It's hard to put into words just how much we love the Amazing Acro-Cats. So let's start with a video:
Animal trainer Samantha Martin founded the Acro-Cats in 2005. Instead of big cats, this circus features pet cats from shelters. Laugh if you want, but it's now outlasted Ringling.
Martin and her troupe of more than a dozen rescue cats — plus, two humans, as well as a trained groundhog and a chicken named Cluck Norris — spend most of the year on the road, traveling around the country showing what it's like to literally herd cats.
The cats do tricks — they walk a tightrope, ride a skateboard, leap hurtles and jump through hoops. Alley the cat is actually a Guinness record holder for longest jump by a cat.
The Acro-Cats also features what is, as far as we know, the world's only all-feline band. This band is called the Rock Cats. You see now why we love this? Isn't it purr-fect?
Sadly, the Rock Cats' star musician — Tuna, who was great on the cowbell, and who we were lucky enough to see perform in Tampa a couple of years ago — recently died of cancer. (We think of you every time we hear a cowbell, Tuna.)
Martin tells Creative Loafing that after the "devastating blow" of Tuna's death, she adopted a few new kitties who are fitting in quite well.
Albacore and Ahi are both learning the cowbell, though we are told Ahi seems to prefer the xylophone. Dixie, meanwhile, is picking up the guitar. She isn't yet part of the Rock Cats, but if she keeps practicing, Martin says, "she may end up joining the band."
The cats are all trained using only humane, positive reinforcement — there's a steady supply of fresh chicken on hand to encourage them along. But they are, of course, cats. So from time to time, instead of running across the tightrope or playing their instrument, it's puss-able one of these furry divas will decide to just dash into the audience and make themselves comfy on someone's lap.
Which, as far as we're concerned, is a feature and not a bug. Though, if it were a bug...probably one of the cats would go off to hunt it. Man, we just really love these cats.
You can the cat circus in all its meowvelous glory if you pick up tickets to the upcoming Gulfport shows.
The Acro-Cats will perform at the Catherine A. Hickman Theatre from May 26-28. Get tickets here, or volunteer to help out and see the show for free.