Even a cursory glance at Beth Stern’s background will show you how much of an animal lover she is, so she was a natural fit to host Hallmark Channel’s inaugural “Kitten Bowl” last year. The experience was so enjoyable for her that she is back again this year when “Kitten Bowl II” airs on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I got such wonderful feedback,” Stern says of the fan response via social media last year. “As it was happening, I was getting immediate response and people were just melting over the cuteness. [Those fans] proved to be the majority, because [Hallmark Channel] renewed it for the next couple of years. I’m really excited.”
Part of Stern’s excitement comes from her, as an animal lover, just being able to be around such adorable creatures. “I literally just get to lie in the middle of the field,” she laughs, “and have kittens crawling all over me. It’s true heaven for me. … They’re very quick. The walls are made of a special felt, and they literally climb, it’s like a big huge scratching post surrounding the field. You look up and you see a kitten hanging on the wall, it’s so darn cute, but then you have to make sure they don’t go over top and through the whole studio. We didn’t have any disasters, just some unruly kittens. … Sometimes we have to stop and do a reshoot only because a kitten is climbing up the wall or when it jumps out of the field, and I always think it’s so adorable. They can do no wrong in my eyes!”
But Stern gets even more excitement from the noble effort made by “Kitten Bowl” to adopt out its cuddly participants.
“The best part about it for me,” says Stern, who regularly fosters unwanted kittens (another five were coming to her house the day after we spoke) along with taking care of her six resident cats, “was knowing all the ‘players’ were going up for adoption after the taping. Last year I believe it was over 70 kittens, and this year I think there were 92 total kittens and cats participating, and I believe they’ve all been adopted. So it’s pretty cool. And when it airs, local shelters and partner shelters across the United States hold Kitten Bowl parties, so people gravitate to the parties and more cats and kittens are adopted. So for me, I look at it as all the lives that are saved and the attention it brings to unwanted cats. So I love it. It’s a cause so dear to my heart. I pinch myself when I say I’m the host of the Kitten Bowl.”
And this year, there are even some adult cats up for adoption, which Stern particularly likes. The cats are seen in a pub watching the kittens frolicking, and “coaching” them.
“That is showcasing adult cats that are in the shelters,” says Stern. “The only idea I would add for next year would be to have more of the adult cats, just so we can get more adult cats adopted. I’ve only adopted adult cats in our house, and they’re the ones that just break my heart the most.”
Also new this year is the addition of Feline Football League commissioner Boomer Esiason, the famed former NFLer and current broadcaster who Stern thinks will “bring even more attention to already a successful situation.”
Stern tells us she’s a Steelers fan (as such, it’s no surprise that she calls out Kitten Bowl player “Troy Paw-lamalu” as a particularly cute and punny kitten name), so she won’t be watching her team play on Super Bowl Sunday. But that does give her plenty of time to tune in to “Kitten Bowl II.”
“I recommend [it] to all the animal lovers out there,” she says, “and football lovers … I’m sure you’ll be loving the Kitten Bowl as much as I do.”
Kitten Bowl II premieres Feb. 1 at 12pm ET/PT on Hallmark Channel. It re-airs that day at 3pm and 6pm ET/PT.
Craig Blankenhorn/Hallmark Channel