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Dog Food Diet

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Still better than pot noodles.
"Do you know what dog food tastes like? Do ya? It tastes just like it smells... delicious!"
Tyrone Biggums, Chappelle's Show

A character is so down-on-his-luck, so pathetic, so damn broke that they are reduced to actually eating dog food. Bonus loser points if it isn't even good dog food.

Sadly, this is Truth in Television — some people are reduced to eating dog food out of desperation. Realistically, depending on what area you live in and what standards you hold, pet food may or may not be more expensive than human food. Pet food is almost universally available in bulk while it can be harder to find human food in such quantities. However, if you have a Sam's Club or whatever near you, chances are you can buy the same amount per ounce of soup or Ramen Noodles as you could buy pet food, especially in a jurisdiction that puts sales tax on pet food but not human food.

The nutritional requirements for humans and dogs are very similar, so as long as a person adds vitamin C tablets to the dog food, they could be perfectly well-nourished eating good-quality dog food. A desperate person probably won't be thinking about this, however, and the lack of Vitamin C would apply equally to someone buying ramen and spam.

Of course, there are significant quality issues. Some pet food companies spend the money for feeding trials and research and produce foods that are more nutritious than ramen noodles and spam; lending some credibility to Gourmet Pet Food ads. However, the minimum standards required by FDA regulations are pretty minimal, and some Veterinary Nutrition professors claim to be able to meet them with an old leather shoe and a can of motor oil — the nutrients have to be present, but the company only has to prove they're digestible and absorbable if they put a claim about feeding trials on the label. Pricing is often much more market-driven than cost-driven, meaning a company may produce a "super-premium" food that costs ten or twenty times their low-end food, but they could both be crap, or both be excellent.

Note that there still are some FDA standards for pet food partly because it is known that human beings do eat pet food sometimes due to cost issues, and because some food-borne illnesses can be passed from pets to people. The official name for some ingredients cover such a wide variety of parts of the animal that it can be impossible to tell from the label alone whether a food contains nutritious organs of the sort predators go for first given the chance or unhealthy bits humans can't digest even mixed into hot dogs. note 

A form of Too Desperate to Be Picky. The inverse of Improbable Food Budget; it tends to pop up in a Broke Episode. A form of I Ate WHAT?!. Because they're eaten with relish, Scooby Snacks don't count. Characters even more poor and desperate than this may be Reduced to Ratburgers instead. The accidental version is Eating Pet Food. Emergency Food Supply Animal cuts out the middleman.

A subtrope of Poverty Food. This trope can also pop up in grittier works set After the End, as showing a desperate hero chowing down on dog food is definitely one way to illustrate what a Crapsack World it would be with civilization gone.


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  • A Public Service Announcement for Food Stamps had an old woman with her cat in the kitchen. She opens a can of cat food, puts it on a plate, then instead of putting it on the floor for the cat, she puts it on the kitchen table for herself.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan: Junior High, Hange desperately tries to get Levi to lend her money to buy food, since she's been wasting her cash on her crazy lab experiments and feeding her Titans. Levi gives her a bag of dog biscuits so she can feed the Titans with it. She's so hungry she quickly starts eating them.
  • Train and Sven from Black Cat get to this point many times, relying on the waitress' kindness of giving them bread crusts.
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy for the Devil" shows Faye eating dog food while trying to ignore the looks she's getting from Ein (a dog).
  • In Dragon Ball Super, in the Bad Future Future Trunks comes from, there's a scene where Future Trunks and Mai snack on some canned meat and express joy that it's not dog food for once.
  • In GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Ikuko's abusive mother, aside from beating her and burning her with cigarettes, also forces her to eat nothing but cat food.
  • Taikobo from Hoshin Engi gets so hungry to the point where he's willing to gorge on GRASS. He gets a stomach ache from this.
  • Although it's never shown, it's subtly hinted that Inuyasha may eat dog food. Makes sense, since he's half dog-demon.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Team Rocket (specifically Meowth) were reduced to this level ever since James bought Magikarp... yet they still have enough money for mechas. It's implied that it's because of the mechas that they're constantly reduced to this level - that and the fact that they keep wrecking the mechas. If they could just go with something less flashy, they'd probably have enough money left over to eat decently most of the time. Also, we occasionally see Ash and co. eating like this, too (or without food at all) due to being wandering trainers — and thus having no regular source of income.
  • Michiru and Chika from Zombie Loan are almost constantly on a diet of expired boxed lunches, bread crusts and the occasional can of hard tack (Shito rarely demeans himself like this). Even though it's not always taken seriously, it doesn't change the fact that both are always starving - and homeless quite often - due to their astronomical debt from Z-Loan.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Zombies 3 has zombies bring tributes of pet food to the Kingpin in exchange for spending a few minutes in feeding pens, outfitted by the Jackal with pods that grow human clones.
  • The Sin City story "Rats" features an impoverished old man — all but explicitly a Nazi, and possibly a former concentration camp worker — eating cans of Alpo to survive. Since he already had to abandon London after the "rats" (Mossad) pursued him, the cheap food is another sign, along with his leaking apartment, that he's trying to keep as low a profile as he can.
  • Startoons (a collection of 'Star Wars parody comics) had a panel where Han is at the dinner table, munching on a bowl of something and commenting to Chewbacca that it was pretty good stuff. Chewy is holding a 50 pound bag labelled "Burina Humanoid Chow".
  • Y: The Last Man uses this more seriously than in most examples, bet set in an After the End world — when there's no more food to loot from a particular supermarket, there's still pet food.

