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15 things you didn't know about Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl and kitten halftime show

© Libby Torres/Insider and Olivia Singh/Insider

By Libby Torres, Olivia Singh, INSIDER

  • Every year since 2005, Animal Planet has hosted the Puppy Bowl and kitten halftime show on the same day as the NFL's Super Bowl.
  • The animal-friendly TV event features adoptable puppies and kittens.
  • Insider got a behind-the-scenes look at how the event comes together, from making the animals' safety a priority to keeping them fed and comfortable when the cameras aren't rolling.

The Super Bowl is the NFL's biggest event of the year, and there's an accompanying sporting celebration specifically for fans of puppies and kittens.

Since 2005, Animal Planet has hosted the Puppy Bowl and kitten halftime show, which features plenty of adoptable pups and feline friends. Similar to previous years, the 2020 Puppy Bowl will air on the same day as the actual Super Bowl - Sunday, February 2. Fans can tune in at 3 p.m. ET to watch the puppies compete, with plenty of time to spare before the human's game begins at 6:30 p.m.

Ahead of the Puppy Bowl, Insider got a behind-the-scenes look at how the event comes together, from keeping the animals safe to making sure they don't have an accident on set. 


The Puppy Bowl has been a fixture on Animal Planet for 16 years and counting.

© Animal Planet

Originally developed as an animal-friendly homage to the Super Bowl in 2005, the Puppy Bowl has since become a cultural phenomenon in its own right, with dedicated viewers tuning in each year to watch adorable puppies (and kittens during the halftime show) romp and play together.


A variety of animal shelters and rescue organizations provide the pups for the event.

© Libby Torres/Insider

This year, Animal Planet partnered with 61 animal shelters and rescue organizations from over 25 states to find their players for the Puppy Bowl. Some of the pups even hail from outside the US, arriving from places like Colombia, Canada, and the Virgin Islands.


Some special needs puppies were featured this year, including one with a cleft palate.

© Libby Torres/Insider

It goes without saying that pups of all shapes and sizes are welcome to participate in the Puppy Bowl - and this year, five special needs players were also featured in the festivities. They included a three-legged Labrador mix named Ferris; two hearing-impaired pups; a blind and hearing-impaired Shetland sheepdog mix named Filbert; and Rooster, an adorable bulldog mix who has a cleft palate.

A variety of breeds - including dachshunds, Goldendoodles, Great Danes, English bulldogs, corgis, beagles, and more - were also represented at the 2020 Puppy Bowl.


The animals were held backstage in various pens and crates before entering the set.

© Libby Torres/Insider

Food and litter boxes - as well as pee pads - were widely available backstage, and toys and treats kept restless animals engaged until it was their time to go on.


Some kittens were eager to jump out of their pens while in the holding room.

© Olivia Singh/Insider

Even though the pens were a few feet high, some determined kittens clawed their way to the top. Thankfully, there were always humans on hand to prevent the felines from escaping.


Other kittens were more content playing with each other in the pens.

© Olivia Singh/Insider

Some felines had lots of energy and chased each other, while others were shyer and stayed curled up in a corner of the pen.


Volunteers crouched on the floor by the stage to prevent the puppies and kittens from falling over or wandering off.

© Libby Torres/Insider

Since the stage was raised several feet above the ground, it was important to have groups of volunteers standing by the edge making sure no pups or kittens tumbled to the ground.

Some even had "shields," for lack of a better term, to keep the animals on stage and away from the edge. Luckily, most of the volunteers seemed excited about their jobs, and no animals fell off the stage while we were there.


A representative from the American Humane Association was always on set during play.

© Libby Torres/Insider

The puppies' safety was the primary concern of Puppy Bowl organizers, and they always deferred to the Human Association representative during filming.

While she was mostly just there to keep an eye on things - and make sure the puppies didn't play too rough with each other - the representative was quick to pull puppies who seemed tired or sick, in one case removing a little player after he threw up on the field.


This year's game featured Team "Ruff" and Team "Tuff."

© Animal Planet

Most of the pups weren't too worried about which team they were on, but their bandanas made it easy to tell them apart: Team "Ruff" had orange bandanas and Team "Fluff" had blue ones.

This year's Puppy Bowl is hosted by Dan Schachner, who returns for his ninth year as the pups' "ruff-eree."


Kitten "halftime" performers included JenniPurr Lopez and Cat-Ira.

© Olivia Singh/Insider

The names of the kittens were inspired by this year's Super Bowl halftime show performers, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.


The American Humane Association representative made sure the wigs weren't too heavy or cumbersome for the cats, who wore them to get into their pop personas.

© Olivia Singh/Insider

Filming paused at one point as the representative took time to adjust one of the wigs and swap it out for one with fewer strands.


Players were swapped out to avoid getting tired or bored.

© Animal Planet

In total, the rosters for Team Ruff and Team Fluff included over 96 adorable puppies, who were routinely swapped out of the game and returned to their holding areas to relax.


There were several crew members on hand to clean up any accidents that happened on set.

© Libby Torres/Insider

Along with the camera operators, photographers, assistants, and volunteers, there were also several crew members tasked with cleaning up after any pups who couldn't make it to a pee pad.

While it might sound like an unpleasant job, most of the puppies were usually excited to see the person cleaning up after them, and gave them lots of cuddles and kisses.


There was also a vet available backstage at all times to make sure all the puppies and kittens are healthy.

© Animal Planet

Luckily, we didn't see any injuries during the game, but in the event that a pup got injured or sick, Animal Planet had a vet available backstage. The puppies were also screened at the vet before they started the game.


All of the puppies that participated in the game are available for adoption.

© Libby Torres/Insider

One of the Puppy Bowl's most unique features is that all of the pups who participate are available for adoption. Dog lovers can visit Animal Planet's website to check on the status of their favorites and find more information about adopting a dog.

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