You thought Eagles fans were bad?

In the parking lot outside the stadium, a brawl broke out. One fan climbed to the top of a food truck. Another got so hyped up he leapt to the roof of the stadium in one jump, then stopped to consider which victim to pounce on next.

Of course, the stadium was only a replica of the one where Super Bowl LII will be played this weekend. A kitten-sized replica. And these fans weren’t just tailgating. They were TAIL-gating.

Paws for a minute and think about that.

The Kitten Bowl, a staple of Super Bowl Sunday counterprogramming for animal lovers, has come to Minneapolis. A facsimile of it, at least.

The annual television show kicked off five years ago on the Hallmark Channel as an alternative for the sports-weary. It was modeled on the similar canine version on Animal Planet, the Puppy Bowl, in which a batch of puppies bat around a stuffed football.

“Animal Planet had such success with Puppy Bowl we felt that kittens deserved their day in the sun as well,” said Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media.

And on a day when the TV is blaring for hours while hosts prepare party snacks and guests come and go, a program of cuddly little kittens chasing tiny footballs “doesn’t require a lot of focus or brainpower,” Abbott said.

People in Minneapolis who need a break from the football-centric offerings of Super Bowl week also have a taste of such a-mews-ment. As part of the Super Bowl Live festivities on Nicollet Mall, Hallmark Channel installed a live attraction of the Kitten Bowl in the Dayton’s Project, the new name for the vacant department store. It’s litter-ally the first time Hallmark has brought elements of the popular TV show to a live audience for the Super Bowl.

Dozens of kittens from around the country arrived here last Thursday in a 41-foot mobile shelter to play their little claws out behind a glass enclosure. Although they aren’t being filmed for the TV program, they will have a shot at becoming Minnesotans. Each is up for adoption.

In fact, the Kitten Bowl has been responsible for the adoption of more than 10,000 cats since its inception, said Matthew Carroll, a spokesman for North Shore Animal League America, which gathers and delivers the kittens that star in the broadcast and those that are playing this week at Dayton’s. Shelters around the country hold Kitten Bowl watch parties and adopt-a-thons on Super Bowl Sunday each year.

This year’s broadcast features kittens that were rescued this summer from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Show host Beth Stern (wife of Howard) fostered several of them until they found forever homes.

“My house is a kitten bowl,” she said. “When my husband leaves for work, I see cat hair all over the back of his jeans or coat, and I don’t say anything.”

Although the kittens in the broadcast were adopted after it was filmed months ago, the kittens on display in Minneapolis have just as much purr-sonality as their TV star brethren.

Take Howie, an orange 12-week-old New Yorker, who, Carroll said, is especially adept at playing wide receiver. And Pineapple, a yellow one-eyed kitten who has her sights set only on the ball. Backstage, benched in his cage near stacks of Tidy Cats litter and cases of Friskies food, Storm, a black kitten, couldn’t wait to get into the game. But when he landed on the field, the cat-erback only reluctantly swatted at a football being dangled above him by fishing pole.

Six cats from Minneapolis’ municipal shelter are also available for adoption. They hang out in cages at the end of the exhibit.

Local marketing agency Clamor was behind the design of the Minneapolis Kitten Bowl installation, which includes three museum-like glass enclosures visitors can walk past. There’s the tailgating lot, complete with a Mice Cream food truck, the silhouetted Minneapolis skyline and the miniature version of U.S. Bank Stadium (here, christened the Hallmark Channel stadium). There’s even a replica of the stone arches in front of the stadium.

A cat door connects this space to the locker room, where a chalkboard details a winning play, the Tail Mary. Bottles of Cat-orade fill the cubbies for “cat-letes” such as Feline Manning and Tomcat Brady. (Here, the teammates demonstrated a bit of cat-titude; we spotted a calico repeatedly bopping a gray tabby in the face.)

Then comes the main event — the green-turfed field, where at least four footballs are always in play. During a particularly fast and fur-ious quarter, a gray kitten missing part of its tail chased a laser pointer out of bounds. An orange cat made a touchdown by Army-crawling through a purple mesh tube. A black kitten climbed up into the stands and stayed there until halftime. It needed a cat nap.

“Everything had to be shrunk to a percentage,” said Todd Pinzuti of Bungalow 6 Design, who worked with Clamor on the installation. “Picture remodeling your kitchen, but everything has to be on the scale of a kitten. That was a challenge.”

The easier part was coming up with an endless list of cat puns, which everyone, from the animal handlers to the producers, always seemed to have at the ready.

The Hissman Trophy. Joe Montuna. Paw-some pass and purr-fect play.

“My favorite, that didn’t get used,” said Pinzuti, was “Girl, paw-lease.”


If you go
When: 4-9:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu.; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; noon-3 p.m. Sun.
Where: Dayton’s Project, 800 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.