    Fan Works 
  • Triptych Continuum: Before Gerald Gristle opened Canterlot's first major butcher's shop, the only places Canterlot's carnivorous population could get the meat they needed was from pet food stores or from the one restuarant that served meat dishes.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Occurs in District 9 where the partially transformed Wikus eats a can of cat food because it's one of the only things he can get inside the alien ghetto. In this movie, cat food is considered a drug for the alien "Prawns".
  • In the first (Dutch) Flodder movie, the mother gives the dog some food... and then eats a bit from the can herself. (Understandable if you see the food she's usually cooking which manages to look even more disgusting, but still.)
  • Alluded to in Flying Down to Rio (1933): When Fred sees Roger eyeing Belinha, he reminds him, "The last time you had that look, all we had to live on for two weeks was a can of prepared dog food."
  • In Jungle 2 Jungle, Tim Allen 's character's estranged son (raised in a jungle) chows down on cat food.
  • In Lethal Weapon 3, Murtaugh tries to get Riggs to stop smoking by giving him dog biscuits to chew on instead. Riggs soon develops a taste for them and starts snacking on them when he gets hungry. This continues in the beginning of Lethal Weapon 4, where Riggs is sitting with Lorna and their dog. Lorna goes "Here boy!" and tosses a biscuit which Riggs chomps out of mid-air like a dog.
  • The Love Bug (the first one) has Jim Douglas rooting through the cabinets looking for something to eat. He wonders why they have birdfood when they don't even own a bird. He ends up eating pressed kelp. To his credit it apparently doesn't taste THAT bad...
  • In Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Max shares a can of dog food with his dog while the captive gyrocopter pilot looks on hungrily.
  • The homeless killer from Open House is shown eating cans of dog food.
  • In Problem Child 2, Debbie Claukinski's ex-husband Voytek is in his rathole apartment eating Chow Down when Junior calls. Chow Down, which comes in Beef, Chicken, and Horse and made Nippy take a dump three times his size.
  • If you can stand to sit through enough of Showgirls there's a scene where Crystal and Nomi discuss poverty and compare tastes in kibble.
  • Within Disney's Son of Flubber, the sequel to The Absent-Minded Professor, the eponymous professor is reduced to poverty and considers a can of dog food until his dog whines piteously and receives the food instead.
  • The famous scene from UHF.
    George Newman: Uh-oh. Bobbo fall down go boom. Aw, what's the matter, Bobbo? I know! You're hungry! Have I got just the thing for you! Yes sir, clowns AND kids just can't resist the mouth-watering, lip-smacking taste of Mrs. Hackenberger's Butter Cookies!
    [He proceeds to stuff Bobbo's face with "cookies," which are actually dog biscuits; George has picked up the wrong box!]
    George Newman: Right, Bobbo? That's right! And guess what, Mom? THEY'RE NUTRITIOUS, TOO! Just look at how much Bobbo here likes 'em! Mmmm, THAT'S GOOD! And don't forget, there's a nifty surprise inside every box of Mrs. Hackenberger's...
    [notices his mistake for the first time]
    George Newman: ... Oooops! Heh Heh, it looks like Bobbo's been eating YAPPY'S DOG TREATS!
    [a look of horror crosses Bobbo's face, and he runs off to the "little clowns' room."]
    George Newman: That's right, Yappy's Dog Treats! Your dog will love that real liver-and-tuna taste...
    [We hear Bobbo vomiting]
    George Newman: ... With just a hint of cheese!
  • The Uncanny: In "London, 1912", Janet is reduced to eating cat food when she is trapped in the kitchen by the horde of cats.

