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Expect the unexpected at cat yoga

Six-month-old Toby peeps through shelter staff Adrianna Muellerleile’s hair as she and Beth Swanson, Humane Society of Douglas County fundraising and events coordinator, take a cat yoga class Wednesday at the Superior Animal Shelter. Behind, Otto the cat considers ducking under some cupboards. Jed Carlson/ 1 / 9
Grayson the kitten curls up on the outstretched arms of shelter manager Ashley Gotelaere during a session of cat yoga at the Superior Animal Shelter Wednesday. The Humane Society of Douglas County will begin offering public yoga classes with adoptable cats in January. Jed Carlson/ 2 / 9
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The Humane Society of Douglas County's first session of cat yoga Wednesday ended with smiles.

"I think it went well," said yoga guide Holly Bounting. "It was fun and it can be a lot of giggles, you know, because cats are showing up everywhere."

As shelter manager Ashley Gotelaere went through poses, cats of all ages stopped to bat at her hair, walk under her upraised body and snuggle into her outstretched hands.

"Very distracting," she said with a laugh.

Nine-year-old Slash chose Bounting as her partner. As the session started, the black cat leaped onto the yoga guide's abdomen. When the group switched poses, Slash leaned close to Bounting's circling feet for a series of pass-by chin scratches. The cat curled up at the edge of the mat, occasionally rubbing against Bounting's hands, legs and side.

"This really helps socialize with the cats," Gotelaere said. "In all honesty, people love just coming and spending time with the animals. This is good for them, healthy for the humans. It's a win-win for everyone, really."

Having a feline workout partner could evolve into a full-time friendship.

"Someone might pick their new best friend by seeing them in here," Gotelaere said.

The shelter manager proposed the idea of hosting cat yoga at the Superior Animal Shelter, featuring cats available for adoption. East Coast, West Coast and Canadian shelters offer similar animal yoga classes, Gotelaere said.

Fundraising and events coordinator Beth Swanson pitched the idea to Bounting, a certified yoga instructor who runs Embody Yoga Studio in the Board of Trade Building, 1507 Tower Ave.

Felines make good workout partners.

"Cats have a way of knowing if you're sick," Bounting said. "So they sit on your heart ... they'll sit on your sacrum. They will just come up on your body when you do yoga."

A number of yoga positions mimic cat movements, including the Hatha pose the cat and the daily cat stretch.

Felines add an element of surprise to a routine workout.

"It's so great for them, too, to interact with humans and be touched," Bounting said. "And they have no idea, they've never done this before, either, so maybe after they get used to it ..."

"Yogi cats," Swanson said.

Bounting will offer 75-minute cat yoga sessions at 6 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Superior Animal Shelter. The cost is $15, with $5 earmarked for the humane society. Participants are asked to wear comfy clothes and bring a mat and blanket.

"And feel free to giggle and laugh because laughter is the medicine of the soul and it also helps to free your diaphragm," Bounting said. "I have a feeling there may be a lot of giggles."

The Jan. 10 session is full, but slots are available for the Jan. 24 session. Bounting said she'll consider additional classes if there's interest.

To sign up, contact Swanson at (715) 398-6784 or