LOS ANGELES – The fur really could fly on TV's latest reality entry: It stars cats. Ten felines, picked from animal shelters nationwide, will live in a New York house to vie — a la "Big Brother" or "Survivor" — for a grand prize, in this instance an executive-level job with Meow Mix cat food.
"This thing is very tongue-in-cheek," Ira Cohen, the company's director of advertising and marketing, said Thursday.
The project will be shown in three-minute segments in the 9 p.m. EDT hour Friday on the Animal Planet channel for 10 consecutive weeks, starting June 16. It had yet to be decided if the segments from the Webcam-equipped "Meow Mix House" on Madison Avenue will air at the same time each night.
The spots, which Cohen said he preferred to call "a program within a program" rather than commercials, are intended as an eye-catching marketing tool for Meow Mix. But they're also aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of pet adoptions, Cohen said.
June represents a key adoption period for kittens born in the spring. There also is an ongoing need for homes for older cats, he said.
The Meow Mix House cats, from shelters or rescue groups such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York, Touched by an Animal in Chicago and Kitten Rescue in Los Angeles, will themselves be gaining new homes.
As the cats are put through their weekly paces in contests including best purr and top post-climber, a panel of judges will decide who stays and who goes. When a cat is voted out, it will move to a permanent home and get a year's supply of Meow Mix as a consolation prize.
Two winners will be chosen, one by judges and one by viewers in online voting, Cohen said. The judges' choice will get a new family and the title of Meow Mix's "feline vice president of research and development," the company said.
Another corporate position, as yet unspecified, will go to the cat voted most popular.
In voiceovers accompanying the kitty action, the cats will be given personalities as crafted by advertising copywriters. Some may be shy, but the Los Angeles and New York cats could turn out to be real glamour pusses, Cohen said.
The Animal Planet channel is operated by Discovery Communications Inc., which is owned by Discovery Holding Co., Cox Communications Inc., Advance/Newhouse Communications Inc. and Discovery founder John Hendricks.