Denver Animal Shelter uses yoga to boost cat adoptions

Participants did yoga poses such as 'downward facing cat'

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In the Community Room at the Denver Animal Shelter, a few suppressed giggles are heard in between Johanna Schumacher calling out different yoga poses. Tiny kittens are running through the legs of participants, who have different cat toys to try and get the animals to play with them.

Jill Brown, community partnerships manager at the shelter, said they have been running the Cats on Mats yoga class for the last four years. Some participants are there for a serious yoga class, while others come in jeans and are there to play with the kittens. The class, she added, is a “win-win” since it helps to socialize the animals and get them adopted more quickly.

“Kittens are in that social period, so they really kind of need that,” she said. “It raises awareness to people about the health connection of interacting with animals.”

The shelter usually brings the group of kittens into the community room about an hour before the class starts so that the cats can learn to interact with each other first. The kittens in the classes are all available for adoption.

Denver Animal Shelter, 1241 W. Bayaud Ave., runs the classes during the summer when most cats are having their litters of kittens. The classes usually start around Memorial Day and run until Labor Day. While the class has grown over the last four years, Brown said the numbers usually dwindle toward the end of the summer as people get busy with back-to-school or summer vacations.

Brown added that if they still have lots of kittens, the shelter will sometimes extend their classes in the hopes of finding those kittens homes.

Teachers, like Schumacher, volunteer to teach the class. The classes are a $20 suggested donation, which helps to cover food and medical costs for the kittens at the shelter. As Schumacher walked through the maze of yoga mats, occasionally picking up a kitten to pet, she laughed and said it was the most fun yoga class she’d ever taught. She also adjusted the class to the theme, calling one posture “downward facing cat,” instead of its usual name, downward facing dog.

The class helps to get people physically to the shelter, and even if they don’t adopt one of the kittens roaming around in the yoga class, they may see other animals they like, Brown said.

Because cats are prolific breeders, Brown said there’s never a shortage of kittens. Cats also tend to stay in shelters longer than their canine counterparts.

“We have no shortage of kittens that need socializing and need to be adopted,” she said. “On the internet, cats are super popular. But it doesn’t always translate to them getting adopted as quickly.”

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