Category Archives: travel with pets

More About Cats in the 1950s: Felix’s General Store, Seattle, Washington, 1956

Welcome to Felix’s General Store!


Felix’s General Store. Front and back covers of catalog, 1956.

Imagine my surprise when I found this catalog, the first one I’d seen that was devoted completely to products for cats.  It was published by The Katnip Tree Company of Seattle, Washington.  The firm seems to have operated a wholesale and mail-order business.  The company offered an array of products designed specifically for cats, and its text includes long passages of advice that read like books on pet care today.  The Katnip Tree Company’s business reflected the evolving status of cats as pets that lived either exclusively or mostly indoors.


Products offered by Felix’s General Store, 1956.

On the page to the left, above, business owner Dan Yoder explains how The Katnip Tree Company got its start, with the arrival of Felix, a black-and-white kitten, in 1933.  Felix was the “inspiration for the development of the useful and unique things we produce for cats.” (Felix’s photograph appears on the same page.) Yoder recalled, “When Felix first gave me the incentive to make things for cats there was little one could buy for these pets except a stuffed mouse or a few cents’ worth of catnip.”

As I read the catalog, Yoder’s name reminded me of something I’d written about in Pets in America: A History.  The first cat scratching post I’d been able to find was patented in 1935 — and who was the inventor but Dan Yoder, the owner of this company!

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Illustration for U.S. Patent 2,005,817.  Cat Scratching Post, invented  by Daniel D. Yoder.

The original design evolved into a number of options, shown below, covered with heavy  canvas and made more desirable by the inclusion of container holding catnip inside the pole.


Two-page spread on the company’s own “Katnip Tree,” its signature product.

The catalog is full of other accommodations for the new “indoor cat,” including “Furnishings for Kitty’s Powder Room.”  The litter box kit consisted of an enameled metal tray with a decorative cover along with sheets of waterproof paper that were intended to keep moisture in the layer of sand or granular litter, which was finding its market in the 1950s.  (See my post of 15 November for a discussion of the “invention” and marketing of cat litter.). I especially like the optional “Powder Room Screen,” intended to shield the litter box.  This was probably intended for settings such as city apartments, where litter boxes occupied space in bathrooms or kitchens.

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A page from the “Sanitation and Hygiene” section of the catalog.

Indoor cats required “education,” according to Dan Yoder.  The training kit below was intended to teach the cat to come when the owner called.  (The catalog also offered a water pistol for use in training cats to leave household furnishings and plants along; this is a method that to be recommended for training cats today.) And the catalog also offered a special set of clippers for the claws of indoor cats.  Around the time, the practice of declawing was being introduced in some small-animal clinics, but Yoder did not mention it and would probably not have approved.

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Equipment for training and trimming claws.

Finally, the Katnip Tree Company catalog promoted the idea of traveling with cats using its Felix C-Vue Deluxe Carrier.  Noting that some veterinarians already used this product, the catalog pointed out that the plastic top and ventilation holes made cats more comfortable for car, train and airplane trips.

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Inside back cover of Felix’s General Store catalog.

The price list below shows the entire range of products offered by Dan Yoder’s small business in 1956.  Add in cat food and cat-box filler and you have a pretty complete  picture of the material culture associated with the changing home lives of pet cats in the mid-twentieth century.

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Filed under animal-human interaction, cat litter, cat products, catnip, cats, pet antiques, pet industry, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets, small animal medicine, travel with pets

Air Travel with Dogs: A Comfort Station at the Philadelphia International Airport 2017


Service Animal and Pete Relief Area, Philadelphia International Airport.  Photograph by the author, 24 March 2017

Trudging along in the Philadelphia International Airport, I came across this extraordinary example of the material culture of modern pet keeping.  I noticed a small dog and his owner, who was also toting a nylon carrier, and they drew my eye to this comfort station.  Most of the two million animals transported by the airlines must travel in the hold (a situation that has led to a number of tragedies and a lot of bad publicity for the airlines that, in the past, have operated been in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.  However, small animals and service animals now must be accommodated in the passenger compartment.  With security regulations preventing canine passengers accessing  the exterior of terminals as impromptu dog potties, airports are now apparently creating these public restrooms for dogs.

One of the design elements that is so interesting about this is the survival of the fire hydrant as a vertical surface for the use of male dogs.  This one is made out of cast plastic, but it is full size and the regulation red. This has been a standing joke in humor about city dogs for at least 100 years.

If you would like to share images of other airport canine comfort stations, let me know;  I’ll be happy to post them.  And if you have had experience with getting your dog to use one of these, I’ll share the stories, too.  Kudos to PHL for taking care of our canine companions.  Now I’m waiting for a public litter box for our flying feline friends.

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Filed under dog training, dogs, fire hydrant, pets, travel with pets

Touring with Towser

Dog with Front Paws on Automobile

Photographic postcard of “Barry,” taken by Morris (last name unknown. Cyannotype. Postmarked 3 August 1912. Addressed to Miss Caroline B. Freeman, Jefferson, MA.

Although the summer travel season is past, I can’t resist a belated post on car travel with dogs.   In my research for Pets in America, I found evidence that dogs loved traveling by horse-drawn carriage, and I have to admit that I was not surprised.  There is something about riding in a vehicle that stirs the canine soul.  When families began to purchase their own cars, many happy dogs, like Barry here, began to ask for a chance to ride along.

In the 1920s, motor vehicle owners began to improvise with homemade trailers or  cabins on truck beds.  (Wally Byam, creator of the Airstream trailer, created his first travel shelter on the back of a model-T in 1929.) By the 1930s, travelers with limited budgets or DIY skills still built their own trailers, but companies also made and sold a variety of folding campers and trailers of wood and metal.

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“Silver Lake Aug. 1951.” Snapshot; photographer unknown.

After World War II, as more American workers received vacation days as part of the terms of their employment, trailer vacations became even more popular — and family dogs went along. This 1951 snapshot taken at an unidentified “Silver Lake” (there are a number of them), shows two women and their collie dog at their campsite.

Of course, not all family dogs had to rough it like this.  In 1960, the Gaines Dog Research Center, a unit of the Gaines dog food company, published this small paperback booklet, Touring with Towser.  It contained nothing more than a list by state and town of hotels and motels (“motor courts”) that were willing to accept dogs.

IMG pets blog_0027I like the cover image;  the boy and the dog are riding together in the back seat and having fun looking out the window.  I remember sharing the back seat with the family basset hound, Gussie, when I was a child — she was a seat hog.

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Contents of “Dog Along Travel Kit.” Two plastic bowls (stacked); a plastic sheet to protect the hotel room floor; a can opener; and two brochures.

Of course, the well-traveled family dog needed to be able to dine and drink in comfort on the road.  A number of novelty companies produced inexpensive travel kits with bowls, place mats, can openers and bottles for water.  This one was a premium from the Quaker Oats Company, which owned Ken-L-Ration at that time.   The cardboard “suitcase” has a design of travel decals, suggesting that the family dog was as well traveled as the rest of the gang. — notice the one for Disneyland.  The brochure offers advice on traveling with a dog in hot weather.

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Dog Along Travel Kit, premium for Ken-L-Ration dog food, Quaker Oats Company, ca. 1960. Printed cardboard.

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Filed under animal-human interaction, dogs, material culture, pet antiques, pets, travel with pets