This section is from the book "The Book Of Cats", by Charles Henry Ross. Also available from Amazon: The Book Of Cats: A Chit-Chat Chronicle Of Feline Facts And Fancies, Legendary, Lyrical, Medical, Mirthful And Miscellaneous.
"'There is not near half so many Dogs as Cats; I must know, for they all knows me, and I serves about 200 Cats and 70 dogs. Mine's a middling trade, but some does far better. Some Cats has a hap'orth a day, some every other day; werry few can afford a penn'orth, but times is inferior. Dogs is better pay when you've a connection among' em.'
"A Cats'-meat carrier who supplied me with information," says the same writer, "was more comfortably situated than any of the poorer classes that I have yet seen. He lived in the front room of a second floor, in an open and respectable quarter of the town, and his lodgings were the perfection of comfort and cleanliness in an humble sphere. It was late in the evening when I reached the house; I found the 'carrier' and his family preparing the supper. In a large morocco leather easy chair sat the Cats'-meat carrier himself; his blue apron and black shiny hat had disappeared, and he wore a 'dress' coat and a black satin waistcoat instead. His wife, who was a remarkably pretty woman, and of very attractive manners, wore a 'Dolly Varden' cap, placed jauntily on the back of her head, and a drab merino dress. The room was cosily carpeted; and in one corner stood a mahogany 'crib,' with cane-work sides, in which one of the children was asleep. On the table was a clean white table-cloth, and the room was savoury with the steaks and mashed potatoes that were cooking on the fire. Indeed, I have never yet seen greater comfort in the abodes of the poor. The cleanliness and wholesomeness of the apartment were the more striking from the unpleasant associations connected with the calling.
"It is believed by one who has been engaged at the business for 25 years, that there are from 900 to 1,000 horses, averaging 2 cwt. of meat each, little and big, boiled down every week; so that the quantity of cats' and dogs' meat used throughout London is about 200,000 lbs. per week, and this, sold at the rate of 2\d. per lb., gives ₤2,000 a-week for the money spent in cats' and dogs' meat, or upwards of ₤100,000 a-year, which is at the rate of ₤100 worth sold annually by each carrier. The profits of the carriers may be estimated at about ₤50 each per annum. The capital required to start in this business varies from ₤1 to ₤2. The stock-money needed is between 5s. and 10s. The barrow and basket, weights and scales, knife and steel, or blackstone, cost about £2 when new, and from 15s. to 4s. second hand.
Mr. Mayhew also states the London dogs' and cats' meat carriers to number at least one thousand. "The slaughtermen," he says, "are said to reap large fortunes very rapidly. Many of them retire after a few years and take large farms. One after twelve years' business retired with several thousand pounds, and has now three large farms. The carriers are men, women, and boys. Very few women do as well at it as the men. The carriers are generally sad drunkards. Out of five hundred it is said three hundred at least spend ₤1 a head a-week in drink. One party in the trade told me that he knew a carrier who would spend 10s. in liquor at one sitting. The profit the carriers make upon the meat is at present only a penny per pound. In the summer time the profit per pound is reduced to a halfpenny, owing to the meat being dearer, on account of its scarcity."
The following are, as well as I can remember, the words of an old song, to the tune of "Cherry Ripe," that were sung in some play: "Cats'-meat, Cats'-meat - meat, I cry, On a skewer - come and buy; From Hyde Park Corner to Wapping Wall, All the year I Cats'-meat bawl; Cats'-meat, Cats'-meat - meat, I cry, On a skewer - come and buy."