These celebrations are great opportunities to share light, warmth and good food with friends and family, but ringing doorbells and fireworks often make them less popular with our pets – so we went digging for some festivals that put cats and dogs first!
Every year, on 17 January, pet owners across Spain line the roads as they take their slightly bemused cats, dogs and other animals to church to be blessed. The tradition is part of celebrations for the feast of St Anthony the Great, the patron saint of animals, and has its origins in farmers seeking divine protection for their flocks – some even still bring their oxen, geese and sheep.
The history of this festival in Ypres in May is a dark one: it commemorates a barbaric tradition started in the Middle Ages and continuing till 1817 in which cats were tossed from the belfry of the city’s Cloth Hall into the square below. Today, thankfully, the only cats thrown are toys from parade floats as Ypres’ feline residents are honoured every three years with two days of cat-themed pageants and revels.
Halloween isn’t a Japanese tradition but horror certainly is, which might explain why the holiday has become popular there in recent years. The bakeneko (‘changed cat’) is a type of yokai, a mythical supernatural creature, and the theme for visitors to Tokyo’s popular fancy-dress parade. The event is held in October in the city’s Kagurazaka neighbourhood, once home to writer Natsume Sōseki, author of satirical novel I am a Cat. How apt!
Dogs hold special significance in Hindu mythology and are associated with many deities including Yama, the god of death, whose four guard dogs act as messengers between the underworld and earth. This sacred connection is celebrated on the second of five days of festivities for Tihar, a holiday that shares some traditions (and its October/November timing) with Diwali. Dogs are blessed with with red tika spots, wear flower garlands and enjoy offerings of tasty food.
Animal lovers are big business, so it’s no surprise that cat- and dog-focused events are now giving music festivals and comic book conferences a run for their money. For cat lovers, US-based CatCon is perhaps the best-known feline festival, while CatFest offers a more boutique experience for those in the UK. And if you happen to be in Tokyo at the right time to visit the biannual Neko Matsuri (‘cat festival’), you’ll find local shops and eateries competing for your custom with cat-themed gifts and treats.
For dog lovers, there’s Toronto’s award-winning Woofstock or Woofstock UK, which has been a fixture in Devon since 2014. But the hottest ticket of them all in our opinion is Hounds on the Heath, Mayhew’s annual summer dog show, which raises valuable funds for our vital work.
Is your pet scared by the whizzes and bangs of fireworks? Read our Cattery and Kennels staff's tried-and-tested tips for getting them (and you!) through the night.Read our advice
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