  • Used as a form of Ironic Hell in the Philip K. Dick short story "The Alien Mind", where some animal-loving aliens discover that a visiting Earth astronaut has killed the cat sent along with him on the mission. The aliens steal all his food, leaving him with nothing but sacks of dry cat kibble to eat for his two-year return trip to Earth. Just to twist the knife, they're all the same flavor.
  • Logan Mountstuart, of Any Human Heart, calls his retirement "The Dog Food Years".
  • Early in Aunt Dimity's Death, Lori is mortified and angry that Bill took it upon himself to buy her a new wardrobe without consulting her. As part of her rant, she invokes this trope:
    "But you wouldn't know about that. You have servants. Well, let me fill you in. The grocery is the place where you go when you have enough money to buy maybe three cans of soup, right? It's the place where the express register is always just closing when you get there, so you and your tomato soup wind up in the regular checkout line, where you're invariably stuck behind the illiterate lady with the coupons for the things that are almost the same as the things she has in her cart. And you have to stand there juggling soup cans while she argues every pound, ounce, liter, and gram, and you don't want to be rude, because she has blue hair and she's probably living on dog food, but you also want to scream, because you'd think that just once she could manage to bring a coupon for the right brand of dog food. Heaven knows it's important to wear the proper dress for moments like that. That blue silk number in the back should be just right."
  • The prodigal son from one of Jesus' parables in The Bible was reduced to eating pig scraps after blowing all his money.
  • A Blandings Castle short story has Freddie Threepwood selling dog biscuits. A selling point of the brand is that its ingredients are so pure that a human can eat the product. To judge from his attempted demonstration, "can" doesn't necessarily mean "should."
  • In Borgel: Melvin and the dog Fafner are trapped at an interdimensional root-beer stand with nothing to eat but rootbeer floats for a month to their increasing despair. When they find a bag of dog kibble in the car, both are overjoyed to subsist on the dog food. Melvin describes it as nutritious and excellent with root beer.
  • In the A Dog Called Himself novels by Kenneth Bird, when Timothy goes on holiday to Spain, he's not allowed to bring his dog, who smuggles Himself in Timothy's luggage without his knowledge. So Timothy has to buy dog food, but a suspicious policeman catches him. When Timothy claims this trope, the policeman makes him eat the dog food right then.
  • In The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, the author recalls that, during her childhood, she knew children who ate dog biscuits.
  • In Greg Costikyan's First Contract, the protagonist, a wealthy entrepreneur reduced to poverty by the collapse of Earth's economy, finds himself working as a cook in a shanty town. We rejoin him after a time skip, cooking what he describes as "cat food" — canned tuna condemned as not fit for human consumption.
  • In both the book and the movie of Running With Scissors, the main character sees his mother eat dried dog food out of curiosity. She admits to him that it's not bad.
    • In the book, it's not his mother who eats it, but Agnes, Dr. Finch's wife.
    • Likewise, in The Worst Best School Year Ever, the narrator mentions that for a while her little brother had a particular fondness for a certain brand of puppy treats.
  • The Future Slang glossary at the back of Transit includes "Petfood Monster" for an extremely poor person.
  • Played with in The Truth, where Otto the vampire is brought back to life with bloody meat he identifies as "fine steak". After he finds out it was meant to be fed to a dog (the owner being a very rich woman with a very pampered dog), he starts complaining, making it clear that sometimes the Dog Food Diet is a matter of perception.
  • In The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett, the author recalls doing so himself.
