One of the worst things about being in Generation Rent (apart from being unable to afford to buy a house) is being unable to own a cat.
As someone who grew up in a house filled with cats (now all deceased, RIP), I have serious feline withdrawal. I’ve been known to stop in the street to stroke cats and to entice my neighbour’s cats into the house with cans of tuna. I’m a bona fide cat lady and proud of it.
But it’s no good, because it is clearly stated on our tenancy agreement that we are not allowed to have a cat. And I’m slowly dying inside.
I’ve tried to soothe my aching soul by practising yoga, but there is a cat-shaped hole in my heart that a few measly hours spent bending around on a mat is unable to fill.
So when I first heard about cat yoga, I (understandably) nearly fell off my chair.
A quick Google search landed me at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, aka London’s cat cafe, and within just over 48 hours I was downward dogging surrounded by cats.
Lady Dinah’s has been running cat yoga sessions since February 2014 and claims to have started the trend, which has now spread to Sydney, New York and Washington DC.
I went to the class with an old friend (who is equally cat-less and cat-obsessed) and we were undoubtedly the envy of my entire office.
When we arrived, we were told the house rules: no stroking the cats while they are eating or grooming themselves – and no stealing them. The last part proved hard to abide by.
Cat yoga classes last one hour and are followed by tea and cake in the cafe. It was a relatively small class, 10 people in total, three pairs of friends and two couples.
As we sat waiting for late comers to arrive, the cats lounged around and played with the yoga mats, inadvertently posing for hundreds of Instagram photos.
“The cats are usually much more involved at the very beginning and very end of each class, as they like to play with the mats,” a spokesperson for Lady’s Dinah’s told me before I arrived.
“However, some of them have been known to come settle in on someone’s mat during class or come sniff toes and faces. The cats really like the calmness that yoga brings to the room.”
True to form, during the class one brushed up against my friend’s feet and another started sniffing our socks. N’aww.
Some cats let us stroke them, but others were more interested in food.
Maybe it was wishful thinking to expect them to fawn all over us. The cats at Lady Dinah’s get pet by strangers all day, every day – they weren’t that interested in us, they were all petted out.
Practising yoga with cats is thought to have added benefit, not only because they help people to relax, but because they help break the ice.
“We’ve noticed that the cats can make yoga a much more social experience,” the spokesperson explained. “And the tea party afterwards helps too. Usually after a fitness class at a gym, everyone goes their separate ways, but guests who come to cat yoga often find they make a friend or two before they leave for the night.
“The calmness of the yoga class brings out the best in the cats and the tea party builds a real community vibe. It’s very inclusive and it really embodies our core values of stress-relief and relaxation.”
I’d be lying if I said I went to cat yoga for the yoga, but the instructor was super experienced and it was an open level, accesible class, suitable for complete beginners and experience yogis to refresh on the basics.
In summary: yes cat yoga is gimmicky, but it is 100% worth it.
I mean, just look at him… 🐱🙏
Cat yoga takes place at Lady Dinah’s every Wednesday. There are classes at 6:30 and 8pm. Find out more here.