Preview of Coming Attractions

Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Chicago, Illinois, Samantha’s Amazing AcroCats: Scaring Off Men and other Entertainments

“If a man is bothering you in a bar, just tell him you live with twenty cats—then see how fast he runs away.” Sitting in her living room amidst multiple white cats and orange cats, as well as props from her performing cat show, Samantha’s thirty-something sassiness and trim figure infer that she has plenty of opportunities to scare off unwanted men. “The problem is, of course, that as much as I love cats, I love men too. So when I first invite someone over, I make sure there is only 1 orange cat and one white cat in the living room. The rest of the cats stay in the back room. That way I don’t have to keep track of which cats I had out. When I like a guy, I try to ease him into my cat scene."

Why so many cats of the same color? Stunt doubles for film and television.

“My favorite animals to work with are cats and raccoons. Two animals that most trainers can’t stand—they are a real challenge, with minds of their own, if they don’t feel like doing a trick, if the energy isn’t right, they just aren’t going to do it. Then I have to improvise.”

It is hard to imagine her cats being reluctant to do anything.
As we move through the apartment into her kitchen, a mass of orange and white cats jump onto their bandstand. Voluntarily they pluck at their guitar strings, pump the drumsticks in a steady rhythm and bang on the keyboards—experimental music indistinguishable from reknown composer John Cage’s highly strategized and symphonized plonking.

‘Tuna’ jumps into her spot at the tip jar and taps it suggestively. “Tuna is the star of my shows. She loves training and performing. Can’t stand other cats and doesn’t like being touched but she is a reliable performer.”
Like many trained animals, Tuna’s default behavior is the first trick she learned, ringing a bell. “When we are on stage, we get a lot of comedy from me trying to get Tuna to turn on the light or jump through a hoop, but instead she returns to the bell and keeps ringing it and looking at me expectantly. I’ll try hiding it out of the way, but she still goes after that bell.
The audience loves watching the cats make a fool of me.” Samantha laughs at herself, while Tuna purrs through her entire spontaneous performance, bell ringing, hurdle jumping and light switching tricks.

This cat loves to work.

And so does Bugles. Samantha puts the young black cat in the other room while Tuna is showing off her stuff (she’s a diva and does not appreciate sharing the spotlight.) Bugles is climbing the screen and vocally insisting that he get his turn. “Bugles saved my show once. All of the other cats had called a last minute strike—but Bugles is a union buster—and he didn’t care. He performed the entire show.”

When Bugles emerges from the sidelines, he shows off his skateboarding skills. He hops on the board and rolls down the ramp, then pushes off his hind paw to keep the board rolling. He can’t get enough of this game. “All my cats love to work. That is one of the themes I touch on in my shows, Cats love work. You can extinguish unwanted behaviors in the home by working on these kinds of tricks with your cat—they love having the mental stimulation of figuring this stuff out. You end up with a much more highly interactive cat—and its a lot of fun. And most of all your cat won’t be so bored.”

We talk about some of the other performing cats shows around the country, the Moscow Cats Theatre, Gregory Popovich in Las Vegas, the Catman in the Florida Keys. “Oh yeah, I tellin’ ya, that Catman, he’s a player. After his shows, women are lining up to go home with him. The funny thing is—when I do a show, even in my leather cat suit, with the kitty ears and all—not once has a guy waited around to hit on the crazy cat lady.” It is clear that Samantha uses her abundant sex appeal and wry humor to keep her cat show going. When she is on stage and one of her cats refuses to perform, she takes over the stage with her stand up routines.

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