Presidents Day is this month and I thought I’d look into White House cats. Did some of our presidents have pet cats? I wonder if they use cats for pest control around the White House. That question I didn’t resolve. But I was surprised to learn how many of our presidents had cats and how many of them lived like kings or queens in the White House over the years.
The first reported cat-loving president was Abraham Lincoln. Not only did he bring Tabby (a brown tabby) with him to the White House to become the first first-cat, Lincoln was an early advocate for the humane treatment of cats.
All together, there are reported to be 21 first cats. And few of them had any breeding behind them. William McKinley had two Angora kittens, named Valoriano Weyler and Enrique DeLome. The only other first-cats I located that might fit into a breed category were Rutherford Hayes’s Siam—supposedly the first Siamese cat to enter the United States (in 1878); Gerald Ford’s Siamese, Shan; and Jimmy Carter’s Misty Malarkey Ying Yang, also a Siamese cat.
There were a few black cats in the White House, including Calvin Coolidge’s Blackie and George W. Bush’s India
Other first-cats include a couple of tabbies, at least one tuxedo cat (Bill Clinton’s Socks) and the Reagans’ two torties who actually lived the presidential term out at the ranch.
With a few exceptions, names for the first-cats were ordinary—Puffin, Blackie, Ernie, Buddy, Tiger, Smokey, Cleo, Slippers, Timmy, Miss Pussy. But then these were ordinary cats who happened to live in a larger home than most.
I don’t think our cats would like the lifestyle of a first-cat, although, I’ve had some fairly aristocratic cats over the years—cats who always seemed to be posing and preening. I can imagine them being served freshly cooked chicken livers in crystal goblets, sleeping on cashmere pillows, and being taken to the veterinarian by limo.
Who do you suppose cleans the litter boxes for the first-cat and picks up the occasional fur ball the cat might hurl just before a dignitary enters the Oval Office? And the cat hair! Is there someone assigned to the task of using a lint roller on the back of the first-lady’s skirt before the media arrives and making sure the dignitary’s chair is not covered in cat hair? I suppose there’s someone in charge of picking up the cat’s toys before a visiting queen trips on a plastic ball and scouring the grand Persian rugs for any sign of mouse or bird remains, lest the queen is queasy.
Oh yes, there’s the lovely, romantic aspect of a cat gracing the White House, but a cat is a cat is a cat and we all know what comes along with loving one.