As the cat-tentious — or rather, contentious — political season winds down, there's something afoot that may help voters relax: cat yoga. Animal shelters in Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Texas and other states across the country are partnering with yoga studios to raise money and increase adoptions.
On Sunday, the Greater Birmingham Humane Society offered its first cat yoga class, and it filled up immediately — after clogging the website for a bit. People filed into the shelter at noon, laid out their mats, and set about meeting the kitties in the conference room.
Thirteen women paid $10 each for yoga instructor Carla Jean Whitley to lead them through poses such as downward-facing dog (she calls it downward-facing cat). Whitley, who wore a shirt that read, "Sorry I can't. I have plans with my cat," has only two cats because she lives in a 750-square-foot house and has room for only one litter box. Her cat yoga playlist includes songs such as The Pink Panther, Stray Cats Strut and Everybody by Ingrid Michaelson, but she sings them in her own way.
"Everybody, everybody is a cat, everybody, everybody wants to be cats, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow-meow."
Singing breaks out occasionally, but that's OK, because people are here for more than just yoga — which is good, since cats make really terrible fellow yoga students: they scamper on mats, drink from people's water bottles, and sit and bathe themselves underneath downward-facing cat poses.
During class Ashley Black's nose turned red and her face blotchy. She's allergic to cats, but came to class anyway, because it's a great place to hang out with them for just a little bit.
And hanging out with the kitties can tempt people to take one home.
Josh Scarborough was there waiting for his girlfriend, not to practice yoga. He spent the whole class texting his roommates about the kitten named Sweet-ums that camped out in his lap.
"I'm trying to convince my roommates," he said.
Once Scarborough found out the adoption fee is just $10, he decided to take Sweet-ums home, although he thinks he'll change her name to Catsy Cline.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And now, towards the end of what has been a cat-tentious (ph) - I mean contentious - very contentious political season, we have something to help you relax - cat yoga. Really, it's a thing, at least in Birmingham, Ala., as Melanie Peeples reports.
MELANIE PEEPLES, BYLINE: I bring you today the Greater Birmingham Humane Society's first-ever cat yoga class.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)
PEEPLES: Yes, it is filled with women - 13 of them, to be exact, not counting the instructor. And yes, someone is wearing cat leggings. Another has cat earrings and cat ear barrettes. And someone's boyfriend is sitting over by the door, on his phone. The women have paid $10 each for yoga instructor Carla Jean Whitley to lead them through poses like downward-facing dog.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)
PEEPLES: Sorry - downward-facing cat - set to, well, not your average yoga music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A CAT")
CARLA JEAN WHITLEY: (Singing) Everybody, everybody, is a cat. Everybody, everybody wants to be cats. Meow, meow, meow. Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.
PEEPLES: Singing breaks out occasionally, but that's OK because everybody who came here is here for more than just yoga, which is good because cats make really terrible fellow yoga students. They scamper on your mat, drink from your water bottle and decide to sit down and bathe themselves underneath you during poses. Speaking of poses, remember the guy in the corner whose girlfriend dragged him here? Josh Scarborough spent the whole class texting his roommates about the kitten named Sweet-ums that camped out in his lap.
JOSH SCARBOROUGH: I'm trying to convince my roommates, but...
WHITLEY: You know, the adoption fee is only $10 today.
SCARBOROUGH: I - I have $10, so it's probably going to happen.
WHITLEY: Today is the last day of that special.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, it's happening, yeah. They haven't told me not to, so I'm going to.
PEEPLES: So he decided to take Sweet-ums home. And that, along with fundraising, was really the whole purpose of cat yoga.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAT PURRING)
PEEPLES: Don't you feel better now? For NPR News, I'm Melanie Peeples. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.