    Whatever happened to those dog biscuits? They were real dog biscuits, not the anaemic things you get in boxes today; they were red and green and black and came in various interesting shapes. The black ones tasted of charcoal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun had a Broke Episode in which the Solomons ate cat food, not realizing what it was:
    Sally: At a back-aisle, I found these unbelievable savings... tuna, liver and new seafood blend for you finicky types.
    Tommy: Wait, you're feeding us cat?
    Sally: It's not cat, Tommy, it's salmon. There's just a picture of a cat on the label.
  • On The (AFL) Footy Show had Sam Newman eating of Whiskas cat food from a can, washed down with a glass of Jack Daniels. Mmm, delicious
  • In one episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert mocked Americans who couldn't tell dog food from pâté. According to a recent study, 83% of participants mistook the low-grade animal food for the French delicacy, prompting Colbert to blame high-fructose corn syrup. He went on to say that when he wants pâté, he only chooses the fanciest of feasts. He then proceeded to whip out a can of Fancy Feast cat food and eat it. [1]
  • In one episode of Dual Survival, Cody and Dave share a can of dog food because they have nothing else to eat. As they're eating, Cody notes that dog food sales noticeably spike in times of economic hardship and that the US government requires dog food to be made to human consumption standards as a result.
  • Discussed on an episode of The Facts of Life, when Mrs. Garrett has a financial crisis.
  • One of the plot points of an episode of Family is the preteen daughter Leticia ("Peaches") giving money to an elderly woman who is buying cat food for herself because it is all she can afford.
  • An episode of Frasier deals with the titular character worrying about looking like a fool at his upcoming high school reunion, especially since he had been recently fired from his job. He is out purchasing dog food for Eddie while dressed in dirty casual clothes (he had been cleaning his oven and didn't have time to change) and runs into an old classmate, who thinks that Frasier's homeless and that the dog food is for him.
    • Another example in "Agents in America, Part III," has Bebe being incredibly condescending to Daphne, who brings her a ridiculously complicated cup of tea and a biscuit while meeting with Frasier. When Bebe comments the cookie tastes like meat, Daphne simply responds, "Yes, and it'll remove tartar and give you a nice shiny coat!"
  • The The George Lopez Show episode "George Uses His Vato Power to Save Dinero Que La" involves the couple searching for ways to cut down on spending, but it eventually backfires with the breaking point being when they end up daring each other to eat expired cat food. George later reveals that he was just eating tuna, while Angie ended up with the actual cat food.
  • In a Good Times episode, the Evans family has dinner with a nice old lady who is known to eat dog food for economy purposes. This creates a comically awkward moment when she brings a meatloaf for the occasion, which they naturally assume is dog food. As a result, the Evans frantically pass the dish around on the slightest excuses, desperate to avoid eating it. In the end, she calls them on it, admitting that while she does eat dog food herself, she would never bring it to dinner with friends.
    JJ: (saying grace) The Lord is my German shepherd...
  • In an early episode of The Greatest American Hero, the only thing to eat in Ralph's apartment was a half-empty box of dog biscuits, which Bill the FBI agent tucked into with a shrug. He developed a taste for the things that became a Running Gag for the rest of the series.
