The Ypres cat parade traces its origins back to 1938 when, following a "cat's cycle race" in the morning, a sort of cat parade with a fool and music, accompanied by 9 alter boys carrying toy cats made its way to the belfry where the cats were thrown down and a children's party was held.
War interrupted the parade, but a modest one was held again in 1946. Post war Mayors of Ypres saw the cat parade as an opportunity to help citizens forget the horrors of war and rebuild their community through positive co-operation. As community events developed in other areas of West Flanders in the 1950's, so the Cat Parade developed into a spectacular parade with lavish costumes and a cast of many hundreds. Until the 1980's, Ypres was better known for the Cat Parade than it was for war tourism.
The fact that the Parade now happens one in year in three doesn't mean it isn't popular. My impression from experiencing the 2018 Parade is that it is a buzzing and vibrant event that is attracting a huge number of overseas visitors, many of them on organised tours with the Cat Parade as a real highlight. The positive impact on he local community was clear to see, both in terms of participation, but also pride in their City and the opportunity to boost the profile of Ypres and the local tourist economy.
If you're looking for a short break with a cat theme, the Kattenstoet in 2021 should definitely be on your shortlist.
For other cat related tourism videos see: