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Matt Payne: ‘Meow-ga’ might be a great way to meet your new best friend

I’ve never owned a cat, nor have I ever given yoga a shot. 

Enter cat yoga.

What could possibly go wrong?

That’s what I was thinking the night before, quite possibly, my most Denton-esque assignment to date. Shoutout to all you tatted yogis who tread the bumpy roads of Denton with a Lone Star in hand and maybe a beard on your face, because this story was tackled with all of you in mind.

Reporter Matt Payne took part in the recent trend of doing yoga with small, cute animals — in this case, felines from Denton's animal shelter.DRC
Reporter Matt Payne took part in the recent trend of doing yoga with small, cute animals — in this case, felines from Denton's animal shelter.

The folks at Twisted Bodies Pilates and Yoga teamed with Denton's Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center for “Meow-ga,” where anybody could come and roll out a yoga mat while some fine felines meandered and appraised their potential new owners, likely in smug disapproval of inferior human flexibility. Guests were encouraged to donate to the shelter, and cat adoption fees were slashed to just $30.

And so was my energy slashed for the rest of the day. If you’re among those who think yoga is for the weak, you should know I feel like I just got out of a brawl on Fry Street as I wearily type this story on a Saturday afternoon — “Meow-ga” has me going “meow-ch.”

But hey, I’m glad I could endure an hour of luxurious spine twists for a great cause. This is a bright spot amid all the wild news our fun little community churns out, and it turns out yoga while surrounded by adorable creatures is all the rage nowadays. There’s even goat yoga down in Dallas-Fort Worth, a totally serious operation for only the finest of flexers. And by that, I mean not at all.

This was the first time the animal shelter has participated in an event of this nature, but it’s this brand of immersion and the power of social media that’s helped drastically drop the shelter’s euthanization rate over the past 10 years, shelter supervisor Gayla Nelsen believes. Out of about 5,000 animals taken into the shelter each year, only 10 percent are euthanized, she said, down from a staggering 90 percent in 2007.

The shelter is having one of its best summers intake-to-space wise, in fact.

Rachel Ferryman, the volunteer coordinator at the shelter, said this summer has been relatively lax compared to those in the past. It’s thanks largely in part to her staff spreading the word about the shelter while providing abandoned animals with much-needed TLC before they find their new homes.

“These animals don’t get out much being cooped up in here, so it ends up being really good for them,” Ferryman said. “The best part is that this is both cat yoga and pet therapy.”

One of those volunteers happens to be Emaleigh Pahler, the daughter of Twisted Bodies co-owner Khristen Pahler, who loves to volunteer every week at the shelter.

After seeing yoga sessions with animals make their rounds on social media, the Pahlers worked for about six months in collaboration with the Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center to pull off a day of cat yoga.

It came at an opportune time, as summer is known as kitten season around the shelter. For every 10 dogs, there are 80 cats, thanks to all the kittens born in the springtime, Nelsen said.

Several Denton residents, luckily, were on the prowl.

So many people came for cat yoga that visitors had to park in the grass, a second session was held for those who came after the first class was full and dozens of guests got to warm up to cute critters on display.

“We thought this would be such a great thing to do, and everybody at the shelter was super helpful in organizing it,” Khristen Pahler said. “We hope we can do more things like this in the future.”

I hope so, too. I’ve got several reporting moments that are near and dear to my heart, but as sweat fell from my brow onto the yoga mat I'd bought at Target the night before, not many will amount to the fateful eye contact between me and a gray cat with white paws like socks. I’m moving soon and am extremely tempted to cop my own kitty. It took a lot out of me not to fork over my $30.

But I have faith that furry friend will find a home soon. If not this Saturday, likely by next week, Aug. 19, when the Linda McNatt center will participate in Clear the Shelter Day for the first time. All pet adoption fees will be waived.

You should head out if you’re in the market for a yoga partner.

MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.