In honor of "Less Adoptable Pet Week," I'd like to trot out no less a personage than the famed cat show judge Harrison Weir, writing in 1889 of a traditional cat race:
. . .But the most curious thing is cat-racing, which takes place, according to an engraving, in the public thoroughfare, the cats being turned loose at a given time. It is thus described: "Cat-racing is a sport which stands high in popular favour. In one of the suburbs of Liege it is an affair of annual observance during carnival time. Numerous individuals of the feline tribe are collected, each having round his neck a collar with a seal attached to it, precisely like those of the carrier-pigeons. The cats are tied up in sacks, and as soon as the clock strikes the solemn hour of midnight the sacks are unfastened, the cats let loose, and the race begins. The winner is the cat which first reaches home, and the prize awarded to its owner is sometimes a ham, sometimes a silver spoon. On the occasion of the last competition the prize was won by a blind cat. (Emphasis mine - Curator)
"Cat-Racing in Belgium," from Our cats and all about them: their varieties, habits, and management (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1889), p.218.