It's Game day, and athletes Troy Paw-Lamalau, Feline Manning and Tomcat Brady are on the field. Napping. Players as cute as those competing in the Hallmark Channel's first Kitten Bowl (Sunday, Feb. 2, noon/11 a.m. c) can get away with anything, even using a time-out to climb up cohost Beth Stern for a cuddle. In fact, that sort of behavior is encouraged. Just ask the animal activist (and wife of Howard Stern), whose latest project is raising funds for Bianca's Furry Friends, a planned 14,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Feline Adoption and Wellness Center at New York's North Shore Animal League America.
TV Guide Magazine: What's it like working with kittens?
Beth Stern: I'm on the field with them, and my animal-loving friends make cameos. Rachael Ray and I had kittens crawling all over us. We talk about her love for animals while they do their thing.
TV Guide Magazine: Which team did you root for: the gray Cedar Cove Cougars, the Orange North Shore Bengals, the tabby Last Hope Lions or the black Home & Family Felines?
Stern: I have a thing for both black cats and tabbies. But my favorites were the black cats.
TV Guide Magazine: Is it true that black cats are the least likely to be adopted?
Stern: Yeah, it's a superstition thing. But Howard and my black cat, Leon Bear, whom we adopted as an adult, has brought us nothing but good luck. Tabbies are the second least likely to be adopted. But I love them, too. I gravitate towards the outsiders. We just adopted a blind cat, Bella.
TV Guide Magazine: How'd you find her?
Stern: She was the mother of one of my foster litters. She was already blind in both eyes and then had to have the infected one removed. My other cats are so gentle and kind to her. After a few months, I started getting adoption applications for her. My husband was always talking [on the radio] about how incredible she was. But I kept shutting the applications away in a drawer saying, "She's not ready. She's not ready." Then my husband looked at me and goes, "Bella's not going anywhere, is she?" I said, "No."
TV Guide Magazine: How many cats do you have in total?
Stern: We have five right now. Howard and I have fostered 55 kittens since June, and found them all loving homes. We just love having kittens and cats around us. I think a lot of people are like, "Oh, I'm a dog person. I don't get cats." But it's because they've never had one. I guarantee that if an animal lover who never had a cat adopts one, they're going to become crazy cat people like us.
TV Guide Magazine: What happened to the players after you taped the bowl?
Stern: All 71 were adopted. While it airs, we're holding parties at shelters across the States. So if someone watching sees a really cute orange cat, they can go to their local shelter and adopt one just like it.
TV Guide Magazine: Who's "Bianca" of Bianca's Furry Friends?
Stern: She's our dog that died last year. She was so patient with all our adopted cats. When she passed away, I said, "We need to do something in Bianca's memory." We came up with this idea of building a cage-free environment for the cats at North Shore Animal League. Then the entire downstairs where all the cats and kittens are currently housed will be freed up completely for more puppy mill and adult dog rescues. It's a win-win for dogs and cats.