From Harrison Weir's 1889 book, Our Cats and All About Them:
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 Liège 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 an ham, sometimes a silver spoon. On the occasion of the last competition the prize was won by a blind cat." —Pictoral Times, June 16th, 1860.
Cute cat pictures to follow (though sadly not of racing cats); this book has lots of pen-and-ink illustrations, which are of course all now public domain.