cats in the white house
President Lincoln might be the first President with cats in the White House with as family pets. Lincoln was given an unexpected gift of two kittens from William Seward, then Secretary of State. The President pampered his cats, Tabby and Dixie. It is told that he once fed Tabby from the table during a formal dinner at the White House.
Prior to Lincoln’s presidency cats in the White House were most likely on rodent patrol prior to but not kept as family pets.
Additional United States Presidents, along with President Lincoln, have had cats as family pets during their time in the White House.
white House cats Throughout History
President Rutherford B. Hays Cats Siam and Miss Pussy
President Rutherford B. Hayes had two cats, named Siam and Miss Pussy. Rutherford Hayes 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.
President Theodore Roosevelt cats tom quartz and slippers
President Theodore Roosevelt had a cat named Tom Quartz known for his hunting skills. Roosevelt once wrote that Tom Quartz “delights in catching squirrels and rabbits, and brings them in with great exultation.” White House Cat Slippers often fell asleep in hallways. At one state banquet, guests had to walk around her as they made their way to the dining room.
President Calvin Coolidge Cats tiger, blackie, smokey, and timmy
President Calvin Coolidge had several cats, including Tiger, Blackie, Smokey, and Timmy. President Coolidge was known for his love of cats, and his pets were often photographed with him. Coolidge’s cat Tiger was particularly famous; he was even featured in a cartoon in The New Yorker.
President John F. Kennedy’s white house Cat Tom Kitten
President John F. Kennedy had a cat named Tom Kitten .John F. Kennedy’s feline family member actually belonged to his daughter, Caroline. Tom Kitten, sometimes called “Tom Terrific” was the first Kennedy pet to arrive at the White House, in January 1961. President Kennedy was allergic to cats (and dogs) and had to keep his distance from the friendly little tabby. When he died, Tom Kitten merited his own obituary in a Washington newspaper.
President Gerald Ford’s cat named Shan.
Gerald Ford’s cat Shan was a Siamese cat that belonged to the Ford family during their time in the White House. President Ford and his family acquired Shan in 1970 while he was serving as a member of Congress.
Shan quickly became a beloved pet of the Ford family and was often seen around the White House during Ford’s presidency. He was known for his friendly and outgoing personality and was a favorite of both the First Family and the White House staff.
Shan even played a role in an incident that occurred during Ford’s presidency. In 1975, a woman named Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme attempted to assassinate President Ford while he was walking to his limousine. Shan was with the family at the time and reportedly began meowing loudly, alerting the Secret Service agents to the presence of the assailant.
After the Ford family left the White House in 1977, Shan went to live with the president’s personal secretary, Susan Mary Alsop. Shan lived to be nearly 20 years old before passing away in 1986. He remains a beloved part of White House history and is remembered fondly by those who knew him.
President Carter’s Cat Misty Malarky Ying Yang
President Jimmy Carter’s cat Misty Malarky Ying Yang was named by his daughter, Amy. The cat was reportedly a gift from Carter’s press secretary, Jody Powell. The Carter family’s cat, a seal point Siamese cat, name was so unique it was even featured in a song! Gabor Szabo featured an original instrumental composition called “Misty Malarkey Ying-Yang” on his album Faces. While stalking the White House halls, Misty could often be found curled up in her favorite spot — Amy’s indoor doll house.
President Bill Clinton and white house cat Socks
President Bill Clinton had a cat named Socks, a domestic shorthair tuxedo cat with stockings on his paws who was adopted in 1991. The cat was often referred to as “Chief Executive Cat”.
Socks became famous for his appearances in White House events and even a video game. He appeared in Muppet form on Larry King Live for an interview with Kermit the Frog, who was guest hosting. He was the subject of a cartoon book and a song; he was a character in a cartoon strip; and he even appeared with President Clinton in a series of stamps in the Central African Republic.
President George W. Bush’s cats India and Willie
George W. Bush had two cats, India and Willie.George W. Bush’s cat India was named after a character in a book he had read, while Willie was named after a cousin of his wife, Laura Bush.
President Biden and White House Cat Willow
Willow first met First Lady Jill Biden after wandering into a campaign rally in 2020. At the time, Willow was a barn cat. But soon she the Bidens adopted her and Willow is now ‘First Cat’.
When President Biden was hosting an event at the White House commemorating the Chinese Lunar New Year the subject of cats came up. As an unscripted aside, Biden revealed a very relatable fact about Willow:
“She has no limits. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Especially in the middle of the night, when she climbs up and lays on top of my head.”
I think we can all relate to this.