by Taylor Solomon
When I bought my ticket to see the Acrocats at the Morton Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew if I did not go I would forever wonder what went on the day a bus full of cats came to town. And I mean that literally—when I walked up to the venue the night of the show, I was greeted by a large purple bus featuring the faces of Tuna, Jax, Buffy and Oz, the evening’s furry feline performers.
Acrocats, and their sister performance group The Rock Cats, was started by Samantha Martin, an expert animal trainer and cat lady (she’d be the first to call herself such and would take it as a compliment). Martin started training her own cats to play instruments in the world’s first (and only) cat-fronted rock band, The Rock Cats. She quickly realized they could take the show on the road. Now over 10 years later, Martin has fostered and found homes for over 200 cats and kittens while traveling with and training them all.
Acrocats is part trained-animal show in which animals (mostly cats, along with a chicken and groundhog) perform tricks: playing instruments, jumping from stool to stool, balancing on balls and walking on tight ropes (just to name a few acts). Of course as well all know, even the most well-trained cats in the end are going to do what they want, whether it’s part of the planned performance or not. Martin herself said, “Nothing teaches you humility like a trained cat act in front of a live audience.”
The other part of the show expands on the humility (and heart) mentioned by Martin, a side of animal performance not always thought of in conjunction with traveling circus acts. Professionally, Martin is an animal trainer; personally, she is an animal lover and advocate. She spends one part of the show talking about the importance of animal rescue and training your pets. She demonstrates using a whistle and clicker to train a cat and models several tricks while explaining how they could be used in your home in regards to pet safety. She is vocal about the fact that she has been lucky enough to be given a platform and uses it to inspire others to train their own cats.
Seeing Acrocats and the Rock Cats was a fun, energetic and humorous evening. I fell in love with Martin and her passion, as well as her team of cute kitties. For more information on the Acrocats and their upcoming performances, visit www.circuscats.com.