19 Years of Cats and Clowns
The Moscow Cats Theatre was founded in 1990 by professional clown Yuri Kuklachev. Its cast of 120 cats (and 3 or 4 dogs) walk on tightropes, ride on bicycles and balance on mirrored disco balls under the watchful eyes of their human trainers.
The Moscow- based group has performed in the United States, Canada, Finland, China and Japan. In Paris the group won the Golden Bowl Award for “most original theatre in the world.” In 2005 the Moscow Cats Theatre was declared an official State Cultural Institution of Moscow.
A veteran of the Moscow State Circus, Kuklachev began working with cats in 1971. His first performing cat, Strelka, was a stray he rescued from the street.
Many of the cats currently performing with the Moscow Cats Theatre are also rescued strays.
Training Cats with Kindness
Kuklachev rejects harsh training methods for the cats. In fact, he hesitates to call what he does ‘training.’
“I don’t train them. They train me,” he told Tatiana Morales in an interview.
Part of Kuklachev’s technique is to study each cat and design tricks around what it already enjoys doing- leaping, climbing, playing with string. The cats are rewarded with affection and soft words, not food. You can only train a cat, Kuklachev says, if you love it.
The troupe’s home is a theatre on Kutuzovsky Prospekt in Moscow. There each cat has a large, glass-fronted cubicle equipped with a bed and a chair. They are tended by a staff of caretakers and veterinarians.
Kuklachev jokes that the building has no mice.
Special Performances for Children and the Disabled
The Moscow Cat’s Theatre is a family business. Kuklachev’s wife Elena, daughter Marina and son Dmitry also perform with the cats. The company is split into two troupes; while Yuri Kuklachev tours with some of the cats, Dmitry hosts performances in the Moscow theatre. Cats trained by Dmitry Kuklachev have also appeared in television commercials for Whiskas and Kitekat products.
The message of the Moscow Cats Theatre is optimism and kindness. Shows are given titles such as “School of Kindness” and “Cat Clowns and Love.” The Kutuzovsky Prospekt theatre offers discount tickets to the veterans and the disabled, and the company frequently gives charity performances in orphanages and children’s hospitals.
The innocent antics of the Moscow Cats Theatre will charm the children in your family- and the child in you.