He appeared on The Early Show in a colorful costume with Marusa the cat standing still in the palms of his hands. Without wasting any time, Marusa did a paw stand on his hand. As he twirled around, Marusa kept its legs in the air and its tail at a 30 degree angle.
Another cat joined him for a bike ride and another held on to a blue and red rocking horse as it swayed back and forth. A grey and white cat walked on a tightrope — right-side up and upside down, using its four legs to hang on.
In the next trick, the cat looked as if it were on boot camp. As two people held two ropes horizontally, the cat quickly walked across the two poles. Then Kuklachev turned him around and it hung by its two front legs, and it scurried across the poles — not once but twice.
Co-anchor Hannah Storm was invited to be part of the act. She was asked to bend her back and two of his helpers quickly joined her on each side. Then she felt one of the cats jump from back to back to back on his command.
He uses gentle strokes and soft words in Russian to control the cats.
"I don't train them. They train me," Kuklachev said with the help of translator Mary Mondello. "I have a theater. It's in the circus that they train. We find common language."
Kuklachev is a renowned circus performer, but for almost 30 years his act is all about cats. He says chance brought them together.
"I was walking down the street and I found a kitten in the bushes. Someone abandoned it," Kuklachev said as Marusa rested on his shoulders and rubbed her face on his. "I took pity on him. I picked him up and brought him home and I sat him; started playing with him and I have an idea — to perform with cats. Back then, I didn't know that no one in the world was working with cats. So with my cats, I traveled all over the world. I got a prize in Monte Carlo. I got other prizes. My cats helped me get them."
Moscow Cats Theatre made its debut with American audiences last month at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Because of its popularity, the theater has extended the show's run through Dec. 29. The New York cast includes 26 cats, 2 dogs and 6 clowns.