This is said to be the first photo of a cat taken circa 1840 to 1860. It is in fact the photograph of a gentleman with his cat. He must have been a cat lover. The cat appears to be a tabby-and-white random bred cat. His cat must have remained pretty still because in those days the exposures were quite long at a few seconds. There is some slight blurring of his face, however. I wonder how many attempts were made before getting a sharp enough image?
The Photographic Process
It is interesting to speculate what sort of photographic process was used to take this photograph. You can see that it is mounted in a nice frame. The photograph is probably no more than several inches wide. My guess is that it is a daguerreotype. This was the first practical form of photography made public in August 1839. A lengthy exposure time was required.
A sheet of silver-plated copper is sensitized over iodine vapor. The photo is fragile and they are always presented behind glass in frames or small folding cases as shown in this photograph.
The camera would have been large on a wooden tripod as there was no such thing as enlarging photographs in those days. The photo would have been taken in a studio with natural light. 1850 was 21 years before the first cat show at Crystal Palace in London. America’s first cat show took place in 1895. There were some cat breeders at this time but it was at the very beginning of the cat fancy. Purebred cats were almost unheard of. And they were all indoor/outdoor cats.
Cat Food 1850
At this time there was no such thing as commercially prepared cat food. They were given scraps of human food and/or they caught their own. The first commercial pet food was the dog biscuit in 1860 – ‘Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes’.