For the next two weekends, Phoenix welcomes The Amazing Acro-Cats, one of the United States' most unique cat shows.
The traveling cat troupe will perform with The Rock Cats, a kitty rock band, at the Space 55 Theatre in downtown on Thursday through Sunday during the weeks of Jan. 22 and 29.
The Amazing Acro-Cats perform an array of tricks during the show from pushing carts to riding skateboards. The cats can also roll barrels, jump through hoops, turn on lights and walk tight ropes. The Rock Cats consist of a cat that plays the guitar, a cat that plays the drum, and even a chicken that plays the tambourine. The fun-filled show lasts a little over an hour and is followed by a meet-and-greet.
Samantha Martin, an expert animal trainer, trains the Acro-Cats and performs in the show. She is also in charge of putting the show together. Martin began training animals when she was 6 years old and knew that she wanted to professionally train at the young age of 7.
"My love has always been for training animals," she said.
Martin has an associate's degree in animal husbandry and services, and has completed internships at the Brookfield Zoo. After college Martin began training rats and other animals. She has worked with a variety of animals such as alligators and chickens.
Martin started focusing on cats eight years ago when she put together The Rock Cats, followed by The Acro-Cats a year later.
"The cat is the second most trusted animal," Martin said.
There are 13 cats in the Acro-Cats. The troupe also travels with foster kittens. There are currently three foster kittens; two of the kittens are from Puerto Rico. The show is intended not only to be entertaining, but educational as well. Martin likes to highlight proper training techniques to help others train their cats. She also wants owners to be aware of their animal's needs.
The Acro-Cats have been featured on Animal Planet's "Must Love Cats" and in Cat Fancy Magazine. Martin has also made an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and trained animals for Wal-Mart, PetSmart and PETCO.
The Acro-Cats will also perform in Tucson and La Jolla, Calif., next month.
• Arselia Gales is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.