Friday, March 20, 2009

I am going to be in a punk-rock band!!

Martin remains single, quipping that "you can only hide this many cats for so long." She shares her modest, two-story home in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood with 20 cats, four raccoons, three groundhogs, five chickens, two kinkajous, a Chinese bear cat, one African serval, two chinchillas, one hedgehog and an alligator named Arnold Schwarzen-gator who, in the winter, lives in her basement. (Yes, she's licensed.)

But the felines have become her focus and, after scores of performances, Martin has learned a thing or two about managing a cat act. The most important lesson: Cats simply won't perform if there are any dogs in the first three rows.

"The cats are really like diva actresses," Martin said. "They can't be pleased and they're always walking off in a huff."

On that recent night, the cats seemed to pull themselves together just before curtain. As circus music filled the darkened theater, the cats—one by one—tottered across the high wire. The show picked up its pace, and the cats ran an obstacle course, swung from a rope and competed in a bowling contest against a chicken (Tuna, a white-haired mix, won with a strike).

For the grand finale, the Rock Cats took to their instruments, drawing ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd. Amid the waves of applause stood Martin, resplendent in her velvet cat suit.


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