Cats dance around participants' heads as they move through a relaxing yoga sequence. Moving from downward dog to a forward fold, participants are guided by an instructor as soft indie music plays in the background.
NEKO Cat Cafe hosts cat yoga on the first and third Thursdays of every month. It has drawn everyone from cat lovers to yogis and is a few months away from its one-year anniversary.
The events consist of a 45-minute yoga session taught by Laura Orso-Richmond, co-owner of Elements Hot Yoga. Following the yoga session is 30 minutes of kitty and beer time. NEKO provides complimentary tea or hot chocolate for those who don’t drink or are underage.
NEKO Bellingham's cat yoga was inspired by their Seattle location’s cat meditation.
“[The cat meditation] was a huge success,” General Meownager Caitlin Hanson said. “People loved getting centered and being around cats.”
Their cat yoga event requires participants to bring a yoga mat. As soon as the mats are down, the cats will prance from mat to mat.
“What surprises me most about the event is how involved the cats get in the yoga practice. Our resident cat Loki will sit on your back during child’s pose,” Hanson said.
Although NEKO has hosted cat yoga bimonthly for some time, some Bellingham residents had no idea it existed.
“I’ve been to NEKO Cat Cafe four or five times,” Bellingham resident S Jacobson said. “I did not know they were doing [cat yoga.] That is awesome.”
The Downtown Bellingham Partnership regularly posts NEKO Cat Cafe’s cat yoga events on their Monthly Happenings Calendar.
“NEKO is a business I have on my radar as one that hosts a lot of events. They actively post on social media, which is how I found out about cat yoga,” said Nathalie Wagler, the events and promotions coordinator at the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, via email. “Community events keep our neighborhood vibrant and give people an opportunity to experience businesses they may have not previously known about.”
So far, the Bellingham community has been supportive of the cat yoga events, Hanson said.
“We have a bunch of new people coming in as well as many repeat practicers,” she said.
NEKO’s main goal of the event is to encourage people to hang out with the cafe’s 20-plus kitties and potentially meet their forever cat. Many of the cats at NEKO are available for adoption, though there are a few that are permanent residents at the cafe.
She also emphasized that doing yoga with cats is a unique and entertaining experience.
“Before we had yoga, I would occasionally come in and do some self-practice and it was super fun and really silly,” Hanson said.
The tickets to NEKO’s cat yoga cost $35 and can be purchased on their website. Their next event is on Feb. 8.
“Yoga is such a personal practice, it's very inward, focusing on your breath,” Hanson said. “At cat yoga, it’s a little more fun, a lot more laughter, a lot more giggling, a lot more group engagement.”
Janisa Cook (she/her) is an opinions reporter for The Front this quarter. She is also on Western's women’s rowing team. In her free time, she likes to paint, go to coffee shops, and hang out with her roommates. You can reach her at email@example.com.