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Cat’s meat, horse meat and Paris

2016 February 12

cat and cat lady pet cem

This is an image of one of the official cat ladies (and cat) at the animal cemetery in Paris  taken on an earlier visit. I was in Paris again last week speaking at the interesting “Becoming Animal with the Victorians” conference.Talking about aspects of the feline-human relationship in Victorian Britain I discussed some of the extant materials including Hansard, newspaper court reports, and manuals for living with cats.

I looked at the shifting ownership of cats as beings on whom ordinary people were prepared to spend money in the form of daily “cat’s meat” – really the corpses of overworked horses who had ended their days in knackers’ yards. It appears that cat’s meat was sold in portions of about 85 grams which apparently sufficed for a day. (This is the size of one Whiskas sachet…)

In London alone, officially recognised cat’s meat sellers rose from 7 in 1869 to 93 (of whom 19 were women) by 1900.A cat became a being on whom one spent money. This indicates a change at least in the number of humans who owned a cat, albeit as a servant or mouse eradicator. A certain relationship of reciprocation, an exchange of duties, was implied in the financial relationship.

Cats were also officially employed by the state including the Home Office, British Museum and the Money Order Office where 3 female cats were placed on probation but kept on as they had “performed their duties efficiently.”

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