  • Have You Been Paying Attention?: In the 29 June 2023 episode, Tom's regular self-deprecating insert into sponsor Mitsubishi's ad had him eating a can of dog food. Cue several gags from the panel about the cost of living crisis.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie and Frank scarf down cat food and huff paint so they can pass out at night and aren't woken by the hundreds of cats yowling outside their window. Dee points out that there might not be so many cats if Charlie didn't leave half-eaten cans of cat food around. Charlie counters that the cats are more interested in the thousands of rats that also plague the area. He's not stupid!
  • The Bundys of Married... with Children had eaten Buck's dog food a few times. In fact, in one episode, Al had eaten so much dog food that he started acting like a dog.
  • An episode of Night Court had Harry tasked with finding someone to gift with a winning lottery ticket; the entire episode was a parade of people with more or less blatantly made up sob stories, including an old woman up before him for shoplifting catfood to eat. When Harry asked why she didn't shoplift 'real' food, she started to say 'Catfood was more...' and trailed off. Harry finished '...pathetic. Next case!'
    • Which is a call out to a PSA for a New York food pantry which showed an elderly woman buying nothing but cat food at the grocery with the caption "This woman has no cat" appearing on the bottom of the page.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Red Dwarf is a mining ship that has been three million years in space. They ran out of cow milk and switched to their emergency backup supply. Dog's milk. Lister didn't know at first he was drinking it, making it an example of Eating Pet Food, but continued drinking it because there was no other milk available.
    • In "Marooned", Lister — stranded on a freezing planet with almost no supplies — must eat a can. However, he chooses dog food over a Pot Noodle. According to the DVD commentary, that really was dog food. The "Smeg-Ups" special, however, claims it was actually cat food.
      Lister: And you can take that look off your face, like I'm doing something disgusting. I'm just trying to stay alive.
      Rimmer: [nauseated] You're going to eat the dog food.
      Lister: Yeah. Yeah! I haven't eaten for six days. I'm gonna eat the dog food.
      Rimmer: I'm sure the dog food will be lovely.
      Lister: Rimmer, this isn't dog food. It's a piece of prime fillet steak in blue cheese sauce. It's been charcoal broiled in garlic butter, and it's going to taste delicious. Delicious. Delicious.
      [He pops it into his mouth and swallows it.]
      Lister: ...Now I know why dogs lick their testicles. It's to take away the taste of their food.
  • On an episode of Speeders, a cop pulled over a guy snacking on dog biscuits. The driver said that he had the munchies and he was offered these. He said it taste like chicken.
  • Played with in an episode of Spin City with Carter's family pet Rags, who eats dogfood that costs more per can than what Paul pays for dresses for Claudia. Paul samples some of Rags' food and, while he finds it tasty, he develops a rash.
  • Nasubi of Susunu Denpa Shonen (during a challenge where his is allowed only to survive on things he wins in write-in contests) is forced to subside on dog food that he has won for a couple of weeks.
  • The I Ate WHAT?! version happens in Titans (2018). Hank helps himself to some kind of meat product that Gar made up. Dick informs him that Gar made it for Krypto the Superdog. Hank wordlessly puts the container back in the fridge.
  • A hilarious moment occurred on To Tell the Truth happened when the panel was served stroganoff with a "special meat", and were promptly told what it was. Watch it here.
  • Subverted in Season 3 of The Walking Dead (2010). The group breaks into a house, looking for supplies. Carl hands Rick a can of dog food and Rick hands it back because the apocalypse isn't that desperate. Yet.
  • In an episode of Will & Grace, Grace comes in and eats dog food, and actually said it was pretty damn good. However, Will, who is absolutely in love with his boyfriend's dog (more so than the boyfriend himself) is actually cooking the dogs food like a Gourmet meal. He was seen putting hot sauce on it, so it's possible she couldn't even actually taste it.

