07/06/2011 05:36 EDT | Updated 09/05/2011 05:12 EDT

Stephen Harper Open New Ottawa Humane Society Shelter

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a back seat to his wife Laureen on Wednesday as the two helped inaugurate one of her pet projects.

The Harpers cuddled kittens after cutting a ribbon to officially open Ottawa's new Humane Society building.

The federal government contributed $3.5 million toward the shelter, which cost nearly $12 million to build.

The prime minister remained virtually silent as he stroked a black cat while Mrs. Harper spoke at length about the cats she has adopted.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, also a cat lover, fumbled and fondled as he held an orange cat he decided should be named Lloyd.

Humane Society officials announced at the opening of the 3,700-square-metre shelter to which an anonymous donor gave $1.5 million, marking the completion of a fundraising drive to pay for the facility.

Laureen Harper is chair of the society's annual fundraising ball.