The Amazing Acro-Cats are a traveling troupe of cats that perform acrobatic tricks and play instruments. Fur real.
Samantha Martin is the Chief Human in charge of training these talented felines. The Acro-Cats started out as the Acro-Rats. Martin trained a cage full of domesticated rats to perform various tricks but soon switched over to cats.
“I quickly discovered I couldn’t make a living on just rats, so I expanded my troupe and ended up with an assortment of exotic animals,” Martin said. “I ended up doing educational programs for a long time, but my true love — the reason I trained animals from when I was 10 years old — was because I wanted to train animals for film and television.”
The acro-cat troupe travels for performances around the country in a bus with a cat face painted across the front. Martin’s love for cats has made them the perfect traveling companions.
“I love waking up covered in cats,” Martin said. “Especially if it’s a little chilly. I think, ‘Oh I’m cold. How about two more cats?’”
The cat troupe began as tool for Martin to train her cats for television and film appearances.
“In the early days, the show was terrible,” Martin said. “The band was always good. But with the cat portion, there was always something — ‘Why isn’t the cat getting out of the carrier? There’s a clown and they don’t like clowns, there’s a balloon and they don’t like balloons.’ I had to figure things out.”
Audiences responded far better than Martin expected, so the Amazing Acro-Cats graduated from performing in art galleries to touring theaters around the country.
“If I see that a cat is climbing a lot or jumping a lot, I’ll try to come up with a trick that’s based on what the cat naturally does and on what they like to do,” Martin said.
While it is fun to watch these four-footed fur balls play instruments and jump through hoops, the Amazing Acro-Cats show functions as an educational opportunity for cat training.
“Cats are trainable but most people think they’re not,” said Lana Fraley Rich, a local cat behavior specialist. “People are just not aware that cats are not as domesticated as dogs. Their hardwiring is still much like the big cats.”
It’s easy to assume all cats are capable of is being the indifferent mainstay on a BuzzFeed listicle, but Martin said that a little training could bring about a whole new animal.
“It enhances your cat’s life and your relationship with your cat,” Martin said. “A lot of people have an open-door policy with their cats and it’s no wonder so many of them get left in shelters because there’s no relationship there.”
While the educational, training aspect of the show is rewarding in itself, Martin said that the best part of being chief human is simply being with her pals.
“I’m working 24/7 with animals I love,” Martin said. “Most people have to leave their pets when they go to work, but I get to take my pets with me.”