  • Five Iron Frenzy had a song named "Dog Food" about eating exactly that. In this case, however, it was about a character who liked the taste of dog food and ate it willingly.
  • My Chemical Romance had their alter-egos feasting off of pre-moistened kibble in their music video for "Na Na Na"
  • Iggy Pop's "Dog Food" is nominally about this, though in tone and meaning it is more a denunciation of fads and snobbery. In the song, Pop asserts that eating dog food is 'a current craze' that is '[his] whole life', and even 'composes [his] wife'.
  • A defunct brand of it is referenced in "Weird Al" Yankovic's apocalypse-themed "Happy Birthday":
    Your daddy's in the gutter with the wretched and the poor
    Your mama's in the kitchen with a can of Cycle 4

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Loser eats dog food", while certainly one of the more unusual match stipulations, wasn't entirely unheard of in years past.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has kibble listed under "groceries" and described as tending to "look, smell and taste like the dry pet food it takes its name from." Then again, a week of fresh food costs almost as much as a scooter, so...
  • Shadowrun has with kibble being really cheap yeast based food products. Although it doesn't taste like it necessarily. Of course, in the game, the average person lives on a diet of heavily processed soy with different artificial flavors added, so the dog food might actually be appealing just for the sake of variety.

    Video Games 
  • In The Binding of Isaac you might find different containers of dog food, which raise your HP by one heart. Said food not only has flies surrounding it, it's also named "Lunch," "Dessert" and "Dinner." Which casts a rather disturbing light on just what kind of childhood the poor kid actually had.
  • In Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror, one item is a box of gourmet dog biscuits, which George claims are really tasty.
    George: Would you like a biscuit?
    Oubier: No, thank you.
    George: You should, they're good. [munching] Umf, I cahugn gued enuff uff thees thinns!
    • One puzzle requires you to give the dog biscuits to a shaman as a gift. He eats them all.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 has "cat food" that you can purchase from food vendors. It can be used to draw out Nibbles the cat so you can adopt them, but there is nothing stopping you from eating it and applying the Nourishment buff to yourself.
  • In Death Road to Canada, sometimes characters will comment on cat food not tasting too bad after it's heated up. Considering food is very generic as pickups during gameplay with no distinction of their nature, and with the game taking place during a Zombie Apocalypse far removed from the usual Cozy Catastrophe, this is hardly unlikely.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 4 has canned dog food as a consumable. Labeled "Doghouse beef stew dog feed" Nate/Nora can eat it for 10 hitpoints and +2 radiation, or they can use it as intended with the Wasteland Workshop DLC and use it to bait dog cages. Nowhere in the game can you give it to your dog, however; Dogmeat can only be given stimpaks.
    • Fallout 76 brings it back, but makes it significantly more common than many other pre-war food products and offers it as a quest reward more commonly than other foodstuffs. It even includes a perk that triples its effectiveness as a foodstuff and healing item.
  • In The Long Dark dog food is one of the available food items you can find. It's bulky for its calorie value and has a higher chance of giving you food poisoning, but if you don't have anything else and no way to hunt or fish like in the early game, it's an option.
  • Mad Max (2015): Taking its cue from The Road Warrior, dog food is the most palatable food in the game. The other options are varmints that Max steps on and maggots.
  • In Postal 2, dog food appears as a consumable item. Judging by the Postal Dude's reaction to eating the stuff (lots of gagging and spitting), it's probably not very tasty. It also only heals 1 HP at a time, though if you have a good few of them, then it can make for a handy healing item in a pinch.
  • You can buy Pet Food for your Cute Pet in Ragnarok Online. And yes, you can eat them yourself, though it won't heal for much.
  • In RimWorld, your colonists will eat kibble if there's nothing else available, but they won't be happy about it.
  • In The Sims 2: Pets expansion, hungry toddlers can eat from a pet food bowl if their parents can't get them a bottle of milk right away.
  • Cooking any recipe with Repede in Tales of Vesperia results in creating dog food. Which is eaten by the entire party.
  • Alluded to in the intro cutscene for Warzone 2100, which mentions that "wars over cans of dog food" becoming one of the biggest causes of death in the post-nuclear apocalypse world.
  • In Wolfenstein 3-D, BJ is not picky with food: he is able to eat dog food to recover 4% of his health, and if his health drops below 10%, he will drink pools of human blood to stay alive. A plate of human food is preferable if there's any available, as it heals 10%, two and a half times that of dog food.

  • More of a dig at military food, but there's one strip in Air Force Blues where Coffman's food budget is running low, so he eats Alpo, even though the food at the base mess hall is free.
  • Freefall: Back in the Uplifted wolf Florence's college days, a dog food diet was an improvement over her Starving Student roommates' usual fare:
    Winston: Kibble and ramen noodles.
    Florence: They combine better than you would think. The downside was when my college roommates found out, they ate all my kibble.
  • Subverted in one strip of Nedroid, Reginald wins $20 and is excited at the prospect of not having to eat dog food anymore, but ends up deciding to buy it anyway because it tastes good.
  • Done as a Bait-and-Switch in Skin Horse: uplifted dog Sweetheart is shown dragging a bag of dog chow in the first couple panels, then she tells her zombie roommate her dinner is ready and eats a tv dinner.

    Web Original 
  • The author of a blog called "The Sneeze" ate Beggin' Strips (dog treats meant to resemble bacon) as part of a series where he tastes various, er, edibles purely out of curiosity. He describes Beggin' Strips as "foul," "bitter," and "the devil's bacon."

