Soaring through hoops, strumming guitars and stupefying audiences across the country, a talented cast of cats are purr-fecting the art of acrobatics.
As seen on shows such as “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and Netflix’s “Cat People,” The Amazing Acro-Cats is returning to Gainesville for the first time since 2015.
Audiences can expect a live 90-minute performance featuring trained rescues, as well as a musical finale by all-cat band The Rock Cats. The feline group will play five shows at The Hippodrome Theatre between Oct. 7-9, with shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are between $48 and $60 and can be purchased online.
If the event sells out, people can sign up to volunteer at the Hippodrome via the Acro-Cats’ webpage and receive a free ticket.
Performances by The Amazing Acro-Cats feature a series of tricks varying in difficulty, such as spinning, high-fiving, jumping through hoops and balancing on balls, said Samantha Martin, chief executive trainer and founder of The Amazing Acro-Cats.
The show is more than just an opportunity to watch cats do tricks — it’s a reminder to take action and help stray cats when possible, Martin said.
“It's a fun, entertaining show,” she said. “It's also a show that's supposed to deliver a message to people out there about finding a cat, training their cat and spaying and neutering their cat as well because there's a huge problem out there.”
Martin founded The Amazing Acro-Cats in the early 2000s, she said. The group is supported by Rock Cats Rescue, a non-profit created by Martin in 2009 and based in Brooks, Georgia.
The organization supports foster kittens as young as two days old, some of which are facing euthanization or cannot survive without being bottle-fed and housed in an incubator.
Originally, Martin said her goal was to adopt a few rescue kittens to add to the Acro-Cats. But when she arrived at the animal shelter, 12 kittens were scheduled to be euthanized.
So, she adopted them all. Soon after, Martin said, she decided to create Rock Cats Rescue.
“I realized that there's a problem out there,” she said. “Why are so many cats ending up dumped by their owners?”
The foster cats of Rock Cats Rescue are later put up for adoption with the goal of reducing the issues of homeless stray cats and overflowing shelters, Martin said.
All the cats are trained through clicker training, Martin said, which uses positive reinforcement to enable the cats to memorize tricks and behaviors.
But Martin said it’s important for audiences to know the cats are well cared for and get to show their personalities, unlike many circus animals that spend the majority of their lives either performing or confined to kennels or crates.
Just like all other house cats, Martin said, the Acro-Cats are completely in charge. It’s up to the felines to choose whether to complete a trick, so every show is different, she said.
Karma Hurworph, 61, is both a stagehand and the caretaker for The Amazing Acro-Cats. Her responsibilities are similar to her former role as a veterinary technician — she feeds the cats, medicates them when needed and helps Martin with training, she said.
Hurworph said she thinks The Amazing Acro-Cats’ shows are so successful because it’s rare to hear of a cat show.
Because performances are subject to the whim of each cat’s mood, Hurworph said, even returning guests will be entertained — no show is ever the same.
“The cats play off of the audience,” she said. “There are so many different factors, and it's just a
a lot of fun.”
Contact Luna Boales at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @LunaBoales
Luna Boales is a third-year journalism major and avenue staff reporter. When she's not reporting, you'll find her writing poetry, meditating or reading.