Horse-meat was available and was considered an excellent choice. It was not then known that horse-meat is not nutritionally balanced and can lead to dietary deficiencies in cats fed on nothing else.

"Whenever possible meat should form the major portion of the cat’s diet, and there is nothing which can adequately replace lean meat as a source of nourishment. If the quality of this meat can be relied upon and it is perfectly fresh, it should be fed raw. Where it is the custom to purchase meat in quantities which will last for the best part of a week in winter, it can usually be fed raw safely for several days. In warm weather, however, after the first day it is much safer to cook the remainder and to keep it in a refrigerator until just before it is used. Beef and horse-meat are much to be preferred to mutton and pork, as the latter are usually much too fat. As a rule cats are not particularly successful in digesting fat.

Of all meats rabbit flesh is the prime favourite, and you are lucky if you live in the country and your cats are of a kind which know how to catch their own rabbits. Although rabbits are comparatively expensive, there is usually little waste and as a consequence they are economical. When restrictions are relaxed, and it is again permissible to buy butcher’s meat for pets, most cat owners will confine their choice to beef and rabbit, but at present the only meat available to the cat owner is horse-meat. it is an excellent food and is usually appreciated. Poultry can be fed to cats, but it is not necessary, and unless all the brittle bones are removed, it is definitely dangerous. Meat offals which are at present available for animals have little food value, and if anyone tells you that "lights" are excellent food, there is no need for you to believe them."

Tinned food was available but expensive and rather a novelty: "Several firms are now producing cat food and selling it in tins. Cat owners would be welt advised to give such foods a trial, and if they find some that are suitable, to keep a few tins in reserve. Cost is rather on the high side, but the more popular such foods become, the easier it will be for manufacturers to reduce prices."

Dried food, now very common, was very new in Soderberg's time and was not fed in dried form as it is now. It was different from the modern balanced dried foods (kibble) and the balance of minerals at the time could cause urinary blockages. My own vet explained that the early formulation of "Go-Cat" was nicknamed "Gone Cat" because of sometimes lethal urinary blockages in males cats. Soderberg tells us:

"There are on the market a number of biscuit foods which are very useful in feeding, for they add to the bulk of the diet as well as possessing considerable feeding value themselves. This food should not be given in a dry state, but should have boiling water poured over it and then be left to stand for a few minutes. When the surplus moisture has been removed, the food is of the right crumbly consistency suitable for mixing with other foods. Although biscuit meal can upon occasion be fed alone, cats do better if the starchy elements in their diet are limited to a quarter of the daily intake."

Soderberg gives precise quantities for feeding of male and female cats. On the feeding of kittens from the age of weaning up until six months he notes the following:

"The regulation of quantity is very important, as most kittens will over-eat if they are given the opportunity, and over feeding is a more serious fault than giving too little ... A cereal food first thing in the morning, and the same as a nightcap, is sound practice. During the day two meat or fish meals containing biscuit meal, gravy and some vegetable can be given, one at midday and the other in the early evening. After a meat meal five hours should elapse before meat is given again. The four meals spread over a period of fifteen hours is usually found to be a satisfactory arrangement, and a rest for the stomach of nine hours at night is an advantage rather than the reverse."

While for adults: "two meals a day and perhaps a saucer of milk either early in the morning or last thing at night. A female will usually eat eight to ten ounces each day of solid food, and of this six ounces should be meat. A stud cat, on the other hand, will require more, and an extra two ounces of meat will help him to maintain his vigour. These quantities will be satisfactory for most cats, but intelligent observation will soon show whether the method of feeding and the quantity of food given is satisfactory."

Milk was considered an excellent food, but not necessary for adult cats because so much more of it in quantity was required to be equivalent to fish or meat. In addition he noted the problem of diarrhoea. Kittens which were gradually accustomed to cow’s milk apparently grew to like it, but cow's milk was considered dangerous unless considerable care had been taken in introducing it to the diet. On the other band, Soderberg noted that goat’s milk always seems to be safe, but it was in short supply so that few cat owners would be able to buy it.

Soderberg accepted that some cats seemed to like grass, especially cocksfoot, and advised readers to rely upon the cat's instincts. Those lacking gardens in which grass could be grown were advised to grow a tray of grass.

Finally there was the matter of suitable feeding dishes. These should be kept solely for feeding cats, and readers were advised to not use saucers or plates which were also used for human food. Enamel, china and plastics were recommended although enamel was prone to chipping and had to be discarded if this happened.

ROSE TENENT ON FEEDING CATS (1955)

Tenent wrote that no animal was easier to live with than the cat, though owners had certain obligations - food, housing, exercise and grooming - and anyone who was unwilling to spend a little time and money on those matters should not have a cat, for he is unworthy of a cat's friendship. Before bringing a kitten home, the owner should ask the breeder how it had been fed since any sudden change of diet could result in digestive trouble. Once it had settled in, changes could be made gradually. The amount a kitten ate was less important than the amount digested so four or five meals a day were needed to avoid overloading its stomach. She added that water should always be available, but milk was not good for adult cats and that grass, preferably Cocksfoot, should be available, especially during the moulting season.

Tenent noted that opinions on diet varied and her personal recommendation was 4 regular meals a day diet with flesh meals and milk meals alternated. For example, breakfast might be steamed or boiled fish mixed with brown bread-crumbs; lunch could be brown bread and milk, cereal and milk, or egg custard; evening meal would be another fish or meat meal or cooked boneless rabbit for an occasional change; bedtime supper would be another milky meal or a simple saucer of milk. Meat was to be fed either raw or cooked and Tenent suggested mincing it and adding brown bread-crumbs for roughage. Rabbit and fish should always be cooked. Meat and fish could be moistened with a little of the cooking liquor (gravy), though it was recommended that it should be kept dry rather than wet since cats disliked sloppy food. The regime could be reversed so that breakfast was a milk meal and supper was a meat meal. By the time the kitten reached three or four month it needed 3 solid meals and just one milky meal: "Contrary to general opinion, not all kittens can digest much milk, and some do not even care for it." Halibut-liver oil was to be added to the main meal to supply vitamins A and D and prevent rickets. Dried brewers yeast or half a yeast tablet (crushed) would supply vita B.

From five or six months old it should gradually be introduced to the adult diet and given a greater quantity of food, "bearing in mind that the cat is a carnivorous animal; therefore, as it grows the greater part of its diet should consist of meat". By nine months it should be on 2 meals a day and, if it wished, a midday saucer of milk. "Keep strictly to this routine for the remainder of the cat’s life. Never be tempted to give titbits between meals or at the table. If you do not start this habit a cat will not come to expect it, and you will be able to have your meals in peace and the cat will be in better condition."

"Many cats enjoy raw meat, and provided it is perfectly fresh there is no need to cook the goodness out of it. If, like myself, you keep only one or two cats, try to give them beef at least once or twice a week. Lean beef is wonderful food for a cat and keeps its coat in excellent condition. Readers who keep a larger number of cats may have to resort to something less expensive. Whale meat, ox cheek, horseflesh, all of these are nourishing, and can be given raw, but do make sure to obtain them from a reputable dealer. Some cats are of course far more fussy over food than others, but I have yet to meet one that refuses rabbit. Cooked well, and served with a little cereal or scraps of brown bread, this makes a fine meal for any at to start the day. Most cats also love fish, but unfortunately too much of it is not good for them, and may

even cause skin trouble. Given in moderation, however, boiled fish such as haddock, cod, whiting, turbot, skate, or mackerel, is nourishing and will be appreciated. When feeding either fish or rabbit be sure to remove the bones. Some cats, especially Siamese, enjoy gnawing a large meat bone, and provided this is of the non-splinter type it need not be denied them. Small bones, however, whether from meat, fish, or poultry, are extremely dangerous and should never be given. If rabbit bones splinter and become wedged in a cat’s throat they can cause great distress before it is possible to remove them. If any of the splinters are swallowed and set up internal trouble it may even prove fatal."

"... to overfeed an animal is not a kindness and has been known to shorten its life. Generally speaking, an adult cat needs from four to six ounces of flesh food daily, to which should be added a little cereal, brown bread scraps, or green vegetable, whichever is preferred. The weight of your cat is a good guide as to the amount of food it needs, and you can always increase or decrease the rations accordingly."

