At This Yoga Class in S.F., Cat Pose Involves Real Felines

A cat lounges after cat yoga. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

It’s Monday evening at a yoga class in San Francisco. Eight people are resting in child’s pose on their mats, breathing deeply. But this is no ordinary class. This is cat yoga at KitTea Cat Cafe.

As the instructor leads the group through an hour of poses, a dozen cats roam around the room. Tiger, a big orange guy in a grey sweater, perches on a seat near the front. A jet-black furball called Burger snoozes on a hammock in the back. Otis, a skinny striped cat, tries to eat my microphone. Cats are slinking around everywhere, but the yogis don’t mind -- in fact, they pay $30 an hour for the opportunity to stretch alongside these felines.

Kathlyn Araya is a self-proclaimed "cat lady" and a regular at cat yoga. She loves coming here because it feels more relaxed and playful, compared to other yoga classes she's tried in San Francisco.

Kathlyn Araya is a regular attendee at cat yoga.
Kathlyn Araya is a regular attendee at cat yoga. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

“You’re doing a proper yoga class… but it’s OK if you’re not doing something because you want to pet the cats,” she tells me. “It’s got a light feel to it.”

Other people at KitTea rave about the benefits of cat yoga; the instructor calls it “cat therapy."

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In fact, petting a cat can lower your blood pressure, and playing with animals can reduce anxiety and depression. Cat yoga classes have popped up in cities all over California, including Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose and San Diego.

But cat yoga isn’t just good for humans. It’s also good for the cats. Almost all of the cats at KitTea Cafe have been rescued from high-kill shelters in the Central Valley, where they were likely to be euthanized.

The entrance to KitTea Cafe in San Francisco. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

KitTea Cafe was founded by Courtney Hatt, who says her mission was to give these cats a second chance. “I feel like they won the cat lottery,” she laughs.

For city-dwelling cat lovers who can’t have pets in their apartment, KitTea provides a place for them to get their feline fix.

After class, some people stay to sip Cat Nap spearmint tea and soak up 30 more minutes of cat therapy.

Instructor Lucia Young leads a cat yoga class at KitTea Cafe in San Francisco.
Instructor Lucia Young leads a cat yoga class at KitTea Cafe in San Francisco. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

Like Jeff Tacorda. This is his first time doing cat yoga. He says it was intense.

"There were a lot of moves I couldn't do," he says, rubbing his shoulder. So will he be back? "Oh yeah. I already booked four more classes," he smiles.

In fact, Jeff and other cat lovers have a chance to do downward dog with a cat on their mat every Monday and Wednesday night. They don’t even need to bring their own mat (but they might need to bring a lint roller).

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