Joe Lhota tried to wiggle out of the cat lover's doghouse.
"I am not the anti-kitten candidate," Lhota declared Sunday during a TV debate, seeking to shed a tabloid-fueled reputation as a heartless kitty killer. "I never said I wanted to kill a cat!"
Lhota, the Republican mayoral contender, was clarifying remarks that he disagreed with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's decision last month to shut down service on a stretch of the B and Q lines in Brooklyn to rescue two stray kittens.
"I have pets. I love pets. I grew up with cats," he said.
The former MTA chief insisted the cats likely would have survived without the shutdown.
"We have thousands of cats -- literally, thousands of cats -- that are in the subway system every single day, day and night, scurrying across the tracks and they don't get killed."