Bishops Bridge Road, Paddington. © Wolf Suschitzky
Here's another sign of the changing status of cats, from working scavengers to pampered pets. From the mid 1800s, "cat's meat men" wandered the streets of London, hawking food for cats and dogs door to door. They sold mostly horse meat, rendered down from the hundreds of horses slaughtered in the metropolis every week, once they were too old or sick to work. These feline provisioners bulked out their product with meat too old or diseased to sell to humans, selling it for about 2 and a half pence/lb (about £1.29/lb in 2017 value).
Victorian social researcher Henry Mayhew estimated there were 1000 cat's meat sellers in London in 1861, serving about 300,000 cats, one for every house (allowing for multiple cats in some homes, plus strays). Each cats's meat seller walked a particular route serving a few hundred households, their approach marked by mewling cats who knew it meant dinner time.
The first commercial cat food was sold in London from 1860 by American entrepreneur James Spratt. His "Spratt's Patent Cat Food" was filled, according to the company's many advertisements, with nourishing "meat fibrine" sourced from North American buffalo. However, cat's meat sellers remained a common sight in London into the 20th century, both street hawkers and better-off vendors who could open their own shops.