I Did Yoga with Cats at an Animal Shelter, And It Was the Best Exercise Class I've Ever Taken

I left feeling relaxed, energized, and covered in hair.
Publish date:
May 13, 2016
exercise, cats, yoga, rescue pets, animal shelters

Have you ever had a fantastic business idea destined to make millions, only to discover that someone already thought of it?

A few weeks ago, while hanging out at my friend Kathleen's house, I was struck with inspiration.

"You know what someone should do?" I said. "Someone should open a yoga studio — but with cats. Cats love yoga mats. At least my cats do. I'm gonna be rich!"

Kathleen gave me a funny look. I thought she was going to tell me I was ridiculous, but instead she said, "You know that already exists, right? Second Chance does yoga with cats once a month."

Kathleen is the newly appointed director of Second Chance, a mid-Missouri no-kill pet rescue (which is why I thought she'd love my idea).

My crushed business dreams were quickly replaced by the pure, undeniable truth that I MUST TRY THIS.

I should start out by declaring that I am, by no means, a well-practiced yogi. My balance is terrible. I exercise infrequently. I can't even touch my toes. But I want to do it more, and I appreciate how welcomed I've felt every time I've attended a yoga class. Yogis are some of the friendliest (and bendiest!) people I've ever met.

On top of that, I love the peacefulness that I leave the mat with every time I do get around to it. I want to practice regularly. (But if I did, would I still have time to catch up on Grace & Frankie? We ask the important questions here, folks.) My husband even bought me a super-fancy yoga mat for Christmas last year. I often open the closet door and look at it for a few minutes before wandering off to find a snack.

I'm not very experienced, is what I'm saying.

On the rare occasion that I do yoga at home, my cats think it's just the best. Squishy mat? Awesome. Mom rolling around on the floor? Super-awesome. I figured more cats would equal more fun. There was no way I was going to miss this class.

I drove out to the adoption center on a Thursday evening. The cats that live there, waiting for foster homes or forever homes, get a lot of love and attention from the volunteers who come out every day. It's a cheerful place, sunny and surrounded by farmland.

The class was small. Everyone present apart from me was a regular volunteer. There were only four other people there, including the instructor. I felt out of place at first, but they were all happy to have a newbie. They told me that their biggest classes had about 15 people but that attendance had dropped off a bit recently.

We set up our mats in the main room of the adoption center, which is a combined office/kitchen/visiting area with a loft upstairs for a live-in volunteer. We were joined by four kitties, all currently up for adoption: Pumpkin, Dorian, Stella, and Amelia. They were all super-friendly, but Stella mostly stuck with her favorite volunteer, and Amelia spent most of her time in the loft, probably rolling around on the couch. She peeked down at us from the railing a couple of times. Dorian and Pumpkin are veterans of the yoga class, so they chilled with us pretty much the whole time. (Most of my pictures are of Pumpkin, because he's such a ham.)

Before we started, some of us sprinkled "magic dust" (yeah, it's catnip) on our mats to get the kitties' attention. Pumpkin made a beeline for my mat and glued himself to it.

One thing that is nonnegotiable about yoga with cats: it has to be pretty casual. You're not going to be able to clear your mind and set your intention when there are adorable felines on the loose — unless, of course, your intention is to whip out your phone and snap a picture every time a cat does something cute. In that case, look forward to a very intentional session.

Our instructor, Hannah, teaches aerial yoga at a gym in town (I imagine that would be a bit more perilous if cats were added). She took us through a relaxed flow with frequent pauses to laugh at the cats.

Pumpkin climbed onto some shelves and did his best to make as much noise as possible, knocking things over and such. Dorian stood on his hind legs to get at a bug in the window. Amelia mewed from upstairs, and Stella purred and worked on her downward-facing dog pose while getting her rump scratched.

About halfway through the class, Pumpkin decided it was time to get serious with his practice. He zeroed in on Sarah, whose mat was next to mine, and started helping her out with her poses.

He had a few pointers to give her on her cat pose.

And he gave her a nice back massage.

Eventually he found the bag of catnip.

Once we'd finished, we snuggled with the cats for a while longer while we sat around and talked.

On the whole, it was far from the most focused yoga class I'd ever attended, but it was definitely the most memorable. I left feeling relaxed, energized, and covered in hair. It was also nice to know that we'd given the kitties an hour or so outside of their rooms to explore, socialize, and stretch their legs.

And I'm sure that the next time I do yoga at home, my cats will appreciate the fact that my mat now smells like catnip.

If you're interested in Second Chance and the cool people who made this class happen, check them out at They have a bunch of sweet cats and dogs up for adoption.