A Historical View of Pet Care

A large cat hugs a kitten, who is looking at the camera.

A large cat hugs a kitten, who is looking at the camera.

Like many people who have been working from home recently, I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual with my cats. This got me thinking about how pet care must have changed over the years, so I started searching materials digitized through the Animal Turn project to see what I could find on a few topics related to caring for pets.

Pet care

Before it was possible to get information about your pet’s health on the internet, pet owners relied on articles like this one, published in the Spring 1963 issue of Animal Protection. In this article, ASPCA veterinarians discuss how to keep pet rabbits healthy, with information about rabbit food, enclosures, and handling.

Similarly, readers of Animal Protection, Fall 1957 could take this quiz to determine whether or not they’d be good dog owners, based on personality traits that might seem unrelated to down ownership. How would you rate as a dog owner?

Pet photography

If you were to scroll through my phone’s camera roll right now, you’d find that most of the photos are of my two cats. While having a smartphone has made it easier to take pictures of my furry friends, I’m certainly not the first pet owner to feel the urge to snap photos every time one of them does something cute.

In the Fall 1959 issue of Animal Protection, pet owners are given pointers on pet photography, including this tip:

“If you just can’t make your pet stay put long enough for a quick snap, or if you are not sure of your ability to take a picture of him in motion, why not sneak up on him when he is sleeping and catch him then. A sleeping pup or kitten has the same look of appealing defenselessness as a sleeping baby. It’s a picture that can’t miss. For an added heart tug, place a favorite plaything; bone, ball or old slipper, beside the slumberer. It will look as if he had dropped off exhausted after a happy romp.”

Pet food

If you’ve ever strolled down the aisles of a pet store, you’ll know there are countless options for pet food. However, it hasn’t always been the case that pet owners could go to a store to buy kibble or canned food for their pets. This early 20th century pamphlet about caring for cats lists options for feeding cats using things that people would likely have already had in their homes, including a recommendation that cats should eat both meat and vegetables every day.

This 1960 ad for “Pal Dog Dinner” advertises a dry dog food, or kibble, that is intended as a suitable food for dogs of all ages. The ad can be found in Animal Protection, Fall 1960.

Pet training

Many dog owners turn to obedience training to help them teach their dogs how to behave, and pet owners half a century ago were no different! This article from the Winter 1963 edition of Animal Protection shows pictures from the ASPCA’s dog training classes, which the organization first started offering in 1944.

Pet supplies

Last but certainly not least, advertisements for pet supplies in magazines are a treasure trove of information about pet ownership half a century ago. This spread is from Animal Protection, Spring 1958, and I think my favorite ad is for “Mildred Pell Canine Creations,” a business that made stylish clothing and accessories for dogs, stocking everything from unusual collars to bathrobes and Cape Cod raincoats.

The resources highlighted in this post, and many more digital resources from the Animal Turn project, are available in the Libraries Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to over a million images, drawings, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting the history and animal rights and welfare activism and other topics.