Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Cat's Meat Man. (part 1 of 2)


            Hello and welcome to my first posting of 2011!
            This week I look at how the Victorians fed their pets and the ‘Cat’s Meat Man.

‘Many visitors came to the streets…the muffin man and Cats’ Meat Man. The latter carried their wares on long skewers over their shoulders. The smell drew all the strays.’  
(A London resident writing in 1920.)

            From the 1700’s until the early 20th century the ‘Cat’s Meat Man’ was a common sight, hawking meat around the city streets of Britain. Charles Dickens even wrote about how, as a 6 year old child when confined to the house through ill health, he wrote a play called ‘The Cat’s Meat Man.

Indeed the Cats Meat Men had a uniform, as described by the Victorian chronicler of London life, Henry Mayhew. This consisted of a shiny hat, black plush waistcoat, corduroy trousers and a blue apron with a blue and white spotted handkerchief around the neck.
In their heyday around 1,000 Cats’ Meat vendors; men, woman and boys, plied the pet meat trade.  Part of the attraction was the low set up cost to make a relatively lucrative living. A man could set up with a couple of shillings for initial meat supplies, a barrow, knife and scales, all of which could be purchased second hand for between 4 and 15 shillings. They plied their trade with a familiar cry, much like an ice cream van’s tune today, of:

            “Cats’ meat – cats’ meat, on a skewer come and buy.”
(Sung to the tune of ‘Cherry Ripe.’)

Each seller serviced on average 200 cats and 70 dogs and some did extremely well, such as one Mr. Cratchitt. When Mr. Cratchitt’s estranged wife was taken to court for none payment of debts, her husband came to the rescue.

            ‘It’s all right Your Worship…I’ve arranged to pay all her debts. For 30 years I’ve had a cats’ meat round in the City and …so I’m a man of independent means.’
            ‘What,’ cried the magistrate, ‘You’ve made a fortune out of cats’ meat?’
            ‘Yes,’ said Meatman Cractchitt, ‘Funny isn’t it.’

Next week: Part 2 - Jack the Ripper's link to the Cat's Meat Man!!

PS - For a great review of 'A Dead Man's Debt' visit:
If you have any appreciation for historical romance, you will not only enjoy this novel immensely, but will want to make a space for it on your keeper shelf! A Dead Man¡¯s Debt will charm you, surprise you, entertain you...and by the end, will warm your heart with the overall beauty of this story.


  1. Interesting, Grace. I wonder how many readers have wondered how Victorians fed their pets? Tidbits like this bring history alive. I'm looking forward to part two.

  2. I've never heard of this before, so thank you for sharing this with us!

  3. Thank you for your comments - it's these little snippets from the past, of how people really lived, that I find utterly fascinating. Oh knows, in years to come people may be amazed that we fed out pets on biscuits bought from the supermarket...What we take for granted, the future may find extraordinary.

  4. What a great blog. I love your tagline, too ('History Romance and.. Cats').

    I found you via Book blogs and now I'm following your blog.

  5. Hi Grace,

    I love to read little snippets of information about the past.

    I'm not one for poring over history books, but as 'coffee table' reading, you can pick up some great little gems.

    I find that fiction, when well researched by an author, can also offer up those one-off, seldom known facts.

    Trying to convince Mr.G of that is quite another matter, as he views reading fiction a waste of time, when he could be reading something factual and learning something.

    I have posted on two memes, about 'A Dead Man's Debt'

    I have now finished the book and will post my thoughts about it ASAP.


  6. Hello,

    Just to say my G Grandfather was a Purveyor of Cats Meat in Bethnal Green in the late 1800s and early 1900's..serious East End pride..thanks for the info..


  7. My Great Grandfather, George Camplin was the cats meat man covering the Kingston On Thames area and up to Wimbledon. All his children, my Grandmother included, had rounds on their bicycles and when they eventually married he bought each a house as a wedding present. My father, almost 95 and still alive, can remember all this.


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