During Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, some of the world’s most talented athletes will take the field in the hopes of achieving a lifelong dream and finding victory in their sport’s greatest contest. And on the field of Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl III, each of the 100 cat-letes are already winners; before a single snap of the tiny football, all have already been adopted into forever homes.
Kitten Bowl III > Hallmark Channel > Sunday, Feb. 7; 12pm ET/ 11am CT
TV personality, author and animal advocate Beth Stern returns as the event’s host and jokes, “It’s a really tough job for me but, you know, somebody has to do it.” She marvels at one of the best perks of her gig, “I’m sitting on a field with kittens just crawling all over me! It’s a dream come true.”
Stern is a lifelong animal lover and points to her childhood menagerie of rescued pets as cementing her love for all animals. A majority of Stern’s efforts focus on felines because, she says, “I really feel that cats are the ones in the shelters that are really overlooked.” Stern hopes Kitten Bowl III reminds viewers of the many quality animals awaiting adoption and says, “If I make one more person go to a local shelter and adopt a cat, then I feel what I’m doing is worthwhile.”
Stern says that she considers animal advocacy her life’s work and reports that she and husband Howard Stern have fostered over 250 cats and kittens. That love for fostering extended to six felines from this year’s Kitten Bowl who lived with the Sterns until they were old enough to be adopted.
Former professional tennis player, award-winning reporter, sports analyst and commentator Mary Carillo is delighted by the day, even if it makes her sneeze. “It is charming, it really is! Kittens are, these are the only athletes I’ve ever covered that I’m allergic to,” she laughs.
Carillo, whose special interest features have earned her an Emmy Award, is enthralled by the cameras’ peeks into cat personalities. “The stuff, the video footage that they shoot of these animals, is just tremendous,” she reports. “Honestly — they’re cute and they’re kind of diabolical, and they’re sweet, but they can also be cunning.”
Carillo is joined in the play-by-play booth by the legendary voice of the New York Yankees, John Sterling. He’s called iconic moments in his career, and relishes the recognition he gets from playing announcer for his four-legged pals. “I go around the American League,” he says, “and I can’t tell you how many broadcasters go, ‘Hey John, you’re unbelievable! You did Kitten Bowl! I watched you doing Kitten Bowl!’”
One of the most adorable aspects of Kitten Bowl III are the punny names assigned to each feline competitor, and the colorful and collectible trading card Hallmark has issued for each pretty kitty. Sterling reveals that the frisky feline who caught his attention (and was fun to say) was Ben Roethlis-purr-ger of the Last Hope Lions. Roethlis-purr-ger joins C.J. “Milk” Spiller, Montee Hairball and Coach Bill Beli-Cat on this year’s larger and more colorful field for a display of pouncing, prancing and general kitten play. And to make sure that the furr-ocious kittens follow the rules of play, they’ll have former NFL Most Valuable Player and four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason overseeing the fun as Feline Football League (FFL) commissioner. Comedian Chuck Nice oversees the on-field action as the game’s referee.
“Cats are incredible,” says Stern. “That’s one of the many things that I love about Kitten Bowl. It’s really showcasing cats for what they are and what they can bring to your household.” Stern says she tries not to play favorites, but she has a soft spot for a particular style of cat. “I’m always rooting for the black cats,” she says, as dark-colored cats are the most difficult to rehome.
Stern stresses that just because the animals featured in Kitten Bowl III have already found their furr-ever homes, efforts to find homes for other shelter cats is far from over. Hallmark Channel partners with North Shore Animal League America and Last Hope Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation to put on Kitten Bowl III and holds adoption events and viewing parties at shelters around the country to increase shelter adoptions. Stern says that when a pet is adopted from a shelter, “you’re actually saving two lives. Not only the one that you are bringing home, but you’re opening a space for somebody else to be saved as well.”
Stern hopes that when football fans watch the big game on Feb. 7, they’ll change the channel for a few minutes and change a life. “If you’re sitting there during Super Bowl Sunday and you want to just see some adorable kittens frolicking, just tune in to Hallmark Channel,” she says. “The cuteness is off the charts and I hope that when people are watching the show, they’ll think, ‘We could get one of those! We should go to our local shelter!’”