The History of Kaytee

Becoming an industry leader doesn’t happen overnight.
  • 1866-1897

    Nicholas Knauf starts his own grain and feed business in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Knauf opens a branch elevator in Brillion and sends 500 railroad carloads of wheat per year to the then thriving flour mill town of Milwaukee. Nicholas Knauf builds a grain elevator in Chilton, Wisconsin, which becomes his corporate headquarters. William N. Knauf (the 19-year-old son of Nicholas), Frank Tesch, and Milton Jones form a partnership. Under the subsequent ownership of Knauf & Tesch (K&T), the business supplies area farmers with clean, reliable seeds. They purchase the grain elevators from Nicholas Knauf in 1897. Knauf and Tesch become a Wisconsin-based corporation.

  • 1920s

    Knauf and Tesch make the move to become a national distributor of dried peas for pigeon feed, soon producing bird and small animal foods.

  • 1940s

    These pioneering years for wild bird mixes actually create the wild bird food category. In 1945, William Engler, Sr. joins the company. Tesch handles the dairy food portion of the business, while Engler manages the wild bird, pet bird, and small animal products.

  • 1950s

    Capital Airlines, which carries a parakeet as a mascot on every flight, selects Kaytee Parakeet Mixture exclusively to keep their parakeets healthy and happy. This is the beginning of innovative and creative Kaytee advertising and marketing.

  • 1960s

    In 1964, William Engler, Sr. buys out Knauf and Tesch and makes the decision to leave the dairy and hog business to concentrate on bird and small animal foods. This visionary leader recognizes the growth potential of products that meet the needs of the ever-growing bird feeding hobby and companion pet market.

  • 1970s

    Formal company name changes to KAYTEE PRODUCTS, INCORPORATED. Manufacturing facilities expand as new bins, warehouse space, and manufacturing plants are needed to meet growing customer needs.

  • 1980s

    In 1984, ownership transfers to fourth generation family, the great-grandchildren of Nicholas Knauf: Bill Engler Jr., Michael Engler, and Virginia Engler-Gilmore. Kaytee grows tremendously as facilities expand, a national sales force is established, computer systems are installed, and the employee base expands.

  • Early 1990s

    Kaytee responds to the needs of customers by acquiring facilities strategically located across the country. This national manufacturing and servicing capability allows for the freshest quality products delivered quickly and efficiently to every Kaytee customer. Kaytee enters international markets including Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and many other countries.

  • 1993

    On May 12, 1993, Bill Engler Jr. is named Outstanding Small Business Person of the Year by President Clinton "for exemplifying the imagination, initiative, independence, and integrity by which the American small business person makes a total contribution to the nation, the economy, and the free enterprise system."

  • 1995

    In November, Kaytee expands the Avian Research Center and adds the 5,000-square-foot Kaytee Education Center. This is integrated into Kaytee's philosophy, “A commitment to continuing and appreciating our privileged interaction with birds.”

  • 1997

    In December, Kaytee is sold to Central Garden & Pet, a publicly traded manufacturing and distribution company in Lafayette, California. Kaytee's new affiliation with other brand leaders and the only national direct store distribution company in the pet industry strengthens relationships, attracts new customers, and supports continued business growth.

  • Early 2000s

    State-of-the-art barrier packaging, functional package design and structure, and investment in improved manufacturing processes add quality and value to the entire range of Kaytee Products.

  • 2005

    Central Garden and Pet acquires Pets International, Ltd., manufacturer of Super Pet brand of cages and accessories for small animals and pet birds.

  • 2006

    Kaytee and Pets International join forces with headquarters located in Chilton, Wisconsin. The Central Avian & Small Animal SBU (Small Business Unit) is formed and continues to energize the small animal and bird categories with this outstanding relationship.

  • 2013

    Pets International embarks on the rebranding of its Super Pet® products to Kaytee brand.

  • Today

    At Kaytee, we believe in the incredible life connection between people and their pets. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality foods, habitats and accessories as your pet’s health, security and comfort is our top priority. Whether feathered or furry, we are passionate in creating a total solution of products that you can trust because at Kaytee no pet is too small to love Kaytee continues its tradition of scientifically-formulated products and unparalleled service, a tradition firmly rooted in the past with a vision toward the future.