Moscow Cats Theatre – Moscow, Russia - Atlas Obscura
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Moscow, Russia

Moscow Cats Theatre

Russia is home to a feline-based circus which has been accused of animal cruelty. 

The Moscow Cats Theatre claims to be the only cat-based circus in the world, which isn’t correct, but one thing is for certain, the cats who perform in the show do some astonishing tricks. The question that has been raised is how exactly they were trained to do such unusual tricks. The circus has been loudly accused of animal cruelty.

Founded by veteran Russian clown Yuri Kuklachev in 1990, the Cats Theatre uses human clowns and feline “actors” to put on a world-renowned show that has played everywhere from America to Israel. The circus employs 120 cats to perform such stunts as balancing on a ball, walking a tightrope, and posing and dressing up with their human counterparts.

Russian bloggers have accused the circus of cruel training methods, and inhumane living conditions for the animals. In 2009 Kuklachev won a defamation suit against a number of these critics, who were forced to take down their accounts of any wrongdoing, but some sites still exist, and claim that since the Moscow Cats Theatre has ties to the Russian government, there is no chance of a fair trial.

According to Kuklachev, it’s the cats that are the ones who really choose what act they perform, and the training process involves just playing with cats until they reveal their special talent to their trainer. As he described to one paper, “The ‘trick-or treat’ principle doesn’t work with cats. You can only negotiate with them in good faith. For example, if you stop feeding a cat for a day it will develop stomach and liver pains. If you slap it, you will lose its trust. There is no way to bring a cat to its knees.” The critics think that is exactly what Kuklachev is doing, among them his former veterinarian Dr. Nikolay Loginov who accused Kuklachev of cruelty and having twenty five cats put to sleep because they could no longer perform.