MARTIN COUNTY ― Move over, goat yoga, the felines have arrived. If you love the idea of stretching accompanied by a fuzzy companion but prefer something with a bit less ‘eau de barnyard’, why not choose kitties instead?

The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast in Palm City has been offering cat yoga classes since 2018, and it has been a big hit for everyone involved, especially for the kitties who have found their ‘furever’ homes with someone from the class.

Courtney Zanetti, Director of Community Outreach for the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast and a Treasure Coast native, has been with the Humane Society since 2014. She explains that the idea for cat yoga came from a former employee whose sister-in-law was a yoga instructor. Goat yoga was becoming wildly popular at the time, so the idea of working with cats was not all that far afield. Yoga instructor Stephanie Loesel has generously donated her time to teach the classes that serve as mini fundraisers for the shelter.

The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast is the only nonprofit, open access, no-kill animal welfare organization in Martin County. Ms. Zanetti explains that open access means the shelter will accept any animal with no restrictions, regardless of a person’s ability to pay any of the regular associated fees.

This level of dedication to animal welfare is a point of pride with Ms. Zanetti, and rightfully so. She came to be in her current position out of her own lifelong passion for animals and a strong belief in the Humane Society’s mission, promoting responsible pet ownership.

The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast relies heavily on public donations and grant monies, fees collected for the various services the shelter provides, revenue from the two Humane Society thrift stores located in Stuart, as well as fundraisers like the cat yoga classes which, according to Ms. Zanetti, have earned close to $4,000 since the classes began in summer 2018.

Ms. Zanetti adds that Martin County is a very generous supporter of the shelter, and that local businesses are always eager to be involved in their fundraising efforts.

The upcoming Seventh Annual ‘Pup Crawl’, Aug. 7, beginning at Mulligans at 5:30 p.m., will be one of the signature fundraising events this year. Events in previous years included the Bow Wow Meow Luau that raised an impressive $210,000. The Fourth Annual Kitty Catalina Wine Mixer is set for Sept. 10, and the annual Paws and Claws Gala is scheduled for February, 2022.

The shelter remained open through the Covid19 shutdown, though for a time its services were available by appointment only. Pet adoptions in 2020-21 numbered around 2,000 and despite the pandemic were on par with previous years adoptions. The shelter even offered a virtual cat yoga session during the shutdown.

Cat yoga classes began in 2018 and are offered during the Spring and early summer months, a time that Ms. Zanetti refers to as ‘kitten season’ because of the increase in births resulting from animals that have not been spayed or neutered. The classes offer a great opportunity for young cats to become more socialized and also to get them much needed exposure for potential adoption.

About an hour before the participants arrive, cats are introduced to the class area which has been set up with water, cat toys, and litter boxes. Ms. Zanetti explains that cats are very sensitive to their environments and this extra time allows them to be more comfortable and, hopefully, more sociable when people arrive. Cat toys (and even some cat nip) help facilitate interaction between cats and humans. It’s even possible to wind up with a kitten sleeping on one’s yoga mat by the time class is over.

Participants pay a $25 fee for the class, and the money goes directly to shelter programs and services. Registration is available online now for the last class of this year, Sunday, July 25 at noon. Classes are limited to 15, and participants need only bring their own yoga mat, a water bottle, and an open heart.

“There are always so many animals in need of homes”, said Ms. Zanetti. “We have cats and dogs, old and young, but we also have rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters, and even a pig!”

To find out more about the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, their programs and services, including cat yoga, or to find out how you can help support their mission as a donor or volunteer, visit their website at hstc1.org. They are also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/humanesocietyTC and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hstcadopt/.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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