“Cat Food For Thought” (Review, Interview & Giveaway)

 

Cat Food for Thought

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

 

Though I open cans of food for my cats twice a day, I never gave much – if any – thought to the labels on those very cans. Well, at least not until I received a copy of “Cat Food For Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit and Wisdom” ($12.00) written by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain.  (read on to find out how to win your very own autographed copy of this adorable and entertaining book!). 

After observing the colorful, whimsical and sometimes humorous graphics that adorned cat food cans in the 1950s -70s (as featured in the book), the cat food in my cupboard ventured on depressing. I felt a little ripped off.

A brief non-scientific survey supported my theory that cat food labels today play it safe and are incredibly unoriginal and uniform compared to the ones featured in Dotz and Husain’s book.

Cans of Cat Food

Cat food cans of 2014

 

The labels fell into two camps:

  • Camp 1:  All conducted the same focus groups and concluded that having a cat on the left side of the can was most appealing to consumers because that’s where their eye goes first when they look at the can  (or any photograph or art for that matter). If the brand is friendly, like Friskies or Fancy Feast, the photo is of an adorable sweet fluffy cat. If the brand is based on a cat’s ancestral diet, like Blue Buffalo or Nature’s Variety, you end up with a wilder, more serious feline.
  • Camp 2: Has decided to forgo anything resembling wildlife all together. I’m not sure what the thought process was other than,“Perhaps if it non-specific enough, it could be seen as being good enough for a human to consume and therefore a pet parents will be more likely to purchase it .” (I’m totally guessing here. If you have a better theory, please regale me).

Now compare the labels above to one featured in “Cat Food for Thought,” which the authors say were influenced by comic books and children’s breakfast cereal branding among other things.

GiGi Cat Food

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

Enough about my theories on cat food labels, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the author’s himself, Warren Dotz, and of course my first question was about….cats!

Did you or Masud grow-up with or currently have cats?

As a kid growing up in NY my older brother had what I thought was the coolest after-class job: he filled up soda vending machines on his college campus and emptied the change. He had shoes boxes at home filled with all the coinage.

He also brought home one summer, a kitty who liked to sit and sleep in the boxes because the coins felt nice and cool to her––I named her Nickels. I should design a label in her honor with a starburst of “5 cents off” in the corner.

My current cat is not mine. It’s my neighbor’s. I gave her a dedication in the book. She sees me coming back from work some days, scoots across the street and sits on my brick steps with me looking over San Francisco Bay.

Christina Kitzy Witz

Christina Kitzy Witz

 

I’m not always convinced whether Christina Kitzy Witz comes to see me or just to soak up the warmness of the brick or the cool view of the Golden Gate. She’s my slice of the cat world. She’s comfortable with me as you can see in this picture I took of her this past summer. She’s a beautiful cat!

Christina Kitzy Witz working no the book

Christina Kitzy Witz working on the book. Sort of.

 

Masud, my coauthor, he’s the real cat owner. He was a dog person when he met his wife, but with her came three cats. Like a quote in our book, his life has been a “series of furry episodes” ever since. I think there are nine of them and they’re all in the acknowledgments.

His current cat is a huge Maine Coon called Coco. Masud tells me she’s the most attention-grabbing cat he’s ever had. When he watches TV and gets engrossed, he looks down to see he’s sleeping in his lap. His wife is jealous the cat spends more time with him than her.

I know how she feels in that I am often around his design studio working on our book projects and Coco hasn’t let me come within 5 feet of her, ever! I want to hug her. But it’s not to be.

Coco Masud's Mancoon

Coco Masud’s Maine Coon

 

How did you come to select cat food/product labels as the subject for a book?

Well, I like to collect beautiful paper label art whether they be from Japanese or Indian matchboxes, packs of firecrackers or Mad Men era product. I found a few great pet food labels, but who would have thought to save them. Then one day I won a huge estate auction of labels, saved not by a collector, but a pet food executive. I guess one person’s corporate espionage became my treasure and the starting point of the book.

Even with all those labels I needed to find more of the very best on Ebay and through ephemera dealers. When someone found a great label in the back of an old kitchen cabinet or run-down garage, I was there to not only save it from the scrap heap but also present it in its true graphic beauty.

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

 

Tell us about the selection process for the labels:

Well, I didn’t want the book to look old so many antiquated and older labels were out. We love modern design so I liked the look of the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s labels. Since Mad Men is “in” these days I knew it would be appealing to others as well. At the end of the 70’s the pet food business became consolidated. The smaller food companies merged and the label art became less interesting and eventually became photographic with few illustrations.

Have you spent any time looking at current cat packaging, if so, any thought or observations?

Many of the current pet food label art want to latch onto “the science behind the brand.” So much of the art is serious and still there is greater use of photography than illustrations.  I have seen some boutique brands of cat food in particular with cute “retro” artwork. The only difference is that there is an active effort by the illustrator to deliver “cuteness.”

The label art in “Cat Food for Thought” are cute in a naive sort of way. If they had been thinking of “perception” way-back-when, they’d probably have found euphemisms for “chopped kidney” or “ground chicken” that appear on a few labels. As someone concerned with animal rights, I seriously considered excluding those labels. But eventually decided they are what they are and just like a cat there is cuteness and occasionally some gore too.

Sassy Cat Food


Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

 

TAMAR HERE: I forgot to mention that in addition to the beautifully designed labels, the book contains some funny, cute and witty quotes. I’m sure many you’ll be able to relate to Here are just a few of my favorites to whet your palate:

  • Never feed your cat anything that clashes with the carpet.” Cat Owner’s Adage
  • “Cats know how to obtain food without labor, shelter without confinement and love without penalties.” – W.L. George, writer
  • “We have three cats. It’s like having children, but there is no tuition involved” – Ron Reagan, writer
  • If you want the best seat in the house, move the cat.” – Cat Owner’s Adage

Trust me, it’s hard not to give them all away but I was sworn to secrecy, you’ll have to get the book to read them all (it’s totally worth it). 

