Heart(s) ov Teh Darkness: Fear and Loathing at the Moscow Cat Circus(es), Maybe

Before you get your heart warmed by this delightful three-minute documentary from Cinelan about the Moscow Cat Circus, where a Russian father and daughter train their cats to do adorable tricks, be warned.

Be warned that this may not be the adorable Cat Circus Utopia the likes of which famed Victorian group-pets advocate Miss Fluffy Merriwether depicted in her “channeled” 1896 novel, Cat Circus: The Awakening Empire Of Our Benevolent Feline Overlords, As Told to Her Highness Miss Fluffy Merriwether by Kitty Purripants the Alpha Centauri Cat Emperor Via Transmission From the Great Beyond (and dictated to Her Highness’s Loyal Human vassal, the Dowager Anne-Penny Futzwattle of Lily Dale, New York).

It may not, my friends. It may not indeed. By the way, I haven’t got the foggiest idea if training cats in and of itself is cruel. This Animal Planet video (of an apparently unrelated Russian cat trainer, Gregory Popovich, who lives in Vegas) seems to tell me in humorless tones that it’s actually not a big deal.

But then, I’m so freaked out by the ominous American Justice electric-chair tone of the Animal Planet narrator that I can’t tell if I’m supposed to be freaked-out or high-fiving. I don’t even know if the video is serious or satiric. I think I’m being told that Cat Circuses in and of themselves — documented malfeasance excepted — are cute, not criminal.

But on teh Interwebz, folx allweys begz 2 differs.

In fact, so many peeoples begz 2 differs that typing Moscow Cat Circus gets exactly four autocomplete entries on Google: “Moscow Cat Circus Schedule,” “Moscow Cat Circus Video,” “Moscow Cat Circus Theater” — and Moscow Cat Circus Cruelty. “Cruelty” was first.

It took me a while to find this, though — an article on TimeForChange.org called The Ugly Story of the Moscow Cat Theatre: What Kuklachev Doesn’t Want You to Know, which claims:

Witnesses silenced, mysterious lawsuits, information and evidence disappearing, charlatan doctors and scientists, and sadistic clowns – sounds like a horror movie? Maybe, but that is the grim reality of the Moscow Cat Theatre as it appears after our investigation into the matter.

It serves up an interview with Russian mathematician, activist and Ivanpunk music label founder Misha Verbitsky, who was the subject of a 2009 suit by a guy named Yuri Kuklachev of the Moscow Cat Theater, who claimed that Verbitsky had defamed him in a blog post; Time For Change claims dozens of Russian bloggers were subpoenaed in this case.

What I couldn’t get straight is whether we’re talking about the same Cat Circus that’s featured in the Cinelan documentary above, which features a guy named Yannis and a guy named Vladimir, with the cat-training daughter — no Yuris at all, and no Kuklachevs.

The Time For Change article quotes “known veterinarian” Dr. Nikolay Loginov, who claimed he witnessed not only unnecessary euthanasia on cats in Kuklachev’s theater, but actual medical experimentation; Verbitsky’s accusations of pain-compliance and other cruelty during training are not pretty, not pretty at all. The anti-Kuklachev campaign apparently got lots of traction in Israel after it was featured in the Israeli media.

But that’s not good enough. Personally, I believe that hard-hitting investigative journalism comes from the barrel of a squirt gun filled with fine Popov vodka and just a dash of Red Bull.

So I went the extra mile.

I searched that Google term.

I searched its ass off.

First: The problem of their being at least two Moscow Cat Circuses / Moscow Cat Theaters probably derives from the vagaries of translating business names from Russian (and, to be fair to the cats, the fact that there are virtually no animal cruelty laws in Russia).

But here’s what I know: Only one Moscow Cat Theater has a father, a daughter and a charming PR guy with an American accent.

The other one sports one really creepy clown who seems so thoroughly unhinged it makes my inner Lady Sultana Precious Purrrrfect go Hissssssssssss.

Oh, sure, I might be reading Russian temperamental cues with my lets-hug-bunnies California Crackpot, Yes-On-19 , Glue Is For Sniffing Swim With the Dolphins ‘tude, my anti-Russian sentiment stoked by the vaguely Ukrainian bouquet of my most recent eight-gallon Mount Shasta Water Enema.

But for what it’s worth?

The unhinged clown?

Guess who!?!?

That’s Yuri Kuklachev!!!

Who says to me, Yuri says, so he says to me:

“The authorities thought, ‘What can a cat possibly say against Soviet power? The only thing a cat can say is Meow!'”

…and inexplicably:

Anyone can have a cat circus at home! It’s easy!

To which I direct him to my belly, which has eight scars en bloc from the night my own purring feline saw a spider on the far wall at 2 in the morning. But as I was saying, here’s Yuri being WEIRD. See if you get the goosies too, fellow belly-wounded cat-lovers:

And it gets weirder. Srsly. Weirder!

Here’s where YouTube’s utility for citizen journalism offers staggering quantities of Not That Much Help, leaving scars on my brain that no purring Miss Kitty can ever erase.

“Moscow Cat Circus Cruelty” nets you some mighty disturbing clues to the origin of the feline freakshow. In three separate videos, obliquely titled FAILURE: Boycott the Moscow Cat Circus, FORCE: Boycott the Moscow Cat Circus, and — are you with me, still? — FEAR: Boycott the Moscow Cat Circus, YouTube user livinginmyownworld79 blows the lid off this three-ring Circus of Corruption using the time-honored technique that bona-fide looney-tunes have been using to disseminate the real story on UFOs, Bigfoot and the Men in Black since the days of bootleg Beta tapes mail-ordered from Singapore: by pointing a camera at the television.

Why can’t the Crypto-Fascist Media supporting such monolithic Corporatist enterprises as the Moscow Cat Circus get it through their thick skulls that they are powerless, I tell you, powerless against such investigatory mojo as this? Information wants to be free! Power to the people! As long as there are video cameras and the Warriors of Truth don’t have to pee, corruption will be foiled!

By the way, as long as we’re racking up videos: There’s also HUMILIATION, which is only twelve seconds long and seems to involve a cat with a drink umbrella on its head. My very favorite, however, has to be FEAR, in which livinginmyownworld79 didn’t even feel like holding the camera rightside up.

Hey, people. Don’t point the finger. This Bob Woodward shit’s hard work. Sometimes u gets tie-tie. How many Cat Circuses have you brought down lately, comrade?!?

If you’re the sort of person who posts comments on Cute Overload videos of children playing with dachsunds saying things like “I just know as soon as the camera was turned off, those parents fed both the baby and the dachsund to the hungry pack of pitbulls they keep in the basement,” Cat Circuses are really going to piss you off by their very existence. Russian or otherwise (though they all seem to be Russian — what’s with that?!?), you’ll tell me and anyone who will read the comments that these things must be stopped; hold forth. I’m listening. Srsly.

If, however, you can’t tell the unhinged Russian clowns from the punk mathematicians or the cruelty from the comedy, it’s time to stop heaping animal cruelty on your own Mister Prissy Peabody and scritch that spoiled little pooper right between his pointy ears.

That, friends, is how we roll in the People’s Republic.

In Kalifornia, kitty trains you.

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