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‘Kitten Bowl’ debut to feature Wantagh’s ‘Last Hope Lions’

Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks

Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks and longtime volunteer at Last Hope Animal Rescue's adoption center in Wantagh, stops in at the rescue and holds Abu, a 7-month-old black-and-white kitten. His company's Hallmark Channel will air the inaugural "Kitten Bowl" on Feb. 2. (Jan. 18, 2014) Photo Credit: Brittany Wait

Abu, a 7-month-old black-and-white kitten up for adoption at Last Hope Animal Rescue in Wantagh, purred as Cold Spring Harbor’s Bill Abbott held him tight and stroked his fur Saturday.

Abu was found in a Dumpster in Huntington with nine of his siblings, all with eye infections. He has since healed, but he and six of his brothers and sisters still need homes.

Abbott has volunteered at Last Hope for 20 years, fostering kittens, maintaining feral cat colonies and walking dogs. But now he’s incorporating his day job to help little ones like Abu find homes.

Abbott is CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, which owns the Hallmark Channel. That network will air the inaugural “Kitten Bowl” at noon on Super Bowl Sunday, as Abbott explains, “to raise awareness of the plight of homeless cats.”

The “Kitten Bowl” is an extension of Hallmark Channel’s pet safety and adoption initiative, “Pet Project.”

“Animal Planet’s ‘Puppy Bowl’ does so well that we wanted to do something at Hallmark,” Abbott said. “And why can’t cats have their day? So, we created the 'Kitten Bowl' to raise awareness.”

The “Kitten Bowl” will consist of two playoff games and a championship match, along with basic obstacle courses of hurdles, tunnels, hoops, jumps, weave poles and lasers.

The nonprofit rescue, which was founded in 1981, sent a team of kittens, the “Last Hope Lions,” to compete. And to celebrate, the animal rescue is hosting an Adopt-a-thon/Tailgate Party Weekend on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2., from noon to 5 p.m. at its adoption center, at 3300 Beltagh Ave., in Wantagh.

Rebecca Caro, foster coordinator for cats at the nonprofit’s adoption center, said they sent 15 kittens to compete at the “Kitten Bowl.” A total of 71 kittens from Last Hope and Port Washington-based North Shore Animal League America competed when the show was taped Oct. 28-30. All have since been adopted, but there are many more that need homes.

“Cats get a bad rap on Long Island for our huge feral cat issue,” said Caro, 34, of Bay Shore. “But the ‘Kitten Bowl’ will show you how outgoing, playful and loving they are.”

The three-hour event will air three straight times on Super Bowl Sunday. It will be hosted by TV personality Beth Stern and emceed by New York Yankees radio voice John Sterling.

“The Last Hope Lions are the undercats, going up against other kittens from an older and larger animal rescue,” Abbott said. “Eight kittens ruled the game. It’s going to be great.”

Abbott offered a little preview. One kitten perched itself atop a goalpost, taking in the action below. Others tried climbing the walls of the stadium and taking a timeout sitting in the bleachers.

Nicknames such as “Brett Furve,” “Dan Furrino” and “Calico Purress” add a comedic aspect to the game.

Abbott hopes the antics spur adoptions just like the “Puppy Bowl” does, saying, “Cats are wonderful and they need homes just as much as puppies.”

For more information on adoption at Last Hope Rescue (www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org), call 631-425-1884, or email info@lasthopeanimalrescue.org. For more information on the "Kitten Bowl," check out Hallmark’s website, www.hallmarkchannel.com/kittenbowl.

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