Acro-Cats, ‘meow-sicians’ entertain with variety show


Samantha Martin

Samantha Martin and her traveling troupe of Acro-Cats have performed all over the world and made TV appearances.

By Kendrah Villiesse

Ten “purr-fect” felines stole the show Oct. 6–9 when the Amazing Acro-Cats group performed at Wicker Park’s Vittum Theatre.

Appearing at 1012 N. Noble St., the Chicago-based troupe, coached by trainer Samantha Martin, pulled off a variety of stunts, including rolling a ball on a balance beam, jumping through hoops, bowling and a live performance from their band The Rock-Cats—the only cat band in the world.

The Amazing Acro-Cats, which describes itself as a traveling circus, has appeared all over the country and been featured on TV shows and commercials, including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Steve Harvey Show and a Target commercial in 2014.

Martin said it was 14 years ago when she was trying to get her cat Tuna to appear in commercials that she came up with the idea of putting a show together demonstrating how extensively cats can be trained.

“I discovered all sorts of positive benefits to training a cat,” Martin said. “It gives them something to do with their mind, physical activity and mental stimulation.”

In the crowd were two major fans of the group, Ian Wallace and Jackie Ervin, who were visiting Chicago from Calgary, Alberta. After hearing about the show, they said they wanted to see these cats in action.

“We knew we had to figure out where the shows were because we’ve seen them on YouTube,” Wallace said.  Although he thought that The Rock-Cats were a little disorganized, Wallace said that he can “die a little bit happier” after seeing them.  

Martin said the Acro-Cats’ mission is to support rescue organizations and adoptions of felines. Improving relationships between owners and their furry friends is also a goal, she added.

“[Fostering cats] really turned the whole show around [from] just being an entertaining way to showcase my cats’ talents, to something bigger,” Martin said. “Training can actually strengthen the bond between human and cat. People are just not aware that you can do that.”

She said she wants people to develop positive relationships with their pets.

“I can’t save all of the cats out there, but once I discovered the big problem [of homeless and abused cats], I opened my home and my heart to save as many as I can,” she said.

Martin said she has fostered and found homes for 186 cats and kittens since 2009.

The Amazing Acro-Cats partnered with Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control for the show’s performances by donating a portion of its proceeds to the organization, a nonprofit that benefits animals at  Chicago Animal Care and Control.

“We take donations and use them to purchase medical equipment and provide care for the animals at the shelter,” said Genna Pocius, a FCACC representative. “We also work to get animals out of the shelter, into foster homes and eventually [get] adopted.”

Martin said each show brings tricks and laughs. The show has an element of unpredictability because “they’re just cats,” not trained acrobats.