Zippos Circus, Britain’s biggest circus, has been performing for 30 years and you won’t believe it but cats are part of their show. Yes, cats! You may find this suspicious unless you are aware that cats can be trained. But don’t worry, these cats are really well cared for and loved.
The Borissov family are animal lovers who have been rescuing abandoned cats for years from the streets of Angers in South West France and keeping them as pets. Five years ago, they wondered if they could train them to join their circus act and they did, turning them into one of the main attractions.
They have now 27 cats but only six of them in rotation perform in the circus ring and they do it for a period of 5-7 minutes. This way the cats don’t get tired or bored. It takes the family around 6 months to teach each cat using positive reinforcement and giving them treats and each cat has its own specialty. Every trick they do are cats’ natural movements that showcase their agility.
Felix is the first cat they ever rescued, they found him abandoned in the park 7 years ago and he is the star of the show. He performs a “super cat” high leap from a pedestal into his trainers’ arms. Rundi, who was rescued from a roundabout, is three years old and jumps through a hoop between two stands nearly 5ft apart. Valentina is one year old and she weaves between glittery pedestals and Junior, who was abandoned in a shopping center drain, walks across a tightrope.
However, they don’t always do what they learned and that is part of their charm. After all, they are cats. The Zippos Circus director Martin Burton told BuzzFeed:
“These are just regular cats and they don’t do anything that cats don’t naturally do (…) These are pet cats who will do tricks for treats. They are fed fancy sausages from France and the finest paté (…) They would be still living on the streets or dead if they weren’t in the circus”
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They live in their own heated trailer, all of them are spayed or neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and well cared for.
“Zippos are strong advocates of excellence in Animal Welfare and have asked successive Governments to introduce legislation force the external regulation of Circus animals by independent vets and other animal experts. To date no such legislation has been offered, and Zippos is still waiting. Meanwhile Zippos has its own Code of Conduct for the use of Domestic Animals in our circuses”
Circuses that still have animals in their shows are extremely polemic and it’s great to know that many countries are banning them by law, considering how many animals have been abused in the name of entertainment. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find, from time to time, circuses that actually care for the well-being of their animals and Zippos Circus seem to be one of these.
They get constantly inspected by animal welfare groups who recognize that their animals are in great conditions. They also have horses, which they rescued from the slaughterhouse moments before getting killed and now they are part of their show, trained also with positive reinforcement and let to enjoy some playtime while they are not on the show.
I strongly recommend you to follow this link and read detailed animal welfare inspections and daily routine descriptions of the conditions and activities of their animals. And this one if you want to know all the ways they protect the environment through sustainable actions.
You can also follow them on Facebook if you want to keep track of them and maybe check their act yourself if you are ever in Europe. Let us know what do you think of it. We always love hearing from you!