VANCOUVER – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife have a feline fixation, including a “cat room” in their Sussex Drive home that has served as a temporary abode to more than 200 cats.

Laureen Harper broached the issue at the Vancouver SPCA Friday while promoting cat adoption and observing a cat-welfare program launched last year that will be soon rolled out province wide.

Craig Daniell, the chief executive officer of the BC SPCA, said there’s a cat overpopulation crisis in the province, and the agency takes in about 6,000 stray adult cats and about 5,000 stray kittens annually.

Among improvements Harper observed at the SPCA shelter were plastic cat portals that have been installed between cages, giving the animals extra space to roam.

Harper called the portals “amazing, inexpensive ways” to reduce the stress cats feel.

She visited several felines at the shelter, cooing, “who needs four legs, anyways?” to a three-legged cat named Gramps.

She also held a type of rodent called a degu and pet a pregnant rat, joking, “obviously you’re a little girl, aren’t you? You’ve been having some parties?”

Harper said her husband would likely smile and shrug “another one,” if she brought home a rodent.

Harper adopted a rescue chinchilla last fall, and the couple has two cats, Stanley and Gypsy. They foster numerous felines in their cat room at any given time.

“We have a lot of fun with them,” she said, adding she had a farm upbringing and was constantly surrounded by animals.

“(Stephen) loves animals too. He didn’t grow up on a farm, so he wasn’t exposed but he loves our cats.”

She said her husband doesn’t love cats as much as her, but he is part of the fostering process and he regularly handles and brushes the animals.

“I love all animals,” she said. “There’s nothing sadder than an animal that’s been thrown away like a piece of garbage.”

In January, the Harpers’ cat Stanley became a national celebrity when the prime minister tweeted a photo of himself having breakfast with the animal.

In March, Stanley was in the spotlight again when the prime minister apparently sent a glossy photo of the feline along with a signed letter about his cats in response to an inquiry about his pets.

“Gypsy is the wise old cat of the house and loves to play,” the letter said. “I have taken the liberty of enclosing a photo of Stanley for you.

He likes the camera. Gypsy, on the other hand, has no patience for it.”

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