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Dionne Christian is the NZ Herald’s arts and books editor

Fur-real: dancing cats on show in Auckland

Cat-crazy Aucklanders are in for the purr-fect treat today.

The 14 felines who call BaristaCats Café home are getting a turn in the spotlight and it's got nothing to do with a re-run of the musical.

They'll star - if they choose to - in Catacular, a dance show created by cat-lovers and professional dancers Sarah-Louise Collins and Caitlin Davey.

The duo will perform a series of dances as "crazy cat ladies" and hope the cats will be tempted, possibly by catnip, feathered toys and balls of string, to join in.

But Collins acknowledges that with cats, there are no guarantees.

"We had a rehearsal and the cats didn't appear particularly interested. Then we put down some catnip and they went crazy.

"There's one dance where we toss a ball of string to one another and, after the catnip, the cats were chasing it all over the place. The hardest thing was to ensure we weren't stepping on any of them when we were dancing."

She and Davey were inspired by a book called Dancing With Cats, a phenomenon in the late 1990s which claimed cats could be taught to dance.

Collins says they thought it would be fantastic to incorporate cats into a performance but didn't see how the opportunity could arise. Then friend Lydia Zanetti, director of Auckland Fringe, told them she thought it would make a great performance for the arts festival.

"So we called BaristaCats and they were really enthusiastic."

Café manager Patty Cavill says it was a paw-some opportunity to provide the cats with something new and promote the business, which opened just over a year ago.

The cafe works with organisations like Franklin Cat Rescue, SPCA Auckland, Paws for Life, The Humane Society and the Normanby Road Vet Clinic to take in cats with special needs who have trouble living outdoors.

They spend their days in the café, where, for $15, patrons can share a lounge space with tabbies, torties, white cats, fluffballs and gingers for an hour, with a hot drink thrown in. There's also human food available.

If a cat would rather not socialise, it can retreat to a private space at the back of the café.

There are rules cafe patrons must follow. These include strict instructions not to poke or prod a cat and certainly not to pull tails, not feeding human food to cats (some of which are on special diets) and letting staff know of any messes so they can be promptly cleaned up.

The cafe doesn't allow children under the age of 10 to enter in line with guidelines from the SPCA who carry out regular inspections to ensure all is well with the cats.

Collins, whose family has three cats but isn't allowed any in her flat, says the café is great for people like her who want to spend time with cats but are not able to have their own.

Catacular is on today at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm but bookings on Aucklandfringe.co.nz are essential. Tickets, $20, include 30 minutes of cat show magic and 20 minutes of cat cuddles. R10+

- Herald on Sunday

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