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The Mysterious History of the White House Cats: From Lincoln to Today!

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fluffy cats sitting on USA flags

If politics doesn’t stir your sauce, that may change after learning about the mysterious history of the White House cats. The Bidens have introduced a new feline friend to the White House, and everyone wants to know more about how catty politics really are.

I always assumed that Presidents didn’t have time for pets. But apparently, the White House is full of cat lovers.


The Country’s First Political Cats

Cats have roamed the Presidential grounds since our country’s beginning. But how many of these cats were deemed as pets? No one can say for sure.

Likely the first White House kitties were nameless. Their primary role was to keep rodents out of the food supply instead of parading around as pets. Some were probably kept as pets, but documentation is scarce. That is until Lincoln came along.

Abraham Lincoln adored cats. So much so, that Mary Lincoln noted he could interact with a cat for at least an hour non-stop. We feline lovers can all relate to that, can’t we?

Lincoln owned two pet cats named Dixie and Tabby. Secretary of State William Seward gifted him the two kitties, and I can only imagine Lincoln’s delight.

siamese cat lying by the window
Image Credit: Lucie K, Shutterstock

So Many Siamese Cats in the White House!

The White House has continued to house frisky felines as pets, even if they’ve retired as rodent control. Teddy Roosevelt’s cat Slippers paraded around the kitchen. Herbert Hoover had a cat named Kitty (how original) that socialized in the corridors. Even Calvin Coolidge and JFK enjoyed cats.

But not all cats were as social as these kitties. Many stayed on the second and third floors, where the Presidential families live. A few kitties have made quite an impression in our country’s history, though.

Siam

In 1878, a Bangkok diplomat gifted Rutherford B. Hayes’s wife Lucy a beautiful Siamese cat. Lucy named the cat Siam, and he lived in the White House for about a year until he fell sick and died. He was the first Siamese to enter the US.

Siam enjoyed making dramatic entrances when the first lady entertained guests. Apparently, he enjoyed making dramatic exits, too. His body was supposed to be preserved, but the Department of Agriculture lost his remains, despite searching everywhere.

Now, the Hayes Presidential Library sells plush stuffed gets. Siam would be okay with this.

Shan

Next came Shan the cat, the White House’s next Siamese sensation almost an entire century after Siam. Shan belonged to Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford. He enjoyed hiding under furniture in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Shan was also sassy. In 1974, Shan was supposed to appear in First Lady Betty Ford’s portrait, but he didn’t want to socialize that day. One of the assistants tried retrieving Shan, but he bit the assistant’s finger.

The assistant needed surgery for the bite, and Shan suffered lousy publicity. Which do you think was worse?

siamese cat sitting on the floor
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

Misty Malarky Ying Yang

After Shan, the next cat was another Siamese named Misty Malarky Ying Yang. I feel sorry for the veterinarian who had to write her medical records.

Misty Malarky Ying Yang was Amy Carter’s cat, the daughter of President Jimmy Carter. Misty Malarky Ying Yang was also well-known for her dramatic entrances.

During the Carter Presidency, a state dinner was held to honor the Mexican President. The two Presidents were to meet at the top of the Grand Staircase, absorbing the spotlight and press.

However, Misty Malarky Ying Yang decided that the party was for her. Instead of the President’s receiving the attention, Misty Malarky descended the stairs while the military band played, and remained in the spotlight the whole way down.

Socks the Cat

President Bill Clinton’s cat, Socks, was probably the most famous in the White House. Everyone loved Socks. He was frequently seen outside on his leash, stealing photos and catnip from the press.

Socks enjoyed perching on President Clinton’s shoulders, the briefing podium, and behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. He even had a role as Ambassador for the American Children, the first Presidential Cat to serve since retiring from the rodent control role.

Hilary Clinton noted how children flocked to Presidential Pets quickly. It was their first connection with the White House, and Socks made it easy to teach kids about government.

The Clintons eventually adopted a dog named Buddy. President Clinton tried to introduce the two pets in front of the White House, but it didn’t go too well, as you’ll see here.

India the Cat

India the cat took over Socks’ role when he retired from the White House and the Bush family moved in. India was a striking black beauty that chose to lay low. The paparazzi life wasn’t for her.

Instead, the fame transferred to the Presidential dogs named Barney and Miss Beazly.

Willow the Cat: The Current First Feline

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have introduced the country to their new cat, Willow.

Willow is living the true American Dream. She was initially a barn cat in Pennsylvania. Now, she enjoys luxury unlike any other. According to the Bidens, Willow is keeping a close eye on the local birds and keeping everyone in line at the White House.


Conclusion

Now you know just how catty the White House can be. I have no doubt Willow will take the role of Pet Ambassador very seriously. Hopefully, Willow will carry the torch for other cats by encouraging fellow Americans to adopt feline friends.


Featured Image Credit: Reba Spike, Unsplash

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