The Amazing Acro-Cats, featuring Tuna and The Rock Cats, kicked off the start of their Boulder tour at the Dairy Arts Center on Tuesday evening. The talented pack of Georgia-based felines brings one-of-a-kind entertainment to audiences across the country and will jump, leap and jam at Gordon Gamm Theater today through Friday. Earlier in July, the only all-cat circus troupe and band played Denver’s The Bug Theatre.

Gracing stages in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Portland and Austin, the quirky troupe — made up of former strays, orphans and rescues — proves to be a favorite among animal lovers and those who crave the unexpected. With skill, agility and wonder, this posse turns even the most skeptical of folks into smitten kittens.

Rock Cats Rescue/ Courtesy photo

From the left, Oz, Asti and Nue perform with The Rock Cats. Today through Friday, The Rock Cats and The Amazing Acro-Cats will perform at the Dairy Arts Center’s Gordon Gamm Theater.

“It all started when a pregnant cat came into my life,” said trainer Samantha Martin, who founded the cat circus troupe in 2005. “She had her kittens, and amongst the babies was an all-white cat we named Tuna. She was so good at training. She loved it so much and wasn’t really much of a cuddler.  All she wanted to do was work.  So, I thought maybe other people want to see this cat do this and that’s how the show was born.”

Martin, a self-taught animal trainer, has worked with animals for film and television projects for more than two decades. From handling a tarantula featured in a music video by metal band Megadeath to now running her own cat-based show through effective clicker training techniques, her career has been as varied as the species with which she has worked.

Her touring cat spectacle continues to be a media draw, appearing on “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “CBS Sunday Morning” among others. The cats were even featured in a Target ad.

“We hear a lot of ‘now my life is complete’ comments,” Martin said, who has an associate degree in animal husbandry and services. “So many people from so many different backgrounds come together and share the experience. Old ladies sit next to hipsters and they talk to each other about how many cats they have.”

Rock Cats Rescue/ Courtesy photo

Founder of The Amazing Acro-Cats, Samantha Martin, left, holds out a stool for Alley while Charmaine Baldt looks on.

Martin and her agile and musically inclined cats were the subject of Jacob Feiring’s 2019 documentary “Acro Cats.” The group performed as the entertainment during the halftime show at Animal Planet’s 2016 Puppy Bowl and recently appeared on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

But, it isn’t just the cats that get stage time. A chicken, Cluck Norris, adds to the musical arrangements. While this first and only cat band doesn’t play modern pop hits, it does provide audience members with a random, freestyle soundscape of its own.

“They are really more improvisational — more of a free-form jazz thing,” Martin said. “There are eight members — a drummer, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a trumpet player, a sax player, a chime player, a woodblock, and, of course, cowbell player. The chicken plays cymbal and tambourine, too.”

Tricks from Acro-Cats range from riding skateboards, hoisting flags, jumping through hoops, reading signs and rolling on balls. Performing mice also have been a part of the show and a couple of rats can be seen at the Dairy gigs.

Life on the road for Martin and her four-legged comrades can often be hectic, but she takes comfort in embarking on circuits that allow her and her loyal tribe to see the country and bring joy to audiences big and small.

“We travel around in our 45-foot tour bus,” said Martin, who often wears a cat suit and ears on stage. “One third of the bus has been completely ‘catified’ for the cats, not including some condos for some of the cats who prefer separate quarters. We have this tiny area for our bunks and our belongings. Everyone sleeps on the bus, too. We stay in RV parks while we travel. We also have a Honda Element we tow with a giant cat on top of it. It is cozy and we get to sleep with the cats every night.”

In addition to providing such a unique attraction, Martin and her team support feline fostering, rescue and adoption. They’ve even inspired people to discover what their own pets can achieve.

“For me, seeing people turn from cat owner to having a real relationship with their cats is the most rewarding,” said Polly Smith, booking and promotions manager. “One time, in Los Angeles, this lady comes racing into the theater we were performing in and says, ‘Oh my gosh, I saw you all last year and I bought a training kit, took it home and now our cat, who had behavior problems, can high five and we wouldn’t even think about getting rid of him.’ That is the stuff that reminds me that this is my dream job.”

If you go

What: The Amazing Acro-Cats Featuring Tuna and the Rock Cats
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Where: The Dairy Arts Center’s Gordon Gamm Theatre, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
Cost: $25-$45
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