Dear Purina: Why Do You Love The Virgin Mary So?

As we mentioned last week, the packaging on several kinds of Purina cat chow feature pictures that seem to be influenced by the Madonna and Child motif. To get to the bottom of the mystery, we sent Purina this letter:

Dear Purina,

Me and my kitty love Purina Naturals! It’s the purrrfect fuel for keeping her coat lustrous and her eyes shiny.

I was looking around at other Purina brands on the website and I noticed a lot of the packages show a female cradling a cat. I’m fond of religious art history and couldn’t help but notice that it sorta looks like those Madonna and Child paintings. Is there any truth to that?

Either way, Mittens thinks Purina Naturals is heavenly!

We’re still waiting for a response. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. joyflop says:

    Seems pretty incidental to me. I don’t get the big deal. How else is a cat supposed to show affection near one’s face? Latching on to the shoulders?! I’m sure they use women instead of men because many people stereotypically assume more women have cats than men.

    Maybe it’s the other way around: all the Madonna art copied off of cats & their people.

  2. Goldenthorn says:

    err… I wouldn’t completely deny that there was possibly, perhaps, maybe some deliberate introduction of a madonna-child motif on the purina packaging. (those advertising types are all subversive like that)
    But sometimes a woman holding a cat is just a woman holding a cat.
    The whole point of the madonna-child motif is the love of a mother for her child. It’s a universal theme, which is why the madonna-child motif is such a popular religious image. This love also extends to owners of animals, for many of whom a pet is as precious as a child. Therefore, to present a person (woman) cradling a cat like a child is more of an appeal to a mother’s love, in general, than to any specific religious appeal. I don’t believe that using the christian religion is what the purina people are aiming for (it just happens to be an added subconscious appeal), so much as they want people to associate caring for their cats in the same emotional vein as caring for a child.
    Anyway, there are only so many ways in which one can picture a woman holding a cat/child in a loving position without it looking quasi-iconic. I mean, those hundreds of thousands of icons in history, they kind of cover all the possible “I love my child so here’s me holding him close to show you how much I love him” angles.

  3. SpyMaster says:

    You’re pushing too hard for a story here…this picture is typical of the way people hold their cats…big deal.

  4. acambras says:

    My cat eats Purina food, but she’s an atheist, so she really doesn’t give a damn.

  5. SteveXo says:

    I would like to take this opportunity to decry The Consumerist for it’s blatant “pre-texting” in sending a very obviously fake e-mail to Purina in order to obtain a response. Shame on you Consumerist. You and “Mittens” aren’t fooling anyone.

  6. joyflop says:

    @acambras: That’s awesome!! My cat and are also atheists :D

  7. kcskater says:

    The marketing majors I know weren’t smart enough to come up with something like this. :P

  8. acambras says:


    Yeah, it’s kind of a relief, really. Do you know how hard it is to find cat food that’s kosher for Passover?

  9. chrismar says:

    I love Consumerist and all, but this is the 3rd post regarding this topic in less than a week. I can’t imagine there’s such a huge lack in stories that you have to keep on spamming us with this.

    Again, not trying to sound rude or anything, just giving some constructive criticism. :)

  10. EnderVR46 says:

    Does this really need three news posts? It’s a woman cuddling a cat. That I can think of, there is only one way to show that on a bag of food, and they’ve done it.

    Even if they directly copied the image in question, what would it matter? I really don’t get why this keeps coming up on The Consumerist. It seems wholly off topic to the design of this site, no?

  11. JuliaD says:

    because advertising is interesting!!

    anyways, who holds their cat or their baby on the left? My ‘Mittens’ is always held on the right as all us majority righties should be doing. This is obviously a deliberate subliminal plot by Purina. you go, consumerist!

  12. zeiche says:

    This “story” is costing The Consumerist their credibility. Most people hold their cats in ways depicted in the artists renderings because most cats don’t appreciate being held upside down.

  13. WannaGetMatzoBalled says:

    Actually a rightie would be holding the cat/baby on the left shoulder, left hand under feet/butt, to be able to caress with the right hand and to be able to smooch its fuzzy wuzzy widdle head…

  14. Charmander says:

    PixieDust is right. A righty like me always holds my cat on the left, so my right hand is free to pet and nuzzle my kitty.

  15. Yozzie says:

    I like it, Ben. It’s always good to have a little fun with the marketers, just to remind them we’re not all completely brain-dead just yet.

  16. TinaB says:

    My cat will only eat Purina, and then he’ll drag me to church on Sunday.

  17. cheesyfru says:

    Yeah, I agree with pretty much everyone else here. It probably was deliberate, and it’s mildly interesting to see a side-by-side, but it’s a non-story.

  18. faust1200 says:

    Dear Consumerist: Why do YOU love the virgin mary and cats so???

    Did you guys hear about the cat that ate a ball of yarn? It had mittens.

  19. Juliekins says:

    Oh, wash the sand out of your vaginas. It’s funny. Consumerist can’t be all doom-and-gloom all the time. The cat posts and the “company that did good” stories lighten the mood.

    Besides, effing with marketing types is fun.

  20. umonster says:

    I was in on some of the design meetings for Cat Chow Naturals — the one with the woodcut. The Virgin Mary never came into the discussion. The biggest problem was trying to make the cat not look like a squirrel.

  21. Hoss says:

    The kitty food is called “Nurturing Formula”, not Christian Formula

  22. Peeved Guy says:


    NOW you tell me….

    Now if only The Consumerist would drop this whole cat food/religious icon thing and tell a Peeved Guy where to get a good glass eye, we’d have a good post.

  23. elbuzzard says:

    Isn’t there some other insidious insertion of religion into consumer culture to cover? Because, you know, this is important, with all those laws we have in this country ensuring the separation of church and stores.


    You’re just making yourself look like someone whose personal religious beliefs are centered around attacking everyone else’s rather than professional on a legitimate website.

    So it looks like a Madonna. Big deal.

  24. oh whatever… both bags were for KITTEN food. And the pics resemble a mother and child. Big friggin deal.

  25. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    My little “Moses” LOVES “Seafood Medley.”

  26. Mr. Gunn says:

    Has anyone notified

  27. ngwoo says:

    It’s a conspiracy. Purina is going to start a cult and brainwash us into buying hundreds of tons of cat food and eating it ourselves. Then, they’ll use the money to buy North Korea and nuke the world.

    Boycott Purina, folks. They’ll nuke us.

    … Slow news day?