Hallmark Channel, the exclusive home for kitten sports like the highly-rated Kitten Bowl franchise, is back with more cat cuteness when Meow Madness, hosted by animal advocate Beth Stern, national spokesperson for North Shore Animal League America, airs tonight — just in time for kitten season at your local animal shelter.
“Kitten season is my busy time, but it did start a little ahead of time this year, so Meow Madness is bringing awareness to kittens in shelters just in time,” Stern tells Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “If, when it airs tonight, it gets a dozen people to the shelter to adopt, it’s going to help out all the shelters. It’s going to clear space and save a lot of lives. That’s really what this is all about.”
Taking a page from March Madness, Meow Madness will feature 100 kittens playing on a pint-sized basketball court, just as its predecessor, Kitten Bowl, is filmed on a football field and airs on Super Bowl weekend.
“There are little hoops set up,” Stern says. “I’m on the field with a bunch of the kittens. There’s laser pointers this time. We have this cute little thing called the catapult. It’s like a regular catapult but with a little basketball. As soon as a kitten stumbles on it, or touches it with its paw, the ball goes flying and you see all these kittens going after it.”
In addition to Stern, Meow Madness features four time NBA Champion John Salley and award-winning reporter, sports analyst and commentator Mary Carillo as the official play-by-play announcers.
Kittens were provided by North Shore Animal League America (the nation’s largest no-kill shelter and animal adoption organization) and Last Hope Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation. Happily, all 100 of the kittens used in the filming of Meow Madness have been adopted.
“Obviously, we filmed it a couple months ago, so viewers are not going to be able to adopt the kittens on the show,” Stern says. “But if you see a cute orange kitten on TV, and a family member says, ‘Oh, I wish I could have an orange kitten,’ guess what? Go to your local shelter because I promise you there’s going to be a little orange kitten that is just as cute as the one on the screen.”
Launch the photo gallery to get a look at the kittens who will be playing tonight, and then read the rest of Stern’s interview in which she talks about the six cats she and husband Howard Stern have, their fosters and how Howard names them, why people might consider adopting a senior pet, and more.
Is the timing perfect on this because kitten season is starting now?
Oh my gosh, I was just saying that to my husband today. We were talking about Meow Madness, and I said, “You have to talk about it on your show next week.” You’re absolutely correct. Kitten season is approaching. Actually, it has begun. I have two nursing mothers right now in my house that, as we speak, I’m in the middle of fostering.
What is it about working with the Hallmark Channel that keeps you coming back?
Encouraging people to go to the shelters after they watch the show is a formula that has been working for us and that’s why I love Hallmark Channel. They continue to do this programming and we’re saving so many lives.
Do you still have the six cats that are your permanent residents?
Yes. They’re all right here, right now. They follow me everywhere.
Have you added anybody?
No. Six is my limit. My husband always asks if we can keep a kitten, but I say nope, we have our limit. We have our six and, at all times, I have foster kittens. I also always have an adult foster as well.
And does Howard still name them?
He does. Yep. He named our momma kitty Edamame and her three children Wasabi, Saki, and Miso. I think he’s in the mood for Nobu.
Sounds like it and you still have Yoda, right?
We have Yoda. I just took Yoda to the vet today for a checkup. His heart is perfect. He has a little bit of arthritis, so he had his first cold laser treatment. He’s sitting right here at my feet looking up at me. It’s so cute. He’s doing great.
I noticed that your Instagram page is also overloaded with kitty cuteness. Is that how people see which cats are available at the North Shore League?
What’s so funny is people are like, “Why do you just post pictures of cats?” I said, “If you don’t want to see cats that are up for adoption and my rescue work, do not follow me.” Most of the cats that I post daily are my fosters. They’re up for adoption and I follow their journey from how I rescued them, or how North Shore rescued them, to the moment they come into my home, my nurturing throughout the weeks and months that I have them, all the way up to handing them off to their forever families. I deliver every single one of them.
I also spend time at North Shore Animal League so I am able to see some of the adults that have been sitting in the cages for a long time, and I like to sometimes showcase them. I’ve really had such an incredible response because I think my followers are true animal lovers that are open to adoption. I’ve gotten everyone adopted that I’ve had my heart set on finding a home for, and occasionally, I’ll throw in an adult dog. I love dogs, too, and I work with dogs all the time, but right now my foster work is with cats so that’s why they’re mostly taken over my Instagram.
It was when you lost your dog that you started working with the cats, right?
Yeah. We’re still open to getting another dog but right now I’ve been so busy with my work with cats that I really don’t think I would have time for a dog. The amount of cats that are coming through our home that we’re finding homes for has just been so steady and incredible that I just don’t want to stop anytime soon.
You mentioned that you’re delivering the kittens yourself.
Yeah, we deliver. I had an old, adult kitty that somebody dumped from his apartment two years ago. He’s been living out on the streets and the residents of the apartment building occasionally put food out for him, but he would sit on the stoop of the apartment in which he lived. He didn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed back in. He continued to do that for two years. He had a severe ear infection that caused his ears to cauliflower.
My friend and I went over to the apartment building. We rescued him, brought him back to North Shore Animal League. He was completely checked medically and he had a severe ear infection that was never treated, so I treated the ear infection. His ears are permanently crinkled, so Sammy Crinkles is what his name is.
He was adopted by this loving family yesterday. I met them and delivered him yesterday. I had him for a couple months, and it’s so emotional and so hard to let go, but that was one of the more rewarding ones. The kittens are so perfect. It’s like,
“There you go, happy life with your forever family. Here’s a great family, they’re going to love you,” but to hand off a 12-year-old cat that has issues is pretty rewarding and was very special for me.
Sometimes a senior pet is preferable because kitties can get crazy and they’re into everything.
Yes. All of my cats, my resident cats, except for my blind kitten, well she’s two years old and I still call her my kitten, everybody else we adopted as adults. I already knew their personalities. I spent time with them at North Shore. I knew what I was getting. There’s something to be said for going to a shelter and checking out the adults first because you can really get to know the personalities of the animals. Whereas when you get a puppy or kitten, you don’t really know what you’re going to end up getting.
Meow Madness airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT 7c on the Hallmark Channel.