By Dr. Becker
I am continually amazed by the genius of so many animal shelter and rescue organizations that are always designing new and creative ways to get deserving homeless pets in front of people who just might give them a home.
Recently, I read about a no-kill cat shelter in Marietta, Georgia called Good Mews, and their "yoga with cats" class. The shelter has a cage-free adult cat room that for three evenings a month transforms into a yoga studio. Here's how Jen Christensen, writing for CNN describes the scene:
"If you've ever tried a hero's pose with your cat around, you know the challenge has nothing to do with your breathing or flexibility.
The Herculean task is keeping your yoga mat feline-free. Whatever they make yoga mats out of, the material must come from the catnip family. Turn your back just once to grab your water bottle, and you'll instantly hear the pop, pop, pop of their claws on your pristine $70 Lululemon.
On this night, however, a group of about 15 Spandex-clad women have deliberately plunked down their mats in the middle of the cat room.
And true to form, the sleeping cats that had been lounging — furry legs dangling from cat trees around the room — instantly jolt awake. They start climbing down toward their prey."1
Rather than bring the cats to an actual yoga studio and spring them on unsuspecting (and potentially allergic) exercisers, the yoga enthusiasts who come to the Good Mews classes know exactly what to expect.
Yoga for Cats Classes Are Hugely Popular
The Good Mews yoga with cats classes are a big hit. They sell out as soon as the times are announced online. Similar classes are now taking place in New York City, San Francisco, Des Moines, Iowa and Mobile, Alabama.
Participants like the fact that the sessions are relaxing and more like fun than work. "There's not as much pressure to make my form perfect," says Katie Misencik, a volunteer and regular yoga practitioner.2
As soon as the calming music begins to fill the room, the cats "make a beeline for the students and the yoga mats," says Christensen.
"A calico wanders through a woman's legs as she tries to balance in a low lunge," she continues. "A white cat sniffs and rubs against a woman in cow pose as she instantly becomes a kind of cat jungle gym. One nestles into the discarded jacket next to a woman's mat.
Two tabbies gang up and attack a woman's long dangling ponytail as she attempts downward dog, or 'downward cat,' as the instructor calls it. A tuxedo perched high in a cat tree looks down at another woman, a little judgy at her attempt at a cat pose.
To a person, each woman laughs at these antics. Some even dangle fuzzy toys as they make their complicated moves. The cats seem to like the attention."3
The Good Mews kitties definitely seem stimulated by the humans in their midst and all the yoga-inspired goings-on. Their natural curiosity drives them to interact with the exercisers, and in return, they get lots of individual attention, affection and socialization.
For class participants, it's a chance to help shelter cats become even more adoptable while doing something healthy for themselves. The classes also provide opportunities for people who love both yoga and cats to network and meet new like-minded friends.
Class Participation Fees Are Donations to the Shelter
As luck would have it, one of the long-time Good Mews volunteers is also a certified yoga instructor. She donates her time to lead the classes, and participation fees are actually donations that help support the kitties.
And this is a good thing, because along with the usual list of shelter activities, Good Mews also runs a program called Home at Last (HALO) Cats that finds homes for kitties with special needs, and continues to pay for their care after they're adopted.
5 More Ways Animal Shelters Are Making Life Better for Feline Residents
1. Cat-friendly quarters. Most kitties aren't comfortable in the typical shelter kennel, so some facilities are installing roomier condo-like accommodations that give cats multiple sleeping and hiding places. There's also plenty of room for kitties to stand, scratch and stretch out without disturbing the litterbox or food area.
2. Human interaction. Contrary to popular belief, most cats need recognition and regular human contact. Workers and volunteers at some shelters are making it a point to interact with resident cats by using their names more often, brushing them and providing extra TLC to kitties who are feeling under the weather.
3. Entertainment centers. In an effort to enrich the environment for cats, some shelters are installing flat-screen TVs so kitties can cure boredom by watching feline-friendly videos.
4. Compare and contrast displays. Some shelters are using lobby displays to showcase two very dissimilar cats. For example, they'll put an adorable kitten in one display and a less adoptable cat that has been at the shelter awhile in the other display.
5. Using social media to encourage adoptions. Shelters are also creating videos of adoptable kitties as they interact with people, play with toys and generally appear irresistible. The videos are posted to Twitter, the shelter's Facebook page and other similar platforms.