Tables and chairs pushed to the edge of the wall created a wide open space at Catopia, a new cat cafe in Northeast Albuquerque.
One by one, yoga mats of various colors were unrolled on the wooden floor as the cafe’s residents introduced themselves to guests in workout wear. The assortment of calico, grey and tabbys of all shapes and sizes walked through aisles that the guests made.
“It’s also a fun place for people to hang out — by being here, they’re helping socialize the cats and makes them a little more adoptable when they’re used to being around people,” said Sandy Dierks, the owner of Catopia. “That’s our underlying purpose is to get these guys homes.”
They chased each other through the room, played in the tubes that rolled up mats created and solicited “awws” and pets before the 10 a.m. yoga class began.
All of these cats came from shelters across the city and are up for adoption. Dierks said cats do not stay long at the cat cafe. Since their opening on Jan. 5, Dierks said 11 cats have found non-cafe homes.
Currently, the cafe is hosting 19 cats for adoption and she said finding these felines a friendly home is the main focus of her cafe.
As the guests stretched through a variety of poses, some cats lazily layed on top of jackets or shelfs along the walls. Some approached outstretched hands and received pets.
Zach Beard, a yoga instructor at Catopia, has been teaching yoga for four years. He’s been doing yoga with cats for almost a month. When Dierks asked him if he would lead the yoga class, he said he could not say no.
“It’s definitely not a traditional class in this sense,” Beard said.
While the cats run across the yoga mats, Beard said it helps people practice their yoga.
“We’re still practicing mindfulness by breath and being aware of what’s around us in case we have something on our mats that isn’t usually not there,” Beard said. “The postures stay the same, but it’s definitely a light hearted tone to the class.”
While the business is new to the area, it continues to attract newcomers like Susanne Taylor. Taylor started yoga in December and first heard about the cat class through her daughter.
Taylor said the atmosphere helps her relax. She said if she were to do it elsewhere she would feel pressure to do it right.
“Since you have the cats going around I find myself smiling the entire time which is something you usually don’t do if it’s exercise,” Taylor said. “It’s a lot more relaxed, but you’re getting the physical benefits.”
Anthony Jackson is photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.