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Is Cat Yoga Ethical? Pros, Cons & Ethics

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on July 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat disturbs a woman doing yoga inside the apartment

Is Cat Yoga Ethical? Pros, Cons & Ethics

You’ve maybe seen influencers on Instagram or videos of yogis on TikTok holding yoga postures while goats or dogs climb all over them. But did you know that there’s a version of animal yoga involving cats?

Cat yoga is much less commonplace than dog or goat varieties, but it still exists. The concept is undoubtedly tempting. Who wouldn’t want to participate in a yoga practice while cats roam around you and maybe even snuggle in during savasana? But is it all it’s cracked up to be, and, more importantly, is it even ethical? Read on to learn more about the pros, cons, and ethics of participating in a cat yoga class.

divider 2 cats

Where Did Cat Yoga Come From?

The concept of pairing animals with a yoga practice didn’t actually begin with cats, as far as we can tell.

Doga—a portmanteau of “dog yoga”—emerged in the United States in the early 2000s and, by the early 2010s, had spread across the Western world. This hybrid exercise program combines the practice of yoga with pet dogs. But it’s not just dogs that yogis are working out alongside. Classes with goats, llamas, mini pigs, rabbits, and even butterflies have been popping up all over the United States and Canada in the last few years.

Woman practicing yoga and meditation at home sitting on yoga mat in lotus pose with her cat
Image Credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock

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Are There Any Benefits of Cat Yoga?

There may be several benefits of participating in a cat yoga class.

Animals Are Key in Yoga

While most people who do cat yoga aren’t looking for a vigorous workout or to begin a yoga practice, it is interesting to know the role that animals play in yogic philosophies.

Proponents of animal yoga claim that practicing with pets emphasizes several core yoga focuses, including the union between beings. Yoga philosophy is heavily influenced by Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, all religions that hold animals in very high regard. Yoga recognizes the interdependence of all living creatures, and animals have deep roots in its history. Look at all the poses named after animals: cobra, camel, eagle, frog, cow, and, yes, even cat.

Cat Yoga With Owner
Image Credit: larisa Stefanjuk, Shutterstock

Spending Time With Cats Is Good for Us

Countless studies have shown that just being around pets has a therapeutic effect on humans. For people who may not have access to their own pets for whatever reason, cat yoga affords them the chance to reap the benefits of spending time in the presence of cats.

Cat Yoga Can Raise Adoption Rates

One really great benefit of cat yoga is that it’s typically held at adoption centers or cat cafes. Holding classes in these kinds of spaces promotes adoption. When you expose cat lovers to kitties looking for their forever home, adoption rates will inevitably rise.

divider 2 catsThe 4 Possible Issues With Cat Yoga

Animal yoga has been long criticized as a fad. Those who oppose it say that it trivializes the practice of yoga and

1. Potential for Disease Transmission

Cats can quickly become overwhelmed by crowds of unfamiliar people. This can lead to unusual behavior, like aggression. A fearful cat can lash out and scratch the people practicing yoga and expose them to a number of diseases and infections.

2. Potential for Causing Harm

Any time humans interact with unfamiliar animals, they put them in harm’s way. Even though yoga is generally harmless under normal circumstances, anything can happen in a room full of bumbling humans and curious cats. For example, if someone were to move into child’s pose or savasana onto a cat lounging on their yoga mat, they could seriously injure them.

Additionally, participants of cat yoga may not be given guidance on how to safely handle the animals they’ll be interacting with during their class. Someone who’s never held a cat before may not understand how quick and agile they can be and may drop them while handling them.

Gray white cat lying lazily on treadmill with yoga mats in background
Image Credit: RelentlessImages, Shutterstock

3. Potential for Contributing to Distressing Conditions

If you’re a cat owner, you already know that you cannot force cats to do anything they don’t want to do. However, during cat yoga classes, these kitties are forced into conditions they probably find distressing.

Though most class attendees likely have pure intentions and want to spend an hour in the company of some sweet kitties, some may only be there for the purpose of creating content for their social media.   Snuggling a cat against their will for an Instagram photo is not cute, and it can be pretty damaging, especially to a kitten who’s still learning about humans and deciding if they’re trustworthy or not.

4. Potential for Animal Cruelty

A disturbing investigation in 2023 found that puppies as young as six weeks were not given water or allowed to sleep so they could be used for dog yoga classes. While this studio is hopefully an outlier, it’s hard for us to know what goes on inside the studios that host animal yoga classes. It may be less of an issue in the case of cat yoga since most of these classes are held at adoption centers or cat cafes, but animal cruelty can happen anywhere.

Cat Yoga Home Owner
Image Credit: phM2019, Shutterstock

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Should I Attend a Cat Yoga Class?

Deciding whether you should or shouldn’t attend cat yoga is entirely up to you. However, you may want to think about why you’re interested in such a class in the first place.

Is it because you want to start practicing yoga? Animal yoga classes focus less on the yoga and more on the animals. There are probably many better-suited classes for beginners than those you’ll take when signing up for a cat yoga class.

Do you want to offer your support to your local cat adoption center or cat café? You can do this without attending potentially unethical yoga classes simply by supporting these centers financially. Offer your patronage to the cat cafes in your area or make donations to the adoption centers.

Do you want to spend time with cats because you’re unable to own one yourself? You can interact with cats (and other animals) by volunteering your time at your local shelter or humane societies. These organizations are always looking for mature individuals to help look after the animals in their care.

Do you just like the idea of doing yoga while surrounded by cats? If you already have kitties at home, why not follow along with a YouTube yoga class in the comfort of your own home? You’ll be surrounded by the cats you’re already familiar with, so there will be no chance of disease transmission or animal cruelty.divider 2 cats

Final Thoughts

Cat yoga sounds fun and adorable on paper, but there’s a lot more to think about before attending these classes. Unfortunately, whenever animals are forced to do something for the sake of human enjoyment, there’s always the risk of some degree of poor ethicality.

While I consider myself to be an enthusiastic supporter of anything that raises adoption rates for cats waiting for their forever homes, I don’t think I’ll be attending a cat yoga class anytime soon. However, if you plan to take a local class, do your research to find the most responsible instructor and organizer. The last thing you want to do is contribute to the cruelty of the animals you’re trying to help.

Featured Image Credit: Yuri A, Shutterstock

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