"Starch foods such as white bread or potatoes should never be fed to cats, although biscuit meal and scraps of brown bread are good, and when flavoured with warm meat gravy, yeast extract, or almost any of the prepared soups would, for a change, make an appetizing meal. Other suggestions for occasional treats are an egg (either raw or cooked), sardines or pilchards (the oil~ of which is especially good), or cooked offal such as heart, kidney, or liver."

Mr. Gordon B. Allt, F.Z.S. (Danehurst Cattery, Crowborough, Sussex), began breeding Persian cats at the end of WWII when eye problems prevented him doing much close work. After starting with 3 queens and being successful at shows, his cattery built up to at least 8 queens and 4 studs (2 blues, 1 cream and a chinchilla) unrelated to the queens. In his opinion, a cat’s intelligence was as high as that of a dog, although the natural characteristics are entirely different, and humans must approach them very differently. Their affection and loyalty were equal to any dog once you gain their confidence. In 1955, Mr Allt provided the following advice to novices regarding feeding:

"Each week give your cat, whether long-haired or short, a dose of medicated paraffin, say, about a dessertspoonful on food for an adult and a large teaspoonful for a kitten up to eight months, after which increase to the adult dose. This prevents hairball forming with its attendant serious results and possible stoppage and death. It is quite harmless and does not upset the cat in any way but does keep the ‘flues ‘ clean. So far as feeding is concerned, regular mealtimes is the best plan. I feed my adult cats twice daily - in the morning with bread and milk and at midday with minced raw horse-flesh. In the hot weather I ‘do not feed them at midday but in the cool of the evening as I find that if fed at midday they don’t want it and the food only attracts flies. About once a week or so I give a fish meal entirely to adults, either herrings or cod, taking out the main bones. This is important, In starting off with weaning kittens, they are fed bread and milk at first and are then gradually put on to minced cooked horse-flesh, until after about six months the adult diet is gradually introduced. It is a mistake to overload kittens - feed rather little and often. I use my discretion according to how they appear to progress. Always have a dish of water available; cats may not drink much but they like to ‘wet their whistles ‘sometimes. Milk with a little water added is appreciated by some cats, but never give milk straight out of a refrigerator or you are asking for trouble."

VESEY-FITZGERALD ON FEEDING OF CATS (1958)

Much to the topic is similar to others of the time with regard to suitable regimes and meat, milk (for kittens only) and eggs, but a couple of points stand out to the modern reader:

The vegetables which most cats prefer seem to be carrots, spinach, broccoli tips, asparagus tips, beans, parsley, chives, and potatoes. Vegetables should always be given in very small quantities. But a cat does need some vegetables, not with every meal, but two or three times a week. Carrot can be given raw and grated, and parsley and broccoli tips may also be given raw, but it is better to cook and mash with a fork other vegetables. Most cat books maintain that potatoes should never be given, since they are full of starch, If you examine the life-histories of very long-lived cats, you will find that many of them ate potatoes regularly. Three cats, known to have lived for more than thirty years, had a passion for raw potatoes. It would not appear to have done them very much harm. And, as a matter of fact, most cats like potato and would eat it if allowed to do so. Raw potatoes are on the modern day "banned" list due to toxins that must be destroyed by cooking. Broccoli also contains alkaloids, but a cat would have to whole meals of nothing but broccoli to be in any dnger. The jury is out regarding chives: members of the onion family cause a form of anaemia in cats, but chives can be found in some cat foods and may be safe in small quantities.

Raw tomato is appreciated by most cats. They also like tomato juice. Grapes are also eaten by many cats, and I have known one or two that liked a little piece of orange. One cat of mine would take blackcurrants from the bushes. But fruit is not essential, and there is no need to bother about it at all, if you do not feel inclined. In the 21st century, raw tomatoes are on the "banned" list for cats and there was a case of a cat almost dying after eating a raw cherry tomato. Cats, unlike humans, cannot safely metabolise toxic substances in tomatoes. Grapes and raisins are also considered unsafe.

