CHICAGO (AFP) - Reaching up with her front paws, the little white cat grabs the green pole and pulls herself upside down and backwards across the stage. She gobbles her treat then stands on her hind legs to push a toy cart after a fluffy Siamese rushes over to sit on it. Its a perfect rehearsal for the Acro-Cats circus. But once the audience files into the small Chicago theatre, Isis keeps missing her cues. Cmon Isis. Cmon. One more try, her trainer begs, then gives a resigned sigh. Okay, lets hear it for her anyways. The audience laughs, claps and leans forward to see the next trick. They arent disappointed. A black cat rolls a basketball across parallel bars with its front paws. A tabby rides a skateboard down a ramp. A grey cat jumps through hoops. A white cat and a chicken have a bell ringing contest. Three years after she first launched her cat circus, Samantha Martin has learned a lot about public humiliation and filling dead air with self-deprecating jokes. Cats are the most unprofessional animals Ive ever worked with, she said after one sloppily performed trick. Weve literally had shows where we wanted to sneak out the back door in the middle of it and leave the cats behind. Audiences cant get enough of it But despite the finicky nature of the cats she affectionately calls her divas or maybe because of it audiences cant get enough. Her Chicago shows are routinely sold out, and the Gorilla Tango Theatre has been steadily adding performances. Shes landing more gigs on the road, driving her menagerie to Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana in a mobile home stuffed with props, costumes and built-in cages. Everyone just thinks its the cutest thing in the world and everyone wants to talk about their cats, said Kelly Williams, marketing coordinator for Gorilla Tango Theatre. Jeffrey Husserl and his family whose two cats wont even come when theyre called were amazed to see what the Acro-Cats would do. The best part: when a trio called the Rock Cats slipped out of their crates and began plucking at a toy guitar, tapping on a drum set and playing piano. Martin got her start training rats. Her big break came in 1989 when a local television station did a story on Chicagos very own Rat Lady after she landed her first movie gig by offering to work for free. She got invited to talk shows Geraldo, Jay Leno, even a show in Italy and was soon landing every movie gig that came to town. There werent many, unfortunately, so she put together a rat circus. But she never managed to make much money at it. So she expanded into exotic animals snakes, alligators, lizards, small bears, ground hogs, possums and started doing educational shows, corporate events, birthdays. Until she realised shed strayed away from her real ambition: training animals for film. She decided to specialise in cats because she likes animals with attitude and cats make you earn their affection. But she soon found out that cats get nervous during gigs listed on www.circuscats.com if they dont work consistently.