Where the New First Cat Fits in the History of Presidential Pets

Breaking in information that mews: The Biden household introduced Friday that they’ve a brand new pet cat.

Hailing from a Pennsylvania farm, the tabby charmed First Girl Jill Biden by leaping onto a stage whereas she was giving a speech on the 2020 presidential election marketing campaign path. The Bidens have named her Willow, after Jill Biden’s hometown.

Willow would be the first cat within the White Home in additional than a decade, since India the black cat’s tenure throughout the George W. Bush years, however shall be a part of an extended custom. Abraham Lincoln is taken into account to be the primary President to have cats as household pets within the White Home. Within the fashionable period, the Fords and Carters had cats too. The Clintons’ cat Socks was a rescue, having come from Chelsea’s piano trainer, who discovered two stray kittens beneath her residence.
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(In 1998, the Related Press captured footage of a tense encounter between Socks and the Clintons’ Labrador Buddy, throughout a time of heightened political polarization and tradition wars. Press secretary Mike McCurry joked that Center East particular envoy Dennis Ross may have to be known as in to maintain the peace.)

And we might by no means know precisely what number of cats have lived on White Home grounds, as traditionally cats have served as working animals used for rodent management, factors out historian Katherine C. Grier, creator of Pets in America: A Historical past.

White House Pets Celebrate Halloween
Shealah Craighead/The White Home—Getty PhotographsGeorge W. Bush’s cat India tolerating Halloween festivities alongside the Bush household’s canines Miss Beazley and Barney on the South Garden of the White Home on Oct. 31, 2007.

However cats are simply the tip of the iceberg.

Throughout President Taft’s administration, cows named Paulie Wayne and Mooly Wooly offered milk and cream for the White Home kitchen. And Teddy Roosevelt’s White Home was virtually a zoo, the place first cats Tom Quartz and Slippers lived alongside a one-legged rooster, a lizard named Invoice, a small bear named Jonathan Edwards, and 5 guinea pigs with names like Father O’Grady and Combating Bob Evans. The Bidens’ rehoming of Main the German Shepherd in December—after a couple of biting incidents—echoed the exile of Teddy Roosevelt’s Boston bull terrier Pete, who repeatedly bit and ripped staffers’ and guests’ pants, together with these of the French Ambassador.

Learn extra: The First Canine of the White Home

Presidential pets will help Individuals relate to presidents and are “a technique to see them as somebody nearer to you,” says Andrew Hager, who writes for the Presidential Pet Museum web site (began by Claire McLean, who educated Reagan’s canine Fortunate) and is writing a e-book on presidential canines.

Time will inform how a lot affect the Bidens’ cat can have. Warren G. Harding’s canine Laddie Boy, by some measures the primary superstar presidential pet, attended cupboard conferences and was hounded by newspaper reporters who usually coated his whereabouts. Throughout World Warfare II, Franklin Roosevelt’s canine Fala was the face of a PSA encouraging Individuals to donate their canine toys to scrap-rubber collections. Fala obtained letters, too—sufficient to fill 5 doc packing containers.

However simply as presidents are usually the goal of partisan assaults, so too are presidential pets. Responding to Republican claims that Roosevelt left Fala behind on a 1944 journey to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands after which spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer {dollars} to return him to the White Home, FDR denied the rumors forcefully in a speech: “Fala resents this. When he discovered that the Republican fiction writers had concocted a narrative that I had left him behind on an Aleutian Island and had despatched a destroyer again to search out him—at a value to the taxpayer of two or three or twenty million {dollars}—his Scottish soul was livid!” Some consultants credit score the speech with serving to FDR win a fourth time period.

Biden family’s new pet cat Willow is seen at the White House in Washington
Erin Scott—The White Home/REUTERSWillow, U.S. President Joe Biden and first woman Jill Biden’s new pet cat, is seen in a White Home handout photograph as she appears out a window of the White Home in the direction of the Truman Balcony, the South Garden and the Washington Monument on Jan. 27, 2022.

And, within the grand custom of Presidents promising to characterize all Individuals no matter celebration, many have reached out to cat individuals and canine individuals alike by having cats and canines collectively as pets within the White Home—for higher or worse. Now, with Willow in proximity to probably the most highly effective man within the nation, she might assist cat individuals on either side of the aisle, even only for a second, to transcend paw-tisan politics.


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