THE CPL ON FEEDING OF CATS (1960s/1970s)

The 1960s "Cat Care" leaflet distributed by the Cats Protection League recommended that cows milk be improved by adding cream. Oatmeal gruel is recommended for weaning kittens, and later raw meat although milk meals and meat meals should not be mixed, with three hours to elapse between a milk meal and meat meal, to avoid indigestion. From 9-12 weeks, the leaflet recommends pearl barley cooked with rabbit and elsewhere, the old favourite of baked Cod's head gets a mention.

In "Some Facts About Cats" it says "At six weeks the kittens may have a little cooked fish, pounded to a paste, or raw meat very finely minced; about one teaspoonful per kitten, instead of the milk. Meat and milk food together will cause indigestion; allow three hours to elapse after a milk meal before giving meat, or vice versa."

For older kittens the recommendation is "Cooked fish, minced raw meat, or cooked rabbit, either plain or mixed with brown bread and barley. Pearl barley cooked with rabbit will absorb a good deal of the gravy and makes a very nourishing dish. The barley may be given separately for one meal with rabbit gravy or mixed with the rabbit. Cod’s head, and/or fresh haddock baked in the oven make a change in the diet.

Always see that the fish is free from bones, and never give rabbit or poultry bones, as these may splinter and cause internal trouble. Dry crusts of bread can be given for the kittens to bite on, whilst teething at from four to six months as they like something hard to gnaw at this time. Cooked rabbit, meat, boiled tripe, cooked or raw liver, sardines, boiled sheep’s head, are all good foods. You will soon discover what your cat or kitten likes best, and when you do, let him have it within reason. All cats do not like the same food. Give fresh foods whenever possible; a little cooked green vegetable chopped up, with gravy added, may be given twice a week if liked. Do not give potatoes. Liver should not be given more than twice a week—it acts as a purgative."

The 1960s owner was advised not to give potatoes (modern manuals suggest adding cooked mashed potatoes to increase roughage) although adding rice or beans was acceptable. In adulthood boiled tripe, cooked or raw liver, sardines and boiled sheep head are recommended though raw liver should not be fed more than twice a week as it "acts as a purgative". Later leaflets (from about 1970s) advise that too much raw liver causes Vitamin A poisoning rather than being merely a purgative.

In the 1960s, the CPL advised "Horse and cow meat and offal should not be given uncooked. When cooking cats’ meat be sure that all the fat is removed, then cut the meat into small pieces. A small bone or two and a tablespoonful of rice or beans can be added. These will give flavour and additional nourishment. Cooked meat will go further if put through a mincer.

If fish heads and trimmings are used, these should be thoroughly washed before being cooked. Boil until the bones come away from the fish or until they are soft enough to mash into pulp."

The leaflet also reflected the growing popularity of tinned foods. These were more common than in Soderberg's time and were becoming the mainstay of some cats' diets rather than a novelty or emergency rations: "Tinned Foods: There are many brands of food for cats which are considered sufficient as a diet. There is no need to name them as they are almost always available at pet shops or the grocers. Dried foods in packets, apart from biscuit meal, are also obtainable and should be used as directed. Cats and kittens too are sometimes difficult to feed or have their likes or dislikes. Some will live entirely on one particular brand of tinned food. Others will like a change. Herrings in tomato sauce and tuna fish are sometimes a welcome change. Even some of the most fastidious will respond to coaxing with one or other of these particular foods."

The CPL leaflets of the 1970s reflected awareness of intolerance of cow's milk. They also suggested feeding "skin, bone, fur etc (called animal roughage)" in the proportion in which it occurs in the prey animal (this appeared in the June 1991 leaflet, but this is absent from current leaflets, possibly due to more commercial foods and a greater degree of squeamishness) and reflected changing views (and possibly changing human diet) by omitting the mention of "pearl barley in rabbit gravy" and suggesting "some meals can consist entirely of milk mixed with cooked cereals or vegetables" instead.

Somewhere between the 70s and 80s, cat biscuits acquired a reputation for causing problems and the 1991 leaflet suggests they are used "as a topping", while modern leaflets say to "use them sparingly". As yet there is no mention of "complete" dry diets, which many owners, myself included, use without causing any ill-effects.

MESSYBEAST.COM HISTORY INDEX

You are visitor number