Even if you're not a cat owner yourself, chances are you've probably seen your fair share of odd feline behavior this year. If you've spent any time online, you're aware that cats have achieved an unprecedented level of visibility, whether it's the latest cat news story going viral, or the media presence of bona-fide celebrities like Maru and Grumpy Cat. However, if you're looking for some in-person, species-defying excitement, the return of the Amazing Acro-Cats to Seattle could be the cat event of your year.

A veteran animal trainer, Samantha Martin first developed the Amazing Acro-Cats to keep her show cats mentally sharp in between television, film, and advertising jobs. Eventually, the show took on a life of its own in her home base of Chicago, and Martin began taking the circus event on tour across the country. Beyond the cuteness factor, one reason the show has become so popular in the last few years is because it challenges our biggest assumptions about cats: They are too independent, too uncooperative, and perhaps too smart to ever take orders from a human.

The skills displayed by the Acro-Cats will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with a hyper house cat. These cats leap, dash, climb, and balance on an array of different objects, but what makes them truly remarkable is their ability to do these activities on cue and with relative consistency. Despite the allure of their favorite treat for every successfully completed trick, the show builds suspense as each moment maintains an element of unpredictability. The cats move around the theater (to the delight of most audience members), tuning in to a handler's commands only when they feel like it.

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Each show closes with a performance by the Rock Cats. Billed as the "only cat band in existence," these cats are capable of anarchic musical compositions. Martin likens it to free jazz, in the sense that it's an unpredictable assortment of instrument clanging, and rarely does it sound like the cats are playing the same song, let alone an actual, fully realized piece of music. Nevertheless, the leader of the group, a white-haired diva named Tuna, has the perfect demeanor for a rock star of any species. A perfectionist of the highest order, Tuna is completely driven to perform—and receive due compensation in the form of treats—as she isolates herself from her more distractible bandmates.

It might be easy to think that we know more about cats than we ever have. The Amazing Acro-Cats show us in equal measures the normal house cat's ability to transcend our ideas about felines, to put up with our seemingly ridiculous demands on them, and, finally, to shut out all our thoughts and simply make us go "d'awww." recommended

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