All cats are yoga masters.
My spouse and I have both spent a lifetime with cats, yet we had never experienced anything like this before. We’d thought we’d seen it all . . . . until Squeakers started practicing yoga.
Previously, we had been living in Italy, where the mild climate encouraged a large feral cat population to thrive. There, we usually had several cats lounging in our yard, since we always fed the visiting strays in our pleasant, cat friendly neighborhood. But now, since we’d moved to the cooler climate in Germany, we were down to one older cat, and she was staying home more than ever. She was a smart cat who learned to play soccer immediately as a kitten, to pass the time when by herself. She even trained us to play fetch with her, retrieving a kitty toy and plopping it back in our laps to throw for her once again. But she seemed lonely and bored now, and began following us around the house more often than usual, looking for something interesting to do.
About this time, after years of absence, I was getting back into yoga again. Going through my routine at home, Squeakers started watching me closely, and before I knew it, she could perform an excellent version of the Downward Facing Dog pose, followed by an Upward Facing Dog stretch. It was uncanny how quickly she learned and copied the moves.
In the meantime, we had been checking animal shelters for a young companion for Squeakers. We were informed that a motherless litter was coming in, badly in need of a home. We thought we could manage to take on a couple kittens and that Squeakers would be thrilled at having new kitty companions. Unable to pick just one or two kittens, we brought all five of them home, to Squeaker’s abject horror. Within hours, everyone had cozied in, except Squeakers, protesting adamantly from her hiding spot under the couch.
Because we lived on the edge of the Black Forest, we thought it prudent to get leashes for our little brood until they could handle themselves independently in the great outdoors. There were often foxes lurking in the bushes and hawks soaring overhead that would make short work of a kitten. So every day we hitched them up individually and took the group for walks in the woods, as much for our benefit as for theirs.
We did a little stretching beforehand to warm up, preparing for our excursions, cuing an eager Squeakers to start her stylized yoga routine. The next thing we knew, to our amazement, all our kittens gradually began copying their big sister, doing what we now affectionately call the Downward Facing Cat. It was ridiculously cute to see a litter of kittens doing yoga stretches before their walk in the woods.
We became the talk of our village, where everyone took their dogs out for exercise, while we took our brood of cats. Soon, we were letting the kittens go off their leashes, as they learned to navigate their environment and stay with the pack. When we encountered other walkers on the trails that had never seen us before, they were enthralled by the image of a gaggle of cats following us through the forest.
As the kittens grew, they became faster and more agile, encouraging us to step up the pace. Before we knew it, we were getting back into shape after years of a sedentary lifestyle, forced to keep up with our furry personal trainers.
While our old cat Squeakers had taught them some new tricks, the kittens, in turn, taught us to appreciate the simple pleasure of a jovial jaunt through the woods.