Cats of the White House
More often than not, dogs are notably visible as White House Pets. Cats, on the other hand, remain rather low-keyed. Yet, there have been numerous feline residents over the years who proudly shed their fur on presidential trousers! Of the assorted presidential pets there have been thirty-three dogs in the white house while only less than half that number have been cats.
The first cat entered the scene with the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.
President Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
Lincoln was quite the cat person, even rescuing three motherless kittens while visiting General Grant during the Civil War. He regularly played with kitties to relieve stress during his presidency. His cats Tabby and Dixie were gifts from Secretary of State William Seward.
Lincoln had a special affinity for stray cats and was known to bring them home on occasion
Mrs. Lincoln even referred to cats as her husband’s “hobby.”
President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
Rutherford Hayes, the 19th U.S. President, received the first Siamese cat in the U.S., named Siam. She was sent to Mrs. Hayes in 1878 as a gift from a U.S. diplomat, David Sickels, in Bangkok, Thailand. Siam was allowed to roam the White House and often made ‘grand entrances’ whenever the First Lady entertained guests. Much loved by everyone, Siam became ill after only nine months, and despite the best veterinary attention, she could not be saved.
President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
Teddy Roosevelt had an impressive collection of White House pets, including a six-toed cat named Slippers, and Tom Quartz, named for a fictional feline in Mark Twain’s ’Roughing It’.
Apparently, non-perturbed Slippers could be found all over the White House, and would snooze in the hallway outside the banquet hall, where visiting dignitaries had to step around her to enter.
Woodrow Wilson had two cats, Mittens and Puffins. They both liked jumping on to the dining room table while the family was eating. They were taught proper manners by being squirted with water when they attempted to do so and eventually learned it was more rewarding to stay under the table and beg.
President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
The Coolidges owned a menagerie of pets, complete with a few felines. Coolidge was an avid cat lover who purportedly saved a litter of kittens from being drowned as a young boy.
The 30th president′s cats included Tiger, Blacky, Bounder, Timmie, Mud and even a bobcat named Smoky.
Coolidge originally brought Tiger (or “Tige” as he was nicknamed) to Washington from his farm in Vermont, and he frequently walked around the White House with Tige draped around his neck. One day, Tige became lost outdoors, and a radio announcement—a new technology at the time—helped to locate him.
Blacky regularly enjoyed cream in a saucer and liked to hang out on the seat in the White House elevator.
Timmie was fond of strutting around the White House with the family canary, ‘Caruso’ perched between his shoulders when they weren’t napping with each other.
The President used Bounder to tease the First Lady. He would hide the cat who would proceed to yowl until Mrs. Coolidge found and rescued him.
Climber (Mud) was a Maltese Angora Cat. Coolidge did not like cats of fancy breeding and showed this by giving the beautiful feline that name. Mud was Bounder’s cousin, both from Vermont.
John F. Kennedy (January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963)
Jacqueline Kennedy’s mother gave the president’s young daughter, Caroline, a gray kitten with yellow eyes. He was named Tom Kitten and sometimes called “Tom Terrific”.
Due to the president’s allergies to it, the cat spent most of its time living with White House staffer Mary Gallagher, however, Caroline was able to visit and play with her furry friend whenever she pleased.
President Gerald Ford (1974-1977)
Gerald Ford’s teenage daughter Susan brought along Shan Shein, a lovely Seal Point Siamese cat, to the White House.
President and Mrs. Ford gave Shan to Susan in 1973 as an Easter present. He was named after a city they had visited in China. Shan, a miniature seal point Siamese, slept in Susan’s bed at night and spent her days trying to avoid Liberty, the Ford’s gregarious Golden Retriever.
President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy also brought a sweet Siamese cat into the White House.
The feline’s full name was Misty Malarky Ying Yang—a mouthful that even inspired a song by Gabor Szabo.
Misty liked to hang out in Amy’s dollhouse and he frequently meowed along with the first daughter’s violin practice sessions.
President Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
Bill Clinton came to the White House with Socks, one of the most well-known and beloved First Kitties. He was so famous that he had a book and song written about him. Later, he even had a website.
As an adopted stray cat, he was the only pet of the Clintons during the early years of the administration, and his likeness hosted the children’s version of the White House website.
President George W. Bush (2001-2009)
George W. Bush brought his lovely family cat India “Willie” to the White House. This ebony beauty liked to spend her days in the presidential library and, like Socks, had her own website.
George and Laura Bush adopted India in late 1991 when their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were 9 years old. At the time, Bush owned the Texas Ranger baseball team, and daughter Barbara named the ink-black cat after a star player, Rubén Sierra, who had the nickname “El Indio”.
The somewhat reclusive cat moved with the family to the White House from the Texas Governor’s Mansion in 2001. India remained with George and Laura Bush once their daughters left for college.
India died at the White House on January 4, 2009, at the age of 18 after having lived as a member of the Bush family for nearly two decades.
President Joe Biden (2021-Present)
Once a farm cat in Western Pennsylvania, Willow quickly rose to fame when she was adopted by President Joe Biden and the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.
Willow first met Dr. Biden after hopping onto the stage in front of her in the middle of a campaign speech, and word has it their bond was immediate. In 2022 the gorgeous, green-eyed gray tabby was adopted at age two and named after Dr. Biden′s hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
This has been an interesting piece to put together. Much of it was like a treasure hunt, especially in finding the pictures of these special felines and their stories. There are so many pictures of the presidential dogs, yet it took hours of research to find single buried pictures of some of the cats. All in all it was rewarding to give these felines their rightful place in history! ~ Marilu Shellie