Sip-n-purr: Cat yoga in Milwaukee

Yogis, I know of a place that will deepen your downward dog with a bunch of uppity cats. Uppity, adorable cats.

Sip and Purr, on the east side of Milwaukee, is the city’s first cat café. It opened in June as a spot to spy on and snuggle with a menagerie of spayed, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped felines from Lakeland Animal Shelter, Delavan.

Now four cats per month are flown in from Doha, Qatar, too. England-based Evenstar Charitable Organisation helps arrange it. Katy McHugh, owner of Sip and Purr, says the cats find their way to Wisconsin because the Arab country has no animal shelters or rescue operations.

“They wouldn’t have a chance” without outside help, McHugh asserts. Her 10-year-old daughter, Claire, assumes the role of foster mom for these feline transplants, loving them up until they are ready for a move to Sip and Purr.

Around 140 cats have been adopted since the cat café opened. Most cat lovers visit for a little playtime and cuddling with the 20 to 25 cats that temporarily live here.

On Sunday morning, it’s possible to also book an hour of yoga among the four-footers, which join in with a few stretches if in the mood. Others ignore the class or just hang around for a sniff or ear scratch.

Instructor Sheila Rad describes her yoga-for-all class as “gentle stretching, as you need it,” a yoga flow mentality that is more about pleasant movement as a group than contortions or grueling poses.

Alix Halek says she met the cat of her future during these yoga sessions, but it’s not clear who adopted whom. Gray and white Leslie, later renamed Jamie, decided to climb atop Halek while she was lying flat.

The cat stayed until class ended. Match made.

When I visited, the class had eight students, most repeaters and acquainted with each other. After yoga is 20 minutes to simply linger with the pets and sip a mimosa (make that “meowmosa”) or java. After that, tables and chairs will cover the concrete yoga floor.

Like most cats, the Sip and Purr building has had more than one life. It is a former art gallery, dry goods store and pharmacy. On café walls is cat art, some by McHugh’s daughter, and the motto “Eat. Drink. Pet Cats.”

On compact food menus are gluten-free and vegetarian options: cheese boards, seasonal salads, burritos and wraps. Add pastries, at least one with a cat theme.

Glass doors separate the café from the feline lounging area, where a “cat concierge” makes sure people behave. To keep those black slacks hair-free, sit in the café and just lurk with a latte.

Sip and Purr Cat Café, 2021 E. Ivanhoe Place, Milwaukee, is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. but closed on Tuesdays. Yoga with Cats starts at 10 a.m. and costs $24; reserve a spot ahead of time.

Access to the cats at other times costs $8.50 for an hour. Reservations are advised, and anybody who shares space with the cats signs a waiver before entering. Among the house rules: No feeding the cats, don’t rouse a sleeping cat and don’t pick up a cat unless it seems agreeable.

Remember me telling you in 2016 about the opening of Cat Café Mad in Madison? The capital city’s only cat café closed last summer, after major road construction restricted traffic flow and parking along Monroe Street. That severely compromised business, but all 20-some of the café’s cats reportedly found a new home.

Adopting a feline from Sip and Purr (via is one surefire way to brighten your holiday, but it’s not for everybody. Pet ownership is a big responsibility.

Not a cat lover? On my short list of eclectic gifts:

YogaPaws – Hitting the road and in need of a yoga fix, but can’t pack a mat? A mother-daughter company has one solution: stretchy, no-slip coverings for hands and feet. All goes well unless you’re doing a camel backbend, one-legged pigeon or other pose that connects knee with a hard floor. Prices start at $32 for a washable set.

Wisconsin DVDs – “Wisconsin Water From the Air,” the latest look at Badger State beauty, made its debut on Wisconsin Public Television recently. Content is self-explanatory: Footage follows major waterways and shorelines. Most of us rarely see close-to-home landscapes from this perspective. Other aerial ballets on DVD are “Wisconsin From the Air” and “Wisconsin Winter From the Air.” Each is $20.

Northwoods puzzle – New from HANmade Milwaukee is a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle that takes a fun and artsy look at what makes an Up North getaway fun. Think cabins, evergreens, supper clubs, eagles, farms. The puzzle, $22, is one of 11 Wisconsin-centric items for sale.

Love, Wisconsin – Who lives here and why? The new “Love Wisconsin: Stories From the Place We Call Home” by Megan Monday and Brijetta Hall Waller presents us as one interconnected, unique and cherished community. Expect a combo of first-person narratives and portrait photography, then go online and share your own stories. Cost: $35.

Turning Left Around the World – It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned jetsetter or armchair traveler. Few of us decide to leave home for nearly a year and an around-the-world adventure. But that’s what author David Moore and wife Helene of England did upon his retirement. It’s an easy, unpretentious and inspiring read, so dream big or get motivated to plan something monumental. Around $18, less as an e-book, from Mirador Publishing.