Paris Under Siege: Why Were Cats Four Times the Price of Dogs?

Photo: Piez

In his discussion of the Siege of Paris from 1870-71, David McCullough in The Greater Journey discusses the path of meat prices. One observer “considered cats ‘downright good eating,’ as apparently did many people. The price of a cat on the market was four times that of a dog.” Whether the price difference was really based on demand—differences in tastes for the two kinds of meat—or supply—is not mentioned in the book, but perhaps Parisians protected Fido less well than they protected Fluffy.

This illustrates a ubiquitous problem in discussing price differences: It’s easy to adduce a cause on one side of the market, but just as easy to bring up another cause on the other side of the market. I would bet on demand in this case, though, since it’s easier to protect Fido than a loose-running cat.

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  1. Nuno Milheiro says:

    Cat tastes just like rabbit. I don’t know how a dog tastes.

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  2. Daniel says:

    Cats may have been more useful while alive (rats and mice), so dead cats may have been rare restricting the supply of feline meat. So restricted supply and heightened demand=higher prices.

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  3. silverpie says:

    On the other hand, cats are better at escaping after they have been caught. But were these prices for cut meat or for the live animals? If food is short, a live cat has value as a mouser.

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  4. Tim says:

    Egad. I wonder if this is when they decided that snails were acceptable to eat as well.

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  5. m henner says:

    is it the price per animal or the price per pound or kilo?

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  6. Eric M. Jones. says:

    Is this a version of the olde joke: “…d’you have ANY idea how many ____ it takes to get a pound of ____.”?

    OTOH: On the TV show “Locked Up Abroad”:

    White English Colonel is riding with black soldier in Sierra Leon.
    Black SL soldier says–” They say eating the heart of a brave man makes you brave. Are you a brave man Colonel?”
    White Colonel–“No, no, not me!….have you ever eaten a human?”
    Black SL soldier–“Yes”.
    White Colonel—“It it true what they say, that human flesh tastes like pork?”
    Black SL soldier–“I don’t know, I’m a Muslim. I’ve never tasted pork…”

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  7. savio says:

    Are we visiting this issue now cause the Dollar is debased and we may all be eating cats and dogs soon.

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  8. Anna Turtle says:

    It’s probably because cats have a lot less meat on them.

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