A list of cats in the White House you probably never knew about
Dogs are well known in the White House, but did you know there were plenty of cat lovers who lead the United States?
Abe Lincoln: 16th President (1861-1865)
The first White House cat, Tabby, belonged to Abraham Lincoln. Tabby not only lived in the White House, he reportedly participated in White House dinners where he was fed with a gold fork! Lincoln was a devoted cat lover. On one occasion, upon finding three half-frozen kittens in a shed, he tucked them into his jacket and took them home. He then lovingly cared for them until they were adopted by friends.
When asked if her husband had any hobbies, Mary Todd Lincoln was reported to have offered the following one-word reply: “Cats.”
Lincoln was a well known cat lover, and apparently, he remarked that another cat of his, Dixie, "is smarter than my whole cabinet."
Rutherford B Hayes: 19th President (1877-1881)
Siam was the first Siamese cat to reach the United States, and she was a gift from the American Consul in Bangkok. After joining the family, she was permitted to roam the White House, where she loved to stage “grand entrances” when guests were being entertained.
Hayes also had a cat named Piccolomini and another Siamese named Miss Pussy.
Theodore Roosevelt: 26th President (1901-1909)
Theodore Roosevelt, had two cats, a polydactyl named Slippers, and a cat named Tom Quartz. Slippers often fell asleep sprawled out in hallways. At one state banquet, guests were compelled to step around the snoozing feline as they entered the dining room.
Calvin Coolidge: 29th President (1923-1929)
President Calvin Coolidge was particularly fond of cats. As a young boy, he rescued a litter of kittens from being drowned, and he owned several cats during his stint in the White House (Smokey, Blackie, Timmy and Tiger).
Timmy allowed Coolidge's canary to sleep between his paws. Tiger, a gray-striped stray, traveled around the White House around the President's neck. When Tiger went missing, Coolidge appealed to the people by calling for their help on a radio address. When one of the cats disappeared, Coolidge issued a desperate plea for his return via a radio address. Happily, the cat was found and returned.
Woodrow Wilson: 28th President (1913-1921)
Woodrow Wilson’s two cats, Mittens and Puffins, were known to try to leap onto the dining room table during meals, only to be squirted with water as a deterrent.
John F. Kennedy: 35th President (1961-1963)
Caroline Kennedy and John-John had Tom Kitten, who adored their father, JFK. Unfortunately, though, the President proved to have an allergy to cats, and so Tom had to be found another good home.
Nevertheless, when he died, the cat merited an obituary in one of the Washington-area newspapers. 'Unlike many humans in the same position', wrote the paper, 'he never wrote his memoirs of his days in the White House and never discussed them for quotation, though he was privy to many official secrets.
Gerald Ford: 38th President (1974-1977)
Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, owned Shan Shein, a sealpoint Siamese cat named after a city in China. Shan slept in Susan’s bed at night and spent her days with Mrs. Ford while Susan was at school.
Jimmy Carter: 39th President (1977-1981)
Daughter Amy Carter owned a Siamese cat with the intriguing name "Misty Malarky Ying Yang" who lived with her in the White House. While at the White House, Misty could often be found curled up in her favorite spot — Amy’s indoor doll house.
Bill Clinton: 42nd President (1993-2001)
Socks, a black-and-white or 'tuxedo' cat, joined the Clinton family when Bill was governor of Arkansas.
Apparently, Socks was rescued in Arkansas after Chelsea spotted him through a window during a piano lesson. Socks was a domestic shorthair ‘tuxedo’ cat with sock-like markings on his feet, and Clinton referred to him as “Chief Executive Cat.” Socks had well-publicized feuds with Buddy, the family’s Labrador retriever, whom he reportedly despised from the day he first met him.
Socks had plenty of favorite spots, including outside in the garden and the Visitors' Office in the East Wing, where high-backed chairs provided a good vantage point to view goings-on.
He had his own fan club page on the White House Web site and his own in-box for the fan mail he received, which was kept on Clinton’s secretary Betty Currie’s desk. Socks was a beloved public figure and was quite often taken round on visits to children, or senior citizens, in the local hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes.
Socks was also featured on a set of stamps issued by The Central African Republic and his image was also used in the White House to mark routes for visiting schoolchildren.
George W. Bush: 43rd President (2001-2009)
George W. Bush and his family owned India “Willie” Bush, a beautiful black cat named after baseball player Ruben “El Indio” Sierra of the Texas Rangers.
Willie was known to be very shy and reclusive but loved his presidential family.
They also had Ernie, a striped cat named after Ernest Hemingway, who became “too wild” to reside in the White House and was eventually sent to live with friends in another state.
A third cat, Cowboy, was said to be the president’s favorite, but he died of kidney disease shortly after Bush took office.
The 25th President (1897-1901) William McKinley and the 40th President (1981-1989) Ronald Reagan also owned cats, but they apparently did not move into the White House. Ronald Reagan owned Cleo and Sara, tortoiseshell strays, as well as several unnamed cats.
Although it's unknown if 13th President (1850-1853) Millard Fillmore had cats in the White House, he was a founding member and president of the Buffalo chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
God bless Ameowica!
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