11 min read

Fun in the pet food aisle

I collect a lot of things. But my newest collection is kind of odd. And it delights me every day.

It all started a few months ago. In our local grocery store, a bag of cat food caught my eye. It wasn't a flashy design or shiny wrapping, but the name of the food that got my attention. For no reason I can think of, it was called, simply, "Jason".

The cat on the bag wasn't like other cat food models that I've seen; instead of looking excited about what the bag contained, or generically happy or affectionate, the Jason cat has an expression that seems to say "Yeah, I know, what's with the name? Make fun of it and I'll scratch you."

Alas, our cat Ali has to have prescription food for bladder problems, so I couldn't see if he liked Jason food or not. But the packaging stayed with me. The next time I was at the grocery store, I took out my phone and snapped a picture of the bag.

I soon discovered that Jason isn't the only unusual name for animal products here in Europe. In a corner shop in Florence, Italy, I found two gems:

Voilà is at once a hilarious and appropriate name for dog poop bags. I mean, that's the last thing you'd like to show people with a flourish, but if you don't add any kind of triumphant inflection to "Voilà", it's a functional word that basically means, "There you go." So I guess in a sense it's sort of capturing the moment when the owner puts the poop into the baggie. Or could it be a translation of what's going through a dog's head when he finishes his business and looks at his owner adoringly and expectantly, like the pooch on the box?

Near the Voilà bags was a sack with the colorful word "Charly" framed by an attentive-looking cat and dog. I think the product inside was puppy pads – but the dog on the front is way too big to use any puppy pads I've ever seen.Here again, though, I couldn't test the product: maybe Charly puppy pads are amazingly strong and super-absorbent.The black symbol between the dog and cat looks like a question mark.I forget what it really was, but nowadays when I look at the picture, I like to think it's exactly that; the whole image and the logo suggest some kind of caper, probably involving talking animals.I would totally watch "Charly", and not just if it was on TV – I'd probably buy the DVD.

Venice was another goldmine of fun pet product packaging. This first example actually has a completely appropriate name: croccantini means "hard cat food" in Italian.

The French equivalent, croquettes, is one of my all-time favorite words.It just so perfectly captures the sound of a cat crunching into a piece of hard food.It's fun to say, and even with its onomatopoeic nature, it still sounds sort of delicate and refined.The Italian word is even more fun to pronounce. But that's not enough for me to take a picture of a box.What did it for me was the cat featured here.At first glance, he looks a little odd. But then when you look at him more, you might appreciate how the artist depicted his upper lips curling into a subtle smile. Perfetto.

And then there was the very un-Italian-sounding Flik & Flok, two more words that are fun to say.

The cat below them seems surprised they're there. Maybe he thought he was going to be on the front of the Croccantini box.

Venice was once known as a crossroads of trade and culture. This spirit lives on today in its cat food offerings (among other things).In addition to the traditional Italian and the Northern European-sounding examples I've just shared, I also saw a nod to the Anglophone world.There are many adjectives that immediately come to mind when you think of cats and/or cat food.But "Clever" veers off the beaten path.

Not that cats aren't clever – in fact, most of them are very, very clever.My cat Ali has even made an emoticon on my computer before.But in the descriptive words used for the animal kingdom, "clever" is, of course, usually reserved for foxes.When it comes to mental prowess, cats usually get "cunning", don't they? But I think it's nice to have put this more positive spin on feline intelligence.

Okay, so walking around the grocery store in Venice, I realized that Clever seems to be their generic brand for everything, and isn't exclusively for cat food. Still,I'm going to count it. I enjoy the design of this particular can of Clever brand cat food the best: in addition to the lines that highlight the name and suggest brain power, the young cat on the front has a bright, penetrating gaze.I think he'll go far.

There's less to be puzzled by on this cat food box that I came upon in an Amsterdam supermarket:

I just appreciated the naturalism of it.Although the drawing looks just a little odd, anyone who's seen two cats sleeping side-by-side or being friendly has probably seen them make gestures and facial expressions like these.

The drawing of the cat on the left also got me thinking back to another image that could be in my collection, although it was taken years ago, before I'd started my new hobby:

I saw this sign on Roppongi Dori, a huge, busy street in Tokyo, and I stopped to take a picture because I love cats, and when they're dressed up in clothes, that's a bonus. Unfortunately, I don't know what the poster is advertising. I don't think it's cat food, though, which is why I don't know if I can really count it as part of my collection....

And that brings me to my most recent photo. A few days ago here in Paris, I saw this poster for a play. Out came my phone again:

How about you? Have you ever come across any oddly named or illustrated pet products?

_______________________________ A version of this post appeared on my blog on Open Salon.