MINNEAPOLIS -- Kittens took over Minneapolis City Hall for a "Kitty Hall" event Tuesday to find new homes for cats from the city's animal shelter, and raise awareness about the need for adoptions.
The concept, initiated in 2015 in Seattle, drew hundreds of cat fans who also had a chance to take part in a mock election for "Meow-or" and "Kitty Council" after seeing the feline "cat-idates" in person.
Mayor Betsy Hodges, who has two adopted cats at home, freely admitted it was one of her pet projects -- so to speak.
"A friend of mine suggested to me that we do a Kitty Hall, and my eyes got big as saucers and I said 'Yes!'" Mayor Hodges told KARE, while holding a gray kitten named "Flo."
Flo was among 22 cats adopted from the Minneapolis Animal Care and Control shelter during the three-hour event. Diana Armstrong, a city employee, said she didn't know much about Flo before deciding to adopt the kitten.
"I only know that she's adorable and the first time I picked her up she purred, so I think she likes me!" Armstrong remarked.
The event also featured a tent for kitty cuddling.
"We have little litters of kittens rotating in there about every 20 minutes so they don’t get over stimulated," said Dani Joerger, the volunteer coordinator for Minneapolis Animal Care and Control.
"Visitors get to go in there and there are toys, there’s treats, so they can interact with the kittens, spend some time with them whether they want to adopt or not."
Those who adopted pets paid a $75 fee that included spay or neuter, microchip and a pet license for city residents.
But not everyone appreciated the Mill City's fluffy feel-good feline fiesta.
Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake took to Twitter over the weekend -- tagging the Minnesota League of Cities -- to say, "@MinnesotaCities did you intend LGA to be used for Kitty Elections? Cities clearly have funds for non-essentials."
LGA stands for Local Government Aid, a program that sends part of the state's tax revenue back to cities to help with expenses and reduce the need to raise property taxes. Minneapolis received $77 million from the program this year, and is sharing part of it with the Parks Board.
The Local Government Aid program has been controversial because cities have grown to rely on those grants, but Republican lawmakers have criticized the state's largest cities for their spending priorities. GOP leaders have also questioned why property tax rates sometimes increase even when cities receive LGA payments.
Most of the people running the Kitty Hall event were volunteers, but Animal Care and Control staff estimated the cost at $1,500, including T-shirts for the staff and volunteers.
Mayor Hodges said she expected the City's cost would be recovered through the adoption fees. She pointed out that the City is already paying for the care of those kittens whether or not they're adopted.
"The idea is to promote cat adoption," Hodges said.
"And frankly, I think it’s a great use of our resources to make sure that these animals get homes and to make sure that people who want cats get them."