America’s skimpy holiday schedule has become stuff of legend, but U.S. animal lovers actually have plenty to celebrate — even if America’s best holidays (National Hug Your Cat Day, anyone?) don’t always come with vacation pay.
Even so, animal-inspired holidays provide an excellent reason to shower your dog or cat with some extra love, learn more endangered wildlife, or even gather your family for a trip to the zoo. Read on for some of our favorite animal-inspired celebrations, although with hundreds of annual animal holidays, we don’t have room to mention them all. Do you celebrate any of the following festive occasions?
America’s Best Animal-Inspired Holidays
The whole month of January is Adopt a Rescued Bird Month, which is further broken down into specific days celebrating various species. For instance, Jan. 20 is Bald Eagle Appreciation Day, aka a great way to celebrate our national animal. Penguin Awareness Day (not to be confused with World Penguin Awareness Day, which is celebrated later in April) is also on Jan. 20. Speaking of black and white, Jan. 31 is International Zebra Day, and a good chance to learn more about one of the world’s most fascinating animals.
Everybody knows February’s famous groundhogs, but this month is actually devoted to animals of all sorts. Once hosted in September, National Wildlife Day was recently moved up to Feb. 22, the birthday of the late Ozzie wildlife conservationist, Steve Irwin. Regardless, we have little doubt that your dog will enjoy celebrating International Dog Biscuit Day on Feb. 23, which in turn segues into National Justice For Animals Week (Feb. 25 to March 3). This short month wraps with International Polar Bear Day on Feb. 27, which is great opportunity to become a polar bear ambassador – ie, reduce your carbon footprint, sign petitions and spread the word through your business or school about the need to champion a magnificent animal urgently threatened by climate change.
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There’s a lot of festive animal activity happening in March, and we’re not just talking about Respect Your Cat Day (Mar. 28) and National Puppy Day (March 23). On March 3, the UN’s World Wildlife Day, which was officially endorsed by the UN on 2013, aims to raise awareness of endangered animals and plants. Each year has a different theme, but this one will be Big Cats. Check out WWD’s website to learn more about the endangers tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs and other big cats we’re championing this year, as well as info on nearby events and other ways to get involved. Meanwhile, National Panda Day will be kicking off on March 16. Not only are these bamboo-loving critters absolutely adorable, they’ve also been upgraded from “endangered” to merely “vulnerable” owing to conservation efforts worldwide.
April might be known for Easter, Earth Day and April Fool’s, but it’s also Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, which is further broken down into days commemorating individual animal welfare issues, including Dog Fighting Awareness Day on April 8, or Help a Horse Day on April 26 and Animal Advocacy Day on April 30. The ASPCA, which organizes the events, publishes a whole list of ways you can get involved, from creating a personal fundraising page to signing petitions to adopting a shelter cats and dogs to tagging @ASCPCA as you spread the word in a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram post.
We counted 18 animal-related holidays in May, with whole days devoted to jumping frogs (May 13), pink flamingos (May 29), turtles (May 23), and chickens (May 4). Despite all of these, it’s hard not to get excited about Endangered Species Day, which falls on May 18 in 2018, but always lands on the third Friday of May. Organized by the National Wildlife Federation, the holiday is meant to generate awareness about the 1/3 of world species under threat of extinction, including red wolves and bison, while providing important tips about ways you can help, for instance by messaging your representatives or tagging the National Wildlife Federation in a Facebook post.
Nobody’s entirely sure of the origins behind June 4’s Hug Your Cat Day, perhaps because this is something that many of us do year-round. Besides the warm fuzzy, research suggests that hugging your cats also brings important health benefits, too, namely in the form of reduced stress. This is also a great segue into National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, which is going on for the entirely of June. Whether or not you decide to adopt, or just feel like hugging, you can commemorate both holidays with a trip to a cat café/adoption center near you.
Everybody gets a day off of work for the fourth of July, but we’re just as excited for July 31, aka National Mutt Day or National Mixed Breed Dog Day. Also celebrated on Dec. 2, this biannual festivity was started in 2005 by an animal welfare advocate named Colleen Paige, who was trying to raise awareness about shelter dogs, 80 percent of whom are mixed breeds. Not only are mutts just as lovable as their purebred counterparts, research proves that they’re also better-behaved and healthier. If you can’t adopt a dog on July 31 or Dec. 2, there’s still plenty you can do to help. Donate $5 to your local animal shelter, raise awareness on social media, or even volunteer.
Also founded by animal-advocate Colleen Paige, who – mark your calendars — further immortalized National Puppy Day (March 23) and National Cat Day (October 29), this similar but different event celebrates dogs of all backgrounds. Nor is the date of commemoration, August 26, any accident – this is the day Paige’s family adopted their first dog into the family home. Since the holiday was first founded in 2004, popularity has grown so much that National Dog Day was even adopted (see what we did there?) into New York State law in 2013.
Species of all shapes and sizes are celebrated in September, aka World Animal Remembrance Month. Animal advocates will swoon at the wide range of festivities on offer: The party starts on Sept. 4 with National Wildlife Day, which is an opportunity to learn more about how you can help endangered species. Meanwhile, International Red Panda day, now in its 8th year, is celebrated the third Saturday of September, right before World Rhino Day (Sept 22) and Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept. 23-29). Whatever you do, don’t miss Hug Your Hound Day on Sept 14 – if cats were going to get their own officially sanctioned hugging holiday, it’s only fair that dogs do, too.
It’s no coincidence that this world animal day –designed to up the profile of animals around the globe — is hosted Oct. 4, also the feat day for Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. But you don’t need to be catholic to celebrate this long-standing event, which was actually founded in Berlin in 1925 and before gaining its official status at a 1931 conference for International Animal Protection Congress in Florence. These days, the festivities are led Naturewatch, an animal-welfare non-profit based in the UK. Along with a countdown to the next event, the charity publishes a promotes the hundreds of global awareness and fundraising events happening worldwide.
Everyone associates November with Thanksgiving, but National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation week, founded in 1996, involves showing gratitude to people and organizations that care for America’s strays. Organized by the Humane Society on the first full week of November, these seven days are meant to consider the 6-8 million animals served by U.S. shelters each year. There are always ways you can say thanks — consider applauding your local animals rescue’s work on Facebook, microchipping your pet or giving donations of money, pet food/toys or time.
Though best known in these parts for Christmas, December boasts other surprising holidays, including entire days set aside to eat date nut bread, make pumpkin pie, take baths, find Christmas trees and drink egg nog. But there’s also plenty to celebrate in the animal kingdom, too – naturally, there’s the second advent of the National Day of the Mutt, on Dec. 2, and National Day of the Horse, a chance to remember everything that horses have contribution to economy, history and culture of the United States. Whatever happens, don’t forget about International Monkey Day, which was started by 2 Michigan state artists in 2000 and now ripples across the globe with awareness and appreciation for all 260 simian species.Whizzco