You’ve likely heard the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but can you teach a cat any tricks at all?
Yes and no, according to animal trainer Samantha Martin, whose 12-cat show known as The Amazing Acro-Cats is currently touring the U.S.
“You can train them, but you can’t make a cat do anything," Martin told AFP in 2009.
Created about eight years ago in Chicago, The Acro-Cats only recently began touring. The act — which also includes rats, a groundhog and a chicken named Gregory Peck — kicked off its tour in March in Atlanta, where it sold out five shows.
The hour-long show begins with Tuna, the star of the troupe, ringing a bell and turning on the stage lights. The white domestic shorthair, who has appeared in movies and commercials, also tweets and plays the cowbell in The Rock Cats portion of the show. Although Tuna has many talents, cuddling isn’t one of them.
“Tuna is my best, but she really has a horrible personality,” Martin recently told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We’re ‘snuggling’ if she’s sitting 2 feet away from me with her back turned.”
The rest of the felines have slightly warmer dispositions, especially Pudge, a fluffy gray cat that attendees can pet at the show’s conclusion. These 11 cats perform a variety of tricks that include everything from jumping through hoops and pushing shopping carts to barrel rolling and strumming a guitar — that is, if the cats feel like performing.
However, a cat’s refusal to perform a trick is often one of the best parts of the show. The defiant cats might just wander around the stage instead, but more often than not, a talented tabby or mischievous Maine Coon simply darts into the audience. Martin and her assistants never chase them. Eventually, all the cats come back.
But despite the finicky nature of the Acro-Cats — or maybe because of it — audiences still flock to performances. Martin’s self-deprecating “cat lady” jokes fill the silence when a trick falls flat, and her anecdotes about living with more than 20 cats are nearly as entertaining as the four-legged performers themselves.
“You have to have a lot of humility to put cats on a stage,” she said.
But the show isn’t all stunts and stories. Martine also dedicates a portion of each performance to finding adoptive homes for rescue kittens. She's fostered and placed more than 100 cats in the past four years.
Martin, who has a degree in animal husbandry, started training animals more than 25 years ago. She originally worked with rats, training the rodents for movies and a private circus.
Although she’s trained rats, dogs, groundhogs and chickens, she says working with cats is her favorite because she likes that they make you earn their affection. And despite popular belief, she says cats like to be trained.
“They're smart animals that need stimulation and teaching them tricks is a great way to keep them entertained,” she told Chicagoist. “My cats are constantly watching me and waiting for a chance to learn something new. Tuna actually gets crabby if I don't spend time training her. I also love watching the animals try to figure out something new, and when they finally get it, you can see it in their eyes. It's one of the most rewarding moments.”
Check out the Acro-Cats tour dates to see when they're coming to your area, and see some photos from the felines' March 22 performance in Atlanta.
Photos: Cody Wellons
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- Why do cats purr?
- 8 great cat tricks caught on camera
- Cat-Library: A feline-friendly shelving system