Samantha Martin with the Catmobile
Samantha Martin with the Catmobile Credit: Michelle Sangster

If you’ve ever doubted whether there are terrible people in the world, the following information may help you lay to rest those doubts. Last year, vandals smashed the fiberglass feline that sat atop the Acro-Cats’ “Catmobile,” the tour vehicle for the Chicago-based troupe of trained circus cats and its sister act, the Rock Cats, a cat band, replete with tiny instruments and a chicken that plays tambourine.

The incident occurred while the kitty crew and its devoted trainer, Samantha Martin, were in Los Angeles for a performance. Following media coverage of the Acro-Cats’ misfortune, some nice folks in LA replaced the Catmobile’s bust—modeled after the show’s star, Tuna—with a new and improved version that’s now affixed to the roof of Martin’s Honda Element. “It ended up being a blessing in disguise,” she says. “The other one looked more like a pig than a cat.”

Martin’s cat circus has been operating for about a decade, entertaining animal lovers and raising awareness about the benefits of clicker training, a method that involves a little handheld noisemaker, positive reinforcement, and plenty of treats. All cats can be trained, Martin says; it’s just a matter of determining what to coach them to do based on their age and physical condition. “You couldn’t teach a 12-year-old cat to sit on a ball, but you can teach them to sit pretty and wave,” she says. “All cats are good at something—you just have to figure out what that is.”

The Acro Cats/Rock Cats roster currently numbers 14. All are Martin’s pets, but adoptable foster cats make regular guest appearances in shows. Over the years she’s found homes for 148 homeless cats. And hers come properly socialized, which she says makes it less likely they’ll end up back in a shelter. Really, who’s gonna ditch a cat who can give you a high-five?

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