Cats and yoga…a crazy combination or not? First, full disclosure. As a practicing veterinarian whose clinic has held gold-level Cat Friendly Practice status since 2015 and has a complete cat gym upstairs (yes, a cat gymnasium), and as a guy who regularly travels with my cat, Bug, I may not represent your typical veterinarian. But I see cat yoga as having benefits for cats, cat owners, adoptable cats, and even the veterinary team that helps takes care of their health.
Benefits of Cat Yoga
The benefits of cat yoga, as I see them, are primarily socialization and behavior related. Anytime we can take a cat on a fun trip in the car to a place outside his home, it’s a good thing. Both cats and owners can learn that travel doesn’t need to be a traumatic event and we have better prepared them for their car trips to their annual veterinary exams...so why not a yoga session?
We conducted our first cat yoga session almost four years ago at one of our monthly Cats’ Night Out (CNO) events at Bug’s Cat Gym. Although we haven’t repeated it as of yet, we definitely will at some point. Other typical CNO events have included kitten olympics, kitten agility, cat beach theme parties, and holiday parties, all of which have two primary goals: find homes for adoptable cats and kittens, and bring cat owners together to discuss cat topics and provide education on preventive health and behavioral issues.
With repeat visits, over 80 percent of cat owners report that subsequent travels elsewhere were a bit easier on everyone. As most of the CNO attendees are our clients, that often means the next veterinary or grooming visit will be easier. If cat yoga is being held at a neighboring pet store or anywhere else, the travel benefits would be just the same, as long as the experience is completely cat friendly. The type of yoga that cats would prefer would likely not be power yoga, but instead alignment or flow with soft music and smaller groups.
Not all cats travel well, of course. Starting as early as possible will prepare kittens for travel later in life. When taking a car trip, the proper carrier, avoiding visual and auditory stress, having their favorite blanket, and calming pheremone products can help ensure a positive experience.
We board healthy cats and often have adoptable cats and kittens staying in Bug’s Cat Gym. Cats who are seen in a natural environment versus a cage are much more likely to be adopted, in our experience. The same applies to a cat yoga class that has adoptable cats in a quiet serene environment—potential new pet owners get to see the cats at their best.
So what are the benefits for us as cat owners and yoga practitioners? The cat is one of the more gifted athletes in the animal world. We rarely see strains and sprains in cats because they stretch immediately upon awakening, and their motion is almost always smooth, flowing, and purposeful, as with yoga. If we all stretched, did yoga more often, and emulated a cat’s natural athleticism, we might stay a bit healthier, too.
A cat’s mere presence is relaxing and should make any yoga session more enjoyable. And if an adoptable kitten happens to rest on someone in the final relaxation pose, it might just lead to a new yoga partner for life.
Dr. Ken Lambrecht is medical director of West Towne Veterinary Center, an AAHA-accredited, gold-level designated Cat Friendly Practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Ken currently serves on the Cat Friendly Practice Committee. He is pet parent to four cats, including Bug, his world traveling adventure cat.