    Web Videos 
  • The Human Pet: The audience was allowed to choose what single solid food Eric could eat that would contain enough nutrients for him to survive. The answer was dry cat food, forcing Eric into this trope.
  • The Joueur du Grenier video about sports game starts with JDG preparing breakfast... only the "cereal" is cat kibble.
  • Simon's Cat: In "Cat Sitting", Simon goes on a camping trip (while his sister looks after the Cat and the Kitten) only to discover that the Cat took all the food he'd packed out of his backpack and replaced it with boxes of cat food. Judging by his reaction, the cat food wasn't actually that bad.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Bee and Puppycat, Bee got Puppycat some presents for him, among them are dog and cat food. When Bee's stomach growls and she realizes she has no money to buy food, Puppycat guards his food but she ensure him that she won't eat his food.
  • Chester on The Fairly OddParents! has been known to eat cat food due to being poor, however he seems to enjoy it. When Mr Turner quit his job in one episode, Timmy was fed shoes - but don't worry, when they opened up a Bed and Breakfast and earned some money, Mrs Turner happily exclaimed that they could now get much more expensive shoes to eat.
  • Family Guy had an episode where Meg passes herself off as a single mother to obtain a job at a pancake restaurant. She made up a sob story about feeding Stewie, posing as her son, dog food to obtain tips from patrons who pitied her. Unfortunately, social services gets involved when they get word about an infant being fed dog food and also didn't help that one of their members got their testimonies on Peter's neighbors who were locked in a jealousy-fueled rivalry and used them as slanders without realizing it.
  • An episode of The Flintstones has Fred, near starvation due to being put on a strict diet for a game show competition, trying to take Dino's dog food. Dino, of course, doesn't let him near it.
  • One episode of Fugget About It sees the family in massive debt after a credit card spending spree. It gets so bad that Uncle Cheech starts eating dog food—not that he minds, since it "makes [his] coat shiny".
  • Futurama has Bachelor Chow (a parody of the real-life Dog Chow brand) that you put in a bowl, fill with water, and eat like cereal.
    "Now with flavor!"
    • Also played straight in a single line from Victor the car salesman after selling Amy an expensive car (which she bought for more than the sticker price).
      Victor: No dog food for Victor tonight!
  • In the first episode of Martha Speaks Helen accidentally eats Martha's dog food instead of the alphabet soup she was making herself for lunch.
  • Jim from Mission Hill at one point eats Stogie's dog food instead of feeding him, though in his case it's not because of poverty, but because he thought it tasted good.
  • In The PJs, Thurgood sees Mrs. Avery eating dog food and thinks she can't afford to eat... more so than the other people in the projects, I mean. It turns out she could, but she had a lifetime supply of dog food from winning on a game show and didn't know what else to do with it. She ends up taking in a dog to whom she names Lucky (after she shot at him twice and missed), because she can feed it for free.
  • In an episode of Rugrats:
    • In "Tommy's First Birthday", Tommy wants desperately to eat some of the dog food laid out for his dog Spike, after seeing a commercial for it on television. When he tries, Grandpa Lou stops him, and then says, "Hmm...I see your point..." upon looking at a bowl of strained carrots. Thus Tommy goes on a mission to get some dog food.
    • In "Runaway Angelica", Angelica's desperation for cookies forces the babies to use the box of biscuits in Spike's dog food bowl. Prior to the discovery, Angelica thought they were not half bad. Later, the babies wondered if they could partake the rest of the biscuits themselves, however Spike already ate them all.
  • Probably Shaggy Rogers from Scooby-Doo. It's never actually explained if Scooby Snacks are dog treats or human snacks, but the former seems most likely. It's lampshaded in one Robot Chicken sketch.
    Shaggy: Like I am one sad dog food-eating hippie.
  • Happens on The Simpsons with a twist - they were just trying to save money. And it wasn't dog food, but something else even more absurd - Canned Plankton bought at the '33 cents store'. Plankton that expired two years before according to the Mexican Council of Food, and gave people "red tide poisoning". Their money-saving adviser steals the scraps from their backyard, calling them fat-cats for wasting it.
    • In "Holidays of Future Past", Maggie travels on a dilapidated, crowded airplane where the passengers are offered dog food and suicide pills.
    • When Gil Gunderson got involved in a car accident, he was happy at the notion of, with help from insurance money, eating food. He didn't even mind being on fire.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Horn Of Plenty", Gargamel tries to eat Azrael's cat food when there's hardly any food left in his house.
  • Spongebob Squarepants is apparently the first and only citizen of his entire town to deliberately eat snail food. It wasn't because he was starving, but rather because he was curious about how it tasted. Turns out, not very good.
    • Later, Squidward does this when he's locked upstairs at Spongebob's house and realizes he doesn't have anything to eat besides whatever's in a brown paper bag on the floor. It's snail food.
    • Happens again to Spongebob in another earlier episode, where the accidental injection of snail plasma from a vet causes him to eat all the snail food he prepared for Gary because he suddenly found it delicious.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures had an episode that parodied Citizen Kane. In that episode, it was revealed Buster and Max used to be poor and friends. They were about to eat an old shoe when Max's parents showed up in a limousine and told him they won the lottery. They gave him new shoes with the implication they'd eat them.

