‘Yoga With Cats’ proves paws-itive experience for local residents

A little black cat scurried past as Suzi King laid on her back striking a pose while leading a “Cat Yoga” class Saturday at Topeka’s Helping Hands Humane Society shelter.

“Ooh!” King exclaimed. “Hello!”

But King said afterward that though the cats sometimes get in the way, their presence seems to increase enjoyment and reduce stress for participants in the class, which she offers about once every three months at the shelter.

“If I could do this every Saturday, I totally would,” she said.

King led 17 class members who set out mats to take part in Saturday’s event.

Meanwhile, eight humane society cats — four of whom live at the shelter, with the rest living in foster homes — walked around the room, sometimes letting participants pet them or play with them.

“Always beware if there’s an animal suddenly underneath your leg,” King warned the class.

The humane society website described the yoga practiced at Saturday’s class as being “gentle” and “beginner friendly.”

Topekan Nicole Ten Napel, who usually practices yoga alone, said she found it fun to do those exercises as cats wandered about the room.

The practice of yoga helps people reduce stress and “let their minds slow down,” while the presence of the cats does the same thing, King said.

She said Saturday marked the fourth or fifth time she’d offered an hour-long Cat Yoga class at the humane society, where participants paid $10 to take part. Only reasonably well-behaved cats were allowed in.

King, who has three cats, said that at one of her Cat Yoga classes earlier this year, all of the eight or 10 cats in the room that were eligible for adoption got adopted.

“I find it’s usually the cat choosing the person,” she said.

King said she donates about 60 percent of her income from participation fees to the humane society shelter, and uses the rest to pay for supplies for the class.

After participants on Saturday struck a yoga pose known as a “down dog,” King joked, “Every ‘down dog’ in this class helps a cat.”

Members of each class are also encouraged to bring donations of items on the humane society wish list, such as kitten nursing kits or kitty litter, with a drawing being held at the end to award a prize to one donor.

Saturday’s drawing winner was Nicole Ten Napel, who received a necklace.

The next class has yet to be scheduled, King said.

“Thank you for coming today,” she told participants at the end of Saturday’s event. “I know the cats enjoyed it.”

Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

A yoga practitioner petted a Helping Hands Humane Society cat while taking part in a “Yoga With Cats” activity at the humane society’s shelter building in Topeka. (Special to The Topeka-Journal/Jennifer Walker, volunteer with Helping Hands Humane Society)