About a dozen cats and kittens frolicked about as Pam King called out the next yoga pose.
"Soak up the sounds of kittens," she instructed the class of 12 Sunday morning at Baristocats Cat Cafe. Olaf, a small black and white kitten, promptly responded with a small "meow."
King, an instructor at Limitless Yoga on Main Street, leads the monthly kitten yoga classes at Baristocats Cat Cafe on East McCarty Street. Opened last month, Baristocats is a cafe serving coffee and pastries that also has a lounge for customers to hang out with cats awaiting adoption.
Cats alternate between living at their foster homes and staying at the cafe for several days, and all cats at the cafe will be available for adoption through People Helping Paws Cat Rescue.
Sheila Martens, founder of People Helping Paws Cat Rescue, said the idea for kitten yoga came from the national trend of doing yoga with small, live animals. People have started doing yoga with cats, puppies and, lately, baby goats.
Martens said there's been a lot of interest in the casual, cat-friendly classes in Jefferson City. The two classes hosted Sunday filled up within 24 hours, she said, and two of three dates set for February are completely booked.
She said the yoga classes can be a good way to introduce new people to the cafe and all it has to offer. But a lot of those who attend, she said, have been before.
"Once they try it, a lot of these people ... are returning to do it, and they're returning once a month," Martens said.
Martens said the yoga classes have spurred some adoption and volunteer applications but most people who attend already have cats and simply want to support the cafe.
Amy Bax joined Sunday's class and brought homemade cat toys to donate to the cafe.
"I'm going to be in so much trouble for cheating when I get home," Bax said as a kitten waited to greet her behind the door to the cat lounge area, where yoga was hosted. Bax was referring to the cat she had at home.
"That's the typical story we hear," King responded.
The hour-long yoga class was full of grins and giggles as cats skirted around the mats or cozied up to the people on them.
King said doing yoga with cats can make the environment more relaxing than a typical yoga class, in addition to participants "just being extremely happy while doing so."
The cats can ease social tensions typically associated with yoga classes, she said.
"Someone new coming to yoga, they're anxious, and they might be a little scared," King said. "Coming here to have little kittens crawling all over you is definitely a big distraction."
In addition to soothing people, King said the interaction cats get from participants in the class helps to get them socialized and relaxed.
"It's two-fold," she said.
There are approximately 10-20 cats in the cafe at any given time, Baristocats Volunteer Coordinator Heather Moritz said.
All the cats available for adoption at Baristocats are less likely to thrive in a shelter, Moritz said, adding that they may be bottle-fed kittens, older cats or cats that don't like other animals. All of the kittens are born wild and feral, she said, but they are worked with in foster homes until they become friendly.
Higher-risk animals tend to be fostered longer than other animals, Moritz said.
Normally January is a fairly slow month for cat adoptions, Moritz said. This year, she said it's been "phenomenal."
King adopted her three cats from People Helping Paws Cat Rescue and volunteers to lead the yoga classes.
Being certified in yoga and volunteering with People Helping Paws, she said it "just seemed like a good idea to merge the two and do this and raise extra funds for the kittens."
"It's a huge weekend for the cafe to bring in hundreds of dollars with just all the love people have for the kittens," King said.
Kitten yoga returns with three dates in February. Those interested can sign up in store and are encouraged to do so early.
"They fill up really quick," Martens warned.