A dozen cats and kittens frolicked as Pam King announced the next yoga pose.
“Soak up the sounds of the kittens,” she told the class of 12 on Sunday morning at Barristocats Cat Cafe. Olaf, a small black and white kitten, quickly responded with a small “meow”.
King, an instructor at Limitless Yoga on Main Street, leads monthly kitten yoga classes at Barristocats Cat Cafe on East McCarty Street. Opened last month, Barristocats is a café serving coffee and pastries that also has a lounge where customers can spend time with cats awaiting adoption.
The cats alternate between living with their foster families and staying at the cafe for several days, and all cafe cats will be available for adoption through People Helping Paws Cat Rescue.
Sheila Martens, founder of People Helping Paws Cat Rescue, said the idea for kitten yoga came from the national trend of doing yoga with small live animals. People have started doing yoga with cats, puppies, and lately kids.
Martens said there’s been a lot of interest in the laid-back, cat-friendly classes in Jefferson City. The two classes held on Sunday filled up in 24 hours, she said, and two of the three dates scheduled for February are fully booked.
She said yoga classes can be a great way to introduce new people to coffee and all it has to offer. But many of those who attend, she says, have already been.
“Once they’ve tried it, a lot of these people…come back to do it, and they come back once a month,” Martens said.
Martens said the yoga classes have spurred some adoptions and requests to volunteer, but most people who attend already have cats and just want to support the cafe.
Amy Bax joined Sunday’s class and brought homemade cat toys to donate to the cafe.
“I’m going to be in so much trouble for cheating when I get home,” Bax said as a kitten waited to greet her behind the door of the cat lounge, where the yoga was being held. Bax was referring to the cat she had at home.
“That’s the typical story we hear,” King replied.
The hour-long yoga class was full of smiles and laughter as the cats walked around the mats or approached people on them.
King said doing yoga with cats can make the environment more relaxing than a typical yoga class, plus participants “just get extremely happy doing it.”
Cats can ease social tensions typically associated with yoga classes, she said.
“Somebody new coming to yoga, they’re anxious and maybe a little scared,” King said. “Coming here to have little kittens crawling all over you is definitely a big distraction.”
In addition to calming people down, King said the cats’ interaction with class attendees helps them socialize and relax.
“It’s double,” she said.
There are about 10 to 20 cats in the cafe at any one time, said Barristocats volunteer coordinator Heather Moritz.
Any cats available for adoption from Barristocats are less likely to thrive in a shelter, Moritz said, adding that they may be bottle-fed kittens, older cats or cats that dislike other animals. . All kittens are born wild and feral, she says, but they work in foster homes until they become friends.
High-risk animals tend to be raised longer than other animals, Moritz said.
Normally, January is a pretty slow month for cat adoptions, Moritz said. This year, she said, it was “phenomenal”.
King adopted his three cats from People Helping Paws Cat Rescue and volunteers to lead the yoga classes.
Being certified in yoga and volunteering with People Helping Paws, she said “it seemed like a good idea to merge the two and do that and raise some extra money for the kittens.”
“It’s a huge weekend for coffee to bring in hundreds of dollars with all the love people have for kittens,” King said.
Kitten Yoga returns with three dates in February. Those interested can register in store and are encouraged to do so early.
“They fill up very quickly,” warned Martens.