A herd of trained cats is coming to Salem.
If you have trouble believing this could be true, you will fit in with half the audience that usually goes to see them.
“There’s two types of people at our show,” said Samantha Martin, founder and trainer of The Amazing Acro-Cats, a feline troupe that will perform at The Griffen Theatre from July 17 through 20. “There’s cat lovers, because there’s no entertainment for them out there. And there’s the people that are, ‘No way, I’ve got to see this for myself.’”
What visitors will see is one of four companies in the country that features trained cats, Martin said.
There are 13 Acro-Cats — with a supporting cast that includes a groundhog and two chickens — that play musical instruments, jump through hoops, ride skateboards and hoist flags.
Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that, before the Acro-Cats, Martin trained the Amazing Acro-Rats.
“They’re a misunderstood animal,” she said. “I wanted to change people’s minds about rats. Rats are really smart and sweet and fun to train.”
They are also agile, said Martin, who persuaded rats to do somersaults on a high wire, climb ladders, walk through hoops, bowl and play basketball.
Where some people shudder at the mere thought of rats, Martin’s only misgivings about them were economic.
“It was very popular, but I couldn’t make a living with rats,” she said.
So Martin turned to educational zoo keeping and for the last 25 years has exhibited small exotic animals, although she never lost the desire to train creatures to perform.
She started with dogs at age 10 and turned to cats 10 years ago because they are the second-most-requested type of animal act for videos and film, Martin said.
But they do live up to their reputation for independence.