Pet Meat: The Sellers In Photos 1880-1936

From 1800 until the late 1930s, the ownership of pets in London increased to huge levels. Especially cat ownership, as cats were favoured to contol the mice that invaded every home, and rats too. In the year 1861 alone, it was recorded (by Henry Mayhew) that around 300,000 cats lived in London homes.

This was an opportunity for a new trade, selling pet meat. Starting out by wandering the streets with carts or baskets, pet meat sellers soon established regular rounds. After WW1, some traders transferred to market stalls, or rented shops.

They sold horse meat, which was widely available due to the hundreds of worn-out or injured horses slaughtered each day in London. Generally considered to be unfit for human consumption, and often tainted or spoiled, this meat was cheap to buy, and readily eaten by cats and dogs.

There were so many pet meat sellers in the city, they attracted the attention of street photographers who captured this lost trade for us, and preserved the history of it.

25 thoughts on “Pet Meat: The Sellers In Photos 1880-1936

  1. (1) I would never eat tainted or spoiled horse meat. I’m sticking with Soylent Green. Yummy!
    (2) The dog is thinking. “Meat. Joe Black.”
    (3) The “Cats & Dogs Meat” cart would be welcomed in North Korea.
    (4) Overheard:
    Cat #1: “Ask him to put some catsup on my slice of meat.”
    Cat #2: “Catsup? Is that what you call it? You need to ketchup with the times!”
    (5) “Pussys Rump Steak. Fresh Daily.” This explains why Austin Powers is a regular customer.
    (6) Cats meat daily in the store up front: Nice!. Cats meet daily in the alley out back: Mice!
    (7) After Baron Gregor de Berghman was attacked by his twin brother Anton’s dog in “the black room” of the castle, the mob was so grateful that it spared the dog from ever being sold as pet meat. After the dog died, it was sent to a taxidermist to be stuffed. The dog was on display for many years, but it deteriorated over time. Boris Karloff became aware of this, and promptly hired Dr. Frankenstein to reconstruct the dog using bits and pieces of meat purchased at the local pet meat market. Unfortunately, the procedure didn’t end well. The meat spoiled the dog.

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  2. Do you remember pet meat sellers when you were a lad? I have a vague idea that the butchers offered “scrag” end but my parents only ever had budgies. My aunt had a dog but she was in Wilts and I’m guessing it was fed leftovers. I like these photos because of the animals…of course. The pet food industry went mad after WW2. When we try to feed our guys better quality food, they turn their noses up, so we go for middle-of-the-road.

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    1. They were gone by the 1950s when I was growing up. (Not so many horses being slaughtered.) When I was young, most dogs in the family only ever got bones to eat, as they were free from the butcher. (Hence the white, dry dog poo on the streets, and dogs with broken or missing teeth.) Tinned pet food was all the rage by 1960, and our cats were fed ‘Kit-e-Kat’. Later on, the dogs got tinned food too, always ‘Pedigree Chum’. I feed Ollie mostly fresh cooked chicken, but I also occasionally give him tinned chicken chunks in jelly, and tinned tripe, (smells awful!) because he loves those!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. The pet meat salesmen seem to have a built-in (in-built?) fan club. Time was if your mother or your dog knew the butcher at the grocery store there were always a few free “dog bones” to be had. About 2 1/2 inches around and two tall. My dog had the benefit of throwing my paper route with me, so he knew not only the early morning butchers but the bakery store men and the lunch counter prep lady at the drug store.

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