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

 

What about the quotes?

Again I wanted the quotes to reflect a more modern perspective. There are hundreds of cat related proverbs, quotations and witty observations. But they needed to match the imagery of the label. I didn’t use quotes that were negative to dogs and vice a versa. I didn’t want quotes from people who lived a hundred years ago. As you know, we produced a companion book about dogs called “Dog Food for Thought.” (Tamar,I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.“)

It turned out that the cat quotes were just as, or even more interesting, because as we all know cats can be quite naughty, aloof, stubborn and demanding . I even had a professional comedy writer, Neil Berliner, and several cat owners weigh in on what they thought were the best and brightest quotes. I wanted them to be fun and funny but above all capture the spirit of cats!

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

Cat Food for Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit & Wisdom, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, published by Insight Editions. © 2014

 

And what can you tell us about the design of the book?

We wanted a book that would be cute but also look great on a desk or coffee table. Something your friend could pick up while waiting for you to get dressed or cook diner (or open up the Chinese take-out). We wanted a book that was different from what’s out there: photos of cats with orange peels on their head or knitted sleep caps. Not saying there is anything wrong with that, but I wanted something that could be inspirational to graphic designers while being literate and fun for cat owners. Especially smart and dynamic ones, like you, Tamar (Tamar, “Okay now I’m blushing!”)

Thank you for your time Warren, and all the best to you, Masud, Coco and Christina Kitzy Witz (even though she’s absent from your Warhol-esq photo montage below, we know who the brains behind the operation was). 

warren, coco and masud

Warren, Coco and Masud (left to right – in case you had to be told – ha!)

Peeps, “Cat Food For Thought: Pet Food Label Art, Wit and Wisdom” makes a great gift for any cat or design aficionado. And it’s quite the bargain so stock up  people!

Now if you’re a US Citizen (sorry!) and you’d like to win a signed copy of “Cat Food for Thought.” Check out the Raffelcopter below. But please note that the MANDATORY is leaving a comment to this post with a quote or saying you’ve heard about cats. Or make one up yourself! I can’t wait to read what everyone writes! Have fun with it and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Adorable book! The images would make a great art series to hang!

  • Jennifer Wright

    I am a cat-loving graphic designer, so I always pay attention to cat food labels! :^) A cat saying that comes to mind is: “Of course there is fur on the couch – that is why it is is called FURniture.”

  • Love the book! The drawings are oh so cute.

  • Cats love you without fail 🙂

  • Jeanne

    A cat’s purr is the best medicine when you’re feeling sad.

  • “Always speak of the past gratefully, of the future excitedly, and of the present with bobbing eyebrows and a Cheshire Grin”—The Universe…….that is on the header of my blog and will never leave 🙂

  • Wow, cat food labels sure were more interesting in the past! They made the cans pop. Companies should jazz up their labels today!

  • “Cats… They’re everywhere you want to be.”

  • Love this!

  • I’d love to win this book!
    I was looking for a quote to make a poster for the animal shelter where I volunteer, and I found this online- “People who say that money can’t buy happiness have never paid an adoption fee . “

  • “There is no snooze alarm on a cat that wants breakfast.”

    We have this in our kitchen.

  • Becca Cook

    There’s nothing like a warm snuggle from a cat. I love the comment about there is no snooze alarm on a cat that wants breakfast. how true! This book looks fun to read. And it’s true how labels on almost everything in the store have changed.

  • Betsy

    If you haven’t seen the video or read the post, look up the diary of a cat. It’s hilarious. ‘I can see the bottom of my bowl. I will surely starve.’

  • Thanks for the mention on your awesome website! Great fun working with warren Dotz on “Cat Food for Thought”! http://www.NeilBerlinerComedy.com

  • Brooke

    I love the Soft Kitty song on The Big Bang Theory. “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur, happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr… purr… purr.” 🙂

  • The graphics are so beautiful!

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  • Ohhh lovely graphics 🙂

  • LarryC

    Google provided a neat cat treat label – “Hypno Kitty Mind Meld Morsels”

    http://img2.etsystatic.com/000/0/5650300/il_570xN.292286766.jpg

    “You are reaching for the can opener…”

  • Remona Munson

    To a dog, you are god. To a cat, you are staff.

  • Remona Munson

    To a dog, you are god. To a cat, you are staff. My cats agree with this quote.

  • Connie Marie

    Cats are a girls best friend, not diamonds! I’d look pretty silly talking to jewlrey.
    I have been told I’m odd, who cares!!
    Love vintage and this book is right up my alley.

  • Cary Hillman

    This looks like a great book to add to my collection 🙂

  • Stephanie

    I know someone already used this one, but it’s the only one I could think of because it pops in my head all the time. Very true in my fur family!!

    “There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.”

  • Gloria Walters

    Looks wonderful.
    In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him. ~Dereke Bruce

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  • Oh boy! Sounds like a fun book!
    “A cat’s a cat and that’s that!” My grandmother did a cross stitch of that quote with a cute kitty on it of course!

  • Jill S

    this made me happy. #Catlover

  • “My boyfriend said I had to choose between him and the cats. I’m going to miss him.”

  • I have a mug that simply says “Have you hugged your cat today?” I love it!

  • Melissa Trax

    “Having cats in the house is like living with art that sometimes throws up on the carpet.”

  • Jenn Lang

    “If you want the best seat in the house, move the cat.”