2016-08-04 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Let the games begin! “The Kitten Summer Games,” that is. Soon they’ll be as well known as the international games in Rio. This Fri., Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. the inaugural “Kitten Summer Games” will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, airing against the opening ceremony of those other big games starting with the letter “O.”

During the last three winters, Hallmark Channel’s “Kitten Bowls” have demonstrated the gridiron skills of feline football players. More important, “Kitten Bowls I, II & III” have been successful in spreading the word nationally about the thousands of friendly shelter cats in desperate need of homes. TV kitten teammates from Last Hope and North Shore Animal League, as well as many shelter cats across the US have been adopted because the Hallmark Channel message scores a touchdown with many viewers.

“It was important to expand our kitten sports programming to showcase even more extraordinarily talented animals in need of loving homes,” said Bill Abbott, president and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks. “This event is the first of its kind, as it not only elevates the network by developing unique, family-friendly content, but also drives and increases nationwide adoption efforts. While kittens compete for gold, the gold medal we strive for is adoption success.”

Nadia Come N Scratch Me performs on the uneven bars Nadia Come N Scratch Me performs on the uneven bars Mr. Abbott has been a longtime supporter of Last Hope’s cat program and TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) efforts. We are so grateful for Last Hope’s inclusion in both the Hallmark Channel’s “Kitten Bowls” and now “Kitten Summer Games.”

Summer is a great time to showcase the natural grace, agility, balance and speed of “cat-letes” competing in Olympic events like gymnastics, track and field, volleyball, wrestling and boxing. Add the cuteness component of kittens, and a TV audience of children and grown-ups alike will cheer their favorite kitties to victory. Be prepared for mishaps, cat fights and flops because kittens are not as polished as grown cats.

Doubles tennis at the Kitten Summer Games Doubles tennis at the Kitten Summer Games This cat competition was filmed in NYC in April at the start of the Long Island kitten season. Most local kittens were too young to participate. Optimum kitten age for filming is six to nine weeks old. North Shore Animal League gathered about 100 kittens from other states, while Last Hope provided adult cats to be judges.

All cat judges from Last Hope, including “Riley” from Oyster Bay Shelter, “Haley,” rescued along with her littermates after their mother was killed by a car, and “Kelsey,” whose original owner suffered a serious car accident, have been adopted and will be watching themselves on TV from the comfort of their loving homes. Two others, “Charlie Brown” and “Schroeder,” were adopted together. Our judges have stage names such as “Dr. Mewlittle” and “Miss Hiss.”

Beth Stern hosts the laser light opening ceremonies and events of the “Kitten Games” from Hallmark Stadium; break time at Kitten Summer Plaza and the grueling 26.2-mile “meow-a-thon” from the streets of NYC. Expert commentators are Mary Carillo, former tennis pro, and David Frei, recently retired voice of the Westminster Kennel Club Show. Mary will be in Rio announcing those other games for NBC when the “Kitten Games” premiere Friday. Ironically, when I would sit with Mary and David while handing him the Best of Breed cards during the Westminster broadcast, Mary and I would tease him that we had connections to the “Kitten Bowl” and he didn’t. See how quickly things change.

The roster of events is complex. In gymnastics, kitten teams from the North, South, East and West compete on the balance beam, rings, uneven parallel bars, floor exercise and a touch of synchronized dancing. Mounts and dismounts are so important, and a cuteness quotient is always factored in. Watch for famous names like “Nadia Come N Scratch Me” and “Mary Lou Kitten.”

Track and field encompasses hurdles decorated with feathers, high jump, long jump, pole vault and 200-meter dash. Kittens have an agenda of their own. They do not understand task completion is essential to win. Don’t be surprised if track stars like “Jesse Meowens” or “Cat Lewis” get distracted in the middle of a jump or decide it’s time for a cat nap.

I’m not sure if any animal behaviorists have ever done a study to determine at what age kittens develop a sense of good sportsmanship. These young kittens ambush opponents trying to concentrate on their jumps and dismounts. The tiny athletes do seem to be cheating when they play volley ball and tennis. Some pull down the net to help a teammate; others chew on it. Kittens forget what side they are on and score points for the other team.

Tennis pros like “Pawdre Ag-Hissy” and “Felina Williams” have an excellent serve and back-paw, yet I have an ethics bone of contention to pick with the cat judges from Last Hope. Why did they allow a tennis player named “Mary Catrillo”? Isn’t she a conflict of interest with the announcer?

Wrestling resembles ancient Greek cats in choke holds, whereas boxing takes on new meaning. So not to be a sports spoiler, I will only say this: when boxing, the kittens use cardboard boxes rather than padded gloves. A gold, silver and bronze medal is presented after each event, and something quite tantalizing is used to get keep the frisky champions on their respective platforms.

In reality, from now through the end of November, all kittens are in competition with each other to be noticed and adopted before they grow beyond that fleeting tiny and cute stage. Meanwhile, adult shelter cats are pushed further into the background because more people notice small kittens. Therefore, the Hallmark Channel “Kitten Summer Games” is much more than entertainment. This adorable program champions the cause of homeless cats of all ages. Tune in on Fri., Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. Tweeting live during broadcast. #Kitten- SummerGames

Babylon Town Shelter Kittens for Adoption (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Here are just two of the shelter kittens who would love to be playing summer games at your house. “Tory” 6-311, a tortie, will always look like she is wearing clown make-up. “Smoky” 6-290 has excellent balance and kitty gymnast potential. All Babylon kittens are spay/neutered, vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and FeLV/FIV tested.

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