Steve Weatherford sports soft spot for felines

On the field, New York Giants’ punter Steve Weatherford is known for his deep punts and coffin corners.

Off the field, he is perhaps best known for his role in the fitness community.

But recently in Manhattan, he showed he also has a soft spot for the felines. Weatherford, partnering with cat food company Friskies, served as the featured guest for the launch of its newest partially edible cat toy, Pull ’n Play.

The goal of the outdoor event on cobblestoned Gansevoort Plaza was not only to promote the toy, but to match shelter cats with prospective owners through a morning and afternoon of meeting and interacting in the “Friskies Playhouse,” a converted truck with glass windows and play areas. A mobile adoption center from Animal Care & Control of New York City with a dozen shelter cats was on site for potential pet parents.

Wearing sunglasses, a backward hat and a feline-inspired version of his game jersey, Weatherford took photos with fans, greeted prospective kitty companions and spent time trying out Friskies’ new toy with celebrity cat Waffles, the day’s other high-profile guest.

“I’ve always been a pet owner myself, both cats and dogs,” says Weatherford, who plans on bringing another cat to his soon-to-be-built San Diego home. “I wanted to get involved. To help these cats who need a home … it’s a great feeling.”

Weatherford says the Pull ’n Play event was the first cat adoption he has been part of, though he has previously raised money and awareness for area pet shelters. He says he hopes eventually to bring some of his Giants’ teammates onboard for future events.

“Once the season starts we’re awfully busy and don’t get to enjoy time with the family as much,” says Weatherford, who has four children.

Friskies says it will donate 2,500 Pull ’n Play string pouches and 5,000 packages of Party Mix to shelters if the hashtag #MostPlayfulCat was shared 2,500 times.

Justin Finlinson — the brand manager for Nestlé Purina North America, which owns Friskies — says the Pull ’n Play product uses edible strings in the body of a wobbly cat toy to keep cats and kittens both entertained and sustained.

“Cats love to play with strings so we decided to make a toy with a string treat in it as well,” Finlinson says. “The event is the same thing. We’re bringing prospective cat owners in and hopefully sparking a bond between them and the cats.”

Weatherford, a Super Bowl champion and the Giants’ punter since 2011, was in an accident in early June after his car skidded off a highway in New Jersey, but was relatively uninjured. He showed no ill effects during his morning on Gansevoort Plaza and says he was looking forward to training camp, which started at the end of July. The Giants finished 6-10 last year.

“I was a little bruised up, cut up and mentally shaken up,” he says. “But I’m doing 100 percent now.”

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