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Why don't we say "cat's food' but "cat food", is it because the owner is not a human? Can we say pets' food?

  • "Cat" in "cat food" is a noun adjunct: a noun used to modify another noun. For more, have a look at this answer. Also, there is nothing wrong with using the apostrophe-s (which we call the "Saxon genitive") to indicate possession by non-humans or even inanimate objects. "The food's taste" is perfectly grammatiocal and acceptable. – P. E. Dant Aug 5 '17 at 3:01
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We use "cat food" because it's not a genitive. "Cat" is a descriptor. It's the equivalent of "blue house" - a house that is blue.

A can of "cat food" is a can of food for cats - generally, not a specific cat.

You can definitely say "cat's food" but you wouldn't use it to describe the food generally, you use it to describe it particularly. Here's an example.

  1. My dog eats cat food.
  2. My dog eats the cat's food.

These mean different things. Version 1 means that I, for some reason, feed my dog cat food instead of dog food. Version 2 means that I have both a cat and a dog and the dog eats the food that's put out for the cat.

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