Many animals do tricks: old dogs learn new ones, Polly says she wants a cracker and dolphins can do flips. These are all great tricks but are standard fare for the average household. Then there are the Acro-Cats. Unlike your everyday cat that uses the new leather couch as a scratching post, these cats jump through sparkly hoops, climb ladders and even have their very own rock band. Yes, a rock band – complete with more cowbell.
The Acro-Cats completed their tour stop in San Diego this past week, and have since moved on to Los Angeles before completing their tour later this spring and returning home to Chicago.
The amazing spectacle that is the Acro-Cats began nine years ago, with the inspiration from trainer Samantha Martin’s cat, Tuna. Tuna still tours with the cats today, taking on the roll of a diva.
The show encompasses many forms of trained tricks and largely relies on clicker training, a method that utilizes a small handheld clicker to give commands. The handlers use it to train the pets to not only do incredible tricks, but also complete more basic commands, such as sit, stay and lie down, in exchange for treats. Martin has packaged her method of training into a box set, which includes a clicker, trainer stick and instructional book, for sale at all shows.
The show features as many as 10 cats; many are foster or rescued cats from Chicago-area shelters. The feline feats range from walking across tightrope-style contraptions, balancing atop balls and the ever-dainty Tuna ringing a bell. The show also features special guests including some “Ratatouille” friends and Hendiana Jones (the hen, obviously). Spoiler alert: Hens are really good at bowling; cats are, however, off by a few pins.
The scene-stealer of the night was the final act: The Rock Cats. A simple, kitschy setup atop a clothed kitchen table holds a miniature pink guitar, drums and keyboard, all fit for a cat that has dreams of being the next member of Josie & the Pussycats. Songs are different every show, rely entirely on pure improvisation and are hardly in time with each other, but there is a significant amount of magic in each rendition.
Dakota, on the drums, needed extra coaxing to get into the groove, but guitarist Pinky was a professional, continuously playing when the others wandered around their instruments, probably making sure they were plugged in. Tuna made a special appearance on the cowbell, giving new meaning to the classic saying, “we need more cowbell.”
Acro-Cats is for the young, old and everyone in between. Whether it’s a first date or 50th wedding anniversary, it’s a unique way to spend a night. Perhaps most impressive, fellow cat owners will identify with the amazement of a cat jumping into a carrying kennel with ease and without giving the owner new battle scars. A masterful trick indeed.