It's a pun-lovers dream, Sunday's inaugural "Paw Star Game," which sees Roberto Clawmente, Siamese Sosa and 90 other cat-letes hitting the baseball field. But beyond many (many) purr-fect opportunities to put baseball greats through a feline filter, the Hallmark Channel's summer answer to its popular Kitten Bowl provides a public service, too, as the 92 kittens involved help put the spotlight on shelter animals in need of homes.
The majority of the kittens involved are from LI's North Shore Animal League, according to Hallmark and, "Paw Star" host Beth Stern said, all have been adopted.
"The beauty of it is that, after we tape it, we hold an adoption event," Stern said, calling from her Southampton home. A cat parent herself, with six "regulars" and several foster kitties at any one time, Stern said she's especially glad the event is held during the height of kitten season. So while you may not be able to adopt orange tabby Joe DeMeowgio or domestic short-hair Derek Cheetah, maybe the energetic kittens gnawing on teeny bats and pawing at balls poised on springs will inspire you to head to your closest animal shelter.
Stern, national spokesperson for the no-kill North Shore Animal League, returns to Hallmark after having twice hosted Kitten Bowl, which aired its second installment in February to 1.3 million viewers, a 28 percent increase over 2014's reach, per Hallmark.
"I love that North Shore is involved," Stern said. In addition to NSAL, she said, kittens -- and some cats, portraying coaches, naturally -- for the show were found by working with Last Hope Animal Shelter as well as municipal shelters.
"We saved their lives," she said of those 90-plus felines.
That number is just shy of the 100 cats and kittens the longtime animal advocate said that she and husband Howard Stern have, over the past 2 1/2 years, fostered and found homes for. The "Paw Star Game" was, by comparison, a bit more one and done.
"All I had to do was show up and have 92 cats crawl all over me," Stern said.
Also returning are Kitten Bowl co-announcers John Sterling, the longtime Yankees broadcaster, and sports analyst Mary Carillo. More celebrity power arrives via Ed Asner, Maria Menounos, Mario Lopez, Al Roker and more, who drop by the action, which premieres at 5 p.m. Sunday and repeats 4 p.m. Monday.
And be sure to look for Stern's favorite cat-lete -- at least by pun -- Stray Rod.