Prior to the 19th century, animals were kept in their place in paintings. However, the Victorian era brought with it a huge expansion in the middle classes, most of whom kept a pet. These newly "respectable" families took delight in seeing human emotions and familiar domestic situations portrayed through the antics of animals in art.
Jules Leroy, born in 1833, specialised in cat and kitten paintings, the subjects preferably performing some mischievous act. He died in 1865.