Marc Lemoine
August 05, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT

Does cauldron-lighting in the name of global unity give you pause? Well, Hallmark is giving you paws with cuddly counterprogramming during the Summer Olympics’ opening ceremony. Kitten Summer Games — an adoption-awareness-raising event hosted by wife of Howard and animal activist Beth Stern — features feline takes on gymnastics, track and field, and plenty of other sports in which you would think that a cat has no business.

But KSG co-executive producer Kathy Sutula urges you to make it your business to tune in, because these kittens did come to play. Or is that purrform? (Get used to the puns. They’re not stopping.) “Kitten Summer Games will just wow your socks off with just how amazing these little, flexible kittens are, and just how much they actually competed and made these events feel like real athletic events,” she says. “Even if you are not a cat person, you will just sit there and melt — and be amazed.” Before you watch these 100-plus felines try to scratch and claw their way up the medal stand tonight on the Hallmark Channel at 8 p.m. ET/PT, know these 12 things:

1. Kitten Summer Games is going for the gold in groaner puns

“We all locked ourselves in a room and came up with kitten names for five days straight,” Sutula says, ticking off a list of names that will make you laugh, cry, and/or face-palm: John Mac-N-Meow, Mary Lou Kitten, Nadia Come-N-Scratch Me. And instead of countries, these cats will represent U.S. regions. And let’s talk about Alaska’s Kristy Yama Cat Chi. “Her night vision is so amazing, she can see Russia from her condo,” Sutula deadpans. “We all talk catspeak by the way,” she adds. “In the office: ‘Oh my god that was pawsome.’ I was at the grocery store the other day and somebody said something to me and I went, ‘Oh that’s just pawsome.’ They looked at me like, ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, purrfect.’”

2. The tennis competition received a topsy-turf-y facelift

“We didn’t know if there was a way that we were actually going to get cats to knock balls over the net, and when we originally put down our little platform, we were using actually a ping pong table,” Sutula says. “We noticed that kittens didn’t really like slippery surfaces, so we had to cover it up with fake astroturf, which helped them play along.” And, in case you are wondering — and there’s no way you’re not —John Mac-N-Meow was amazingly like his human counterpart. He throws hissy fits, he’s starting catfights, he knocked our little umpire over. You couldn’t have asked for something better.”

3. The net result in the volleyball event was unexpected

“We were amazed that they actually did spikes and digs,” she says. “We had feathers attached to little volleyballs, and they were really spiking and digging, all of the stuff you never expect kittens to actually do in volleyball. And we actually had Gabrielle Reece make an appearance on the show, who’s pulling for her feline counterpart, Catty Reece.”

4. Gymnastics will raise the bar on the feline performances

“We have rings, we have a vault, we have the uneven bars, which surprised everyone on how just the kittens went from the higher bar to the lower bar and did their little acrobatics,” shares Sutula. “We think our star in the making is Nadia Come-N-Scratch Me.”

5. The track-and-field events were among the hardest to pull off

“When you do things like the 100-meoweter dash, you can’t really get six kittens to run in one direction,” says Sutula. “You put them out there and they scatter, so that’s always a fun thing. We had a pole vault competition, and we even had a little bar that falls down, which we never thought was going to work, but we had kittens that cleared it. We had kittens that were crawling up, trying to get on the bar before the other kittens that were actually performing. And our big track-and-field event is our meowathon, which we never thought we could pull off. We have, like, 10 kittens actually running a marathon. And a little trick: We put them in front of a green screen. We have Jesse Meowens, we have Cat Lewis competing, and then we have our Cat Pack — Sammy, Frank, and Dean. And the funny thing with the meowathon, we set-up the finish line with the little ribbon and they run up to it and they stop. And you’re like, ‘Okay, somebody’s got to go through it,’ but most of them were playing with the ribbon. And we’re like, ‘How long is this going to take??? Somebody go through the ribbon or jump over the ribbon!!!’  It took awhile. We felt like we were running a real marathon waiting for the finish to happen.”

6. There is a Usain Bolt cat named Hissing Bolt — and he was able to compete injury-free

“His paw is healed nicely,” reports Sutula. “He passed his CAT Scan and he did an amazing job. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but he had a little altercation with another kitten during the meowathon, but then they resolved their differences and carried on. But he’s in good shape, and you can’t wait to see what Hissing Bolt does. He’s amazing.”

NEXT: “You can’t put two kittens in a boxing ring and have them box, so…”[pagebreak]

Marc Lemoine

7. There is a wrestling event — and wrestling elsewhere, too

“We originally started with, ‘Hey, let’s put a little wrestling ring down and throw some cats out there and let them wrestle,'” she notes. “Well, you can’t really make cats wrestle. They either do it or they don’t do it. The wrestling event actually turned into wrestling and catfights throughout all of the other events instead of just being one event. We got wrestling on the track and field, and we got wrestling for the meowathon.”

8. Boxing won’t quite be boxing

“You can’t put two kittens in a boxing ring and have them box, so we turned it into a little different version of boxing that I think will be really cute, and you’ll have to tune in.”

9. Swimming won’t be anything at all

“We were thinking about doing aquatic events — people expect it — but let’s just say it didn’t turn out like we wanted. Kittens don’t really like water. They’ll drink water.”

10. You also will witness some non-competitive catnapping

“The biggest problem is that they’re eight months old and they’re going crazy, and all of a sudden they’re in the middle of an event and they just go and take a cat nap,” Sutula says with a chuckle. “They’re tired, they’re kittens, they can only play a certain amount of time… Because we like to make sure that they’re safe, they come out in different groups for about 45 minutes, and then they go and do their cat nap. Sometimes some kittens get a little nervous, and they have to take a little litter-box break, which we have at the side of the stage. Everybody gets a little stage-struck every once and awhile.”

11. It’s all for a good cat cause

“We’re just hoping that people see this and if they’re not cat people, maybe advise other people who are to just rescue and adopt,” Sutula says. “The leader of this whole event is Beth Stern; she’s amazing. I call her the Fairy Godmother of Kittens, because we’ll put her on the set to do an opening or something, and I don’t know if she puts a little catnip behind her ears or whatever she does — it’s probably just her own instinct and kittens can just sense it — but they crawl all over her. They’re in her hair, they’re on her shoulders. Somebody once said, ‘She looks like Barbie, but she has the heart of Gandhi when it comes to rescue and adoption.'”

12. And, sure, absolutely, the kittens were tested for blood doping and PEDs

“Occasionally we do catch some cathletes going a little crazy, but there’s nothing that says you can’t use catnip,” she notes. “Purrformance-enhancing drugs are not good, but a little catnip never hurt.”

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