    Real Life 
  • Wet dog food isn't actually that bad. In some cases, sausages are made from what's left over (especially hot dogs, despite rumors to the contrary). Dry dog kibble has been recommended as a good emergency food to stash in your car; it stores well, it's nutritious, and you won't be tempted to eat it until it's really an emergency. The main issue is that it lacks vitamin C, because dogs don't need it in their diet, so anyone eating dog food long-term would need an outside source of vitamin C or face scurvy.
  • Professional pet food tasters exist. One made the talk show circuit in the The '90s and had a People magazine story written about him. He claimed that most people would not be able to distinguish between expensive cat food and pâté.
  • Horse treats taste pretty good, though they often cost more than normal candy. They taste remarkably similar to energy bars marketed towards runners. For some brands, the horse treats taste better. The oats and grains that go into energy bars and the oats and grains that go into horse food are the exact same plants, grown on the same farms, processed in the same factories and sold by the same supplier. The horse treats taste better due to having higher sugar content (often as molasses) to fuel a horse's much higher energy consumption, but they're otherwise identical.
  • The sunflower seeds that come in small animal food mix are perfectly edible and tasty, although smaller and more tedious to shell than the ones sold as human snack food.
  • A woman quit smoking by eating a dog biscuit every time she had a cigarette craving.
  • Volume 3 of "Steve, Don't Eat It!" has Steve trying out Beggin' Strips in a "Beggin', Lettuce and Tomato" sandwich. He finds out the hard way that Beggin' Strips do not taste like bacon. He also points out that the ingredients of Beggin' Strips include the very vague "meat".
  • The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has been referred to as the "cat food commission" by progressive critics (to the tune of 336,000 Google hits as of 2/8/11) who believe too many cuts have already been taken from the social safety net.
  • A common argument by supporters of the Clinton healthcare plan of 1993 ("Hillarycare" to its detractors) was that healthcare was so expensive that poor people (and especially senior citizens) could not afford to buy both food and prescription medication, and were forced to survive on pet food.
  • The liberal blog Firedoglake derisively refers to President Obama's deficit commission as "The Catfood Commission".
  • There were discussions in Swedish media a few years back, where it was claimed that the Swedish state pension was so low that some senior citizens who didn't have any savings of their own had to resort to eating cat food.
  • Nowadays, although the food itself is supposed to appeal to pets, the advertising is supposed to appeal to humans (since they're trying to convince them to buy it for their pets.) Because of this, pet food is made and advertised as though it were supposed to be for humans. Dog food is now sold with names such as "Hearty Chunks" and "Meaty Slices" and looks like it's a couple of servings of vegetables away from beef stew. Cat food, on the other hand, has strangely gone "upmarket," and is served to the cat on crystal dishes that make it look like high-end pate.
  • Canned meats that actually are meant for human consumption are still often unfavorably compared to pet food.
  • The tech world has the concept of "eating your own dog food" or "dogfooding" where a company uses a product they're developing internally. The theory is that seeing how a software product works under real use will allow developers to make better decisions. It's derived from a famous series of commercials by Lorne Greene for the Alpo dog food brand where he said that he fed it to his own dogs. The mutation of the line is usually attributed to Microsoft.


Video Example(s):


Faye Eats Dog Food

The ship is so low on food that Faye resorts to stealing Ein's dog food, all while lecturing Ein about how refined she is.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / DogFoodDiet

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