Today is Presidents Day, a United States holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February to remember all presidents, but most might associate with Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Both Presidents were born in February, Washington on the 22nd and Lincoln on the 12th.
While we pay tribute to all Presidents, one former leader stands out not only for his Presidency, but for his love of all animals, perhaps first and foremost, his cats. In fact, when asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln, she replied “cats.”
President Lincoln and His Cats
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. Later when the president’s wife Mary expressed her concern and embarrassment to her husband about feeding Tabby from the table in front of their guests, it is told the president stated, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.”
Caleb Carman, Lincoln’s friend, told how the president would talk to his cats for half an hour at a time. During his term, Lincoln remarked, “Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet! And furthermore she doesn’t talk back!”
Lincoln Loved All Cats
Lincoln’s love for cats was not limited to Tabby and Dixie. He was known to bring home stray cats from time to time. It is reported that Lincoln was distracted by the sound of crying kittens at the Ulysses S. Grant headquarters in Virginia during the siege of Petersburg in March of 1864. Admiral David Porter wrote he was touched by the sight of the president “tenderly caressing three stray kittens. It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”
Porter remembered Lincoln petting the cats and quietly telling them, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand this terrible strife that is going on.”
Before he left the officers’ tent, the president addressed a colonel and said, ” I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.”
President Lincoln Showed Compassion for All Animals
President Lincoln issues a proclamation on October 3, 1863 stating the last Thursday of November should be known “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” When a turkey was sent to the White House for Thanksgiving dinner that same year, Lincoln’s son Tad befriended the turkey and named the bird Tom. Tad begged his father not to allow Tom be become their dinner. The President took time out from a cabinet meeting to issue “an order of reprieve” saving Tome the turkey’s life.
The Lincolns had a mixed breed floppy-eared dog with a yellow coat they named Fido. The fireworks and cannons announcing Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential election victory terrified Fido. They worried the long train ride to Washington, D.C with all the loud noise might be too much for their beloved dog. Two neighborhood boys promised to take good care of Fido. Lincoln made them promise to let his dog inside the house whenever he scratched at the front door, never to scold Fido for having muddy paws and to feed the dog if he came to the dinner table. The Lincolns aslo gave the neighbors their sofa so Fido would feel at home.
Tad and Willie Lincoln would hitch Nanny and Nanko, the White House goats, to carts or kitchen chairs and have the goats pull them through the White House. Being goats, they liked to chew things. Nanny reportedly was in trouble for chewing up the flowers at the Old Soldier’s Home and Nanko for chewing the bulbs planted by White House Gardener, John Watt.
President Lincoln name his horse Old Bob. The rider-less horse with a pair of boots turned backward in the stirrups during Lincoln’s funeral procession, was Old Bob.
Lincoln quotes about cats, Dogs and animal Rights
Thinking about President Lincoln today, I found this old image I must have made from a President’s Day in the past. I always liked visiting the Lincoln Memorial and that was before I knew about the president’s love of all animals. Now, I have grown even fonder of the man and the Memorial.
I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it. – Abraham Lincoln
I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being. – Abraham Lincoln
Jessica Miller says
I always liked Lincoln but I never knew about his cats! Thank you so much for sharing this story. I love that he judged others by how they treated animals.
Sherri H says
He was a man ahead of his time!
I knew he was an animal lover and cats in particular but hadnt heard the story of the stray cats. In every portrayal of him compassion shows.
Roxanne Coryell says
I’ve always loved and respected President Lincoln, and even more so now 🙂
I already knew that Lincoln loved cats, but it is ALWAYS nice to re-read about it!! ???
Lee in Phoenix says
Although I had previously heard that Lincoln loved cats, it was nice to hear the examples you put in this article. I liked the picture, too.
Abraham Lincoln, cat rescuer. In my library’s collection of 100 photos of Lincoln I had hoped at least one would have a cat in it since he was such a famous cat lover.
Irish Cornaire says
He should shown that compassion as well towards the American Indians but he did not,instead he had them slaughtered!
Indeed, our greatest President and a great, great human being.
Austrian Native says
Any man who loves cats is a very special creature indeed. It reveals his inner kindness and patience. A man who is loved by cats is indeed lucky.
I also have even more respect for him! Thanks for sharing this info, Joanne. I write this as Emma is taking a nap …. on me! Kind of hard to type, but she’s so happy — and so warm. -sh
I never knew he liked cats or had any. Sounds like a great man.
President Lincoln was ahead of his time.
I have a new respect for this great President.