A sacred labrador, adorned with a garland of vibrant orange flowers, representing its esteemed role as a sacred animal in Hindu culture.

Darling Dogs and Covetous Cats: Sacred Animals in Hinduism


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There are many Hindu sacred animals in India, Nepal and other countries, as well as in other religions. For Christians, it is the dove or the lamb, Muslims consider snakes, tigers and fish important, while Buddhists exalt the deer.

It is common knowledge that for Hindus, who make up somewhat 1 billion of the global population and total around 123,000 in New Zealand, the cow is their most cherished animal. In fact, it’s this respect for the lives of animals including cattle that is the basis of the Hindu diet and vegetarianism in India.

So, where do household pets like the dog and the cat stand? Are they sacred animals in Hindu? The answer will have dog parents feeling well chuffed, while cat parents may be a little peeved. Let’s dive in …

Dogs as sacred animals

Dogs celebrated at Nepal's Kukur Tihar Festival (Deepavali or, "festival of lights")

My, just look at that pup with its marigold garland! If you’re wondering why Fido is sporting florals, it’s because dogs are considered very important sacred animals in India and to Hindus.

They do not enjoy the same status as the cow, elephant, snake or horse, but are still very beloved.

Dogs are considered our friends and loyal servants, and are worshipped in parts of India and Nepal as the guardian of ancestors. Imagine that!

Every year and especially in Nepal, Hindus celebrate Tihar – a five-day festival of lights. On the second day, people honour dogs by decorating them with flowers, applying sandalwood paste on their foreheads, offering prayers and feeding them treats. Wonder what the paste means? It’s considered a sacred symbol of the “third eye” – a gate into the inner realms of consciousness.

Just look at these doggos being treated like the champs they are in this video:

Hindus believe dogs are sacred animals that guard the doors of heaven and hell and may represent our past life and affinities once we’re reincarnated. Gods may also appear to humans disguised as dogs.

According to Hinduwebsite.com:
“Symbolically, they may also personify Yama, the lord of death, and Yami, his sister. The heavenly dog Sarama is considered the mother of all dogs. Bhairava, a fierce form of Shiva, who is worshipped in Tantra, has a dog as his vehicle. He is also depicted in some images as having the face of a dog. Images of dogs are also worshipped in some Bhairava temples, in addition to feeding the dogs that loiter near such temples. In the Kali Bhairava temple at Varanasi one can see Shiva riding a white dog, and paintings and statues of several dogs.”

Protection of dogs

In India, the huge number of stray dogs that roam the cities has become somewhat of a big issue. But dogs are never put down or hurt because they’re considered sacred animals in India and it’s a bad omen to kill or abuse them. It’s also highly abhorrent to eat dog meat.

Other Hindu beliefs about dogs:

  • In folk tradition, the god Mallanna is worshipped as a dog
  • Dogs are often invoked during the worship of the god Khandoba
  • Dogs baying in the night is considered a bad omen
  • Dogs are considered to be a personification of Hindu’s oldest and most sacred text – the Vedas

PS: Speaking of special occasions, ever heard of Dress Up Your Pet Day? It’s the perfect chance to get in on the dress-up action! Also, if you’re looking forward to spending Diwali with your pampered pet this year, give this ‘Our Guide to a Pet Friendly Diwali 2022‘ blog a read.

Psst … before you keep reading, have you ever wondered what sacred pet YOU’RE most like? Take our PET PAWSONALITY test! Find out what breed you are at heart and share it with your friends – click here:

Hindu names for dogs

So you’re a dog lover AND interested in Hindu mythology? If you’ve just adopted a dog or brought home a new puppy, you might want to give them a sacred Hindu name.

Sarama, Shiva, Zara, Krishna, Ganesha …Here are some awesome options to consider:

Cats in Hindu mythology

Cats like this grey cat on a rock are not sacred animals in Hinduism

And now, what about our feline companions – are they sacred animals?

Unfortunately, cats aren’t as important to Hindu mythology as dogs are. Some opine that this may be because cats did not actually exists in India at that time, and were only later brought by the British.

Either way, cats do not feature prominently as sacred animals in India. When they do, it’s not for good reason. Cats are seen as covetous and deceptive, and are thus symbolic of hypocrisy and insincerity.

Unlike dogs, cats don’t ‘give’ humans anything in return. One can have a cat in your house yet they won’t obey your orders. They may also roam and hunt for food even if you feed them.

Like in Western superstition, Hindus also believe that seeing a black cat cross your path is bad luck.

On the flip side

However, many Hindu households will allow cats in the home as they hunt rodents and other pests.

Further, Tenkalai is a Hindu sect that believes in the doctrine of marjara-nyaya – the analogy of the cat. It teaches that like a kitten surrenders to its mum when she carries it by the scruff of its neck, we should surrender to God, who will carry us away from obstacles to our new home.

The goddess Shasti rides a cat, and the way cats may carry their kittens from one home to the next is often compared to a soul’s journey as it reincarnates.

In terms of sacred animals – all life is sacred in Hinduism. For this reason, it’s a sin to kill a cat. In fact, if you’ve killed a cat you’ll need to offer prayers and give at least seven golden images of the killed cat in charity. So although cats hold ambivalent status in Hindu mythology, it’s considered wrong to kill or hurt them, and they co-exist relatively undisturbed by humans.

Speaking of beliefs around animals, check this piece on Chinese New Year and the animal zodiac – which one are you?

Insurance for your sacred animals

Nepal police celebrates Kukur Tihar (dog festival) at Central Police Dog Training School.

Whether you adorn your pup in marigold garlands or see your cat as a journeying spirit, you’ll want to make sure your sacred animals are covered in case of an accident or illness.

Pet insurance will offer you the peace of mind knowing you don’t have to weigh up giving your pet the absolutely best care against how much it costs.

PD Insurance offers every new customer one or more months of cover for free (at the time of writing). Plus, our month-to-month payment option doesn’t have any lock-in contracts.

The younger your pet is when you start the cover the less likely they’ll have any pre-existing conditions. This means you’ll enjoy broader coverage! Perhaps time to get a quote?

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