U.S. Presidents and their Cats!
- Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President, loved cats and could play with them for hours. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln replied, “cats.”
- President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginiain March of 1865. The civil war was drawing to a close and the enormous task of reuniting the country lay ahead, yet the President made time to care for three orphaned kittens. Abraham Lincoln noticed three stray kittens in the telegraph hut. Picking them up and placing them in his lap, he asked about their mother. When the President learned that the kittens’ mother was dead, he made sure the kittens would be fed and a good home found for them.
- Theodore Roosevelt had two cats, six-toed Slippers and Tom Quartz (named after the cat in Roughing It by Mark Twain). Slippers had a habit of falling asleep while sprawled out in hallways. At one state banquet, guests even had to walk around her as they made their way to the dining room.
- Woodrow Wilson owned a cat named Mittens and an American Shorthair named Puffins. Both cats enjoyed trying to leap on the Wilson’s dining room table during family meals, only to be squirted with water to shoo them away.
- Calvin Coolidge was a cat lover at an early age. As a young boy he once saved a litter of kittens from being drowned. Coolidge owned several cats in the White House: Smokey, Blackie, Tiger, Bounder, Timmie and Climber (a Turkish Angora affectionately nicknamed “Mud”). Coolidge also owned a bobcat and two lion cubs. It is said that Timmie slept with the family’s canary, Caruso (one of several cageless birds they owned), perched between his shoulders each night. Tiger, a grey-striped American Shorthair, was often found walking along beside the president or wrapped around his neck. Once, when Tiger wandered away, Coolidge pleaded for his return on a radio address (radio was a relatively new phenomenon at that time). Happily, Tiger was returned and fitted with a special collar that included his White House address. Later, Tiger strayed a second time but sadly, he was never seen again.
- John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, owned Tom Kitten, from the name of the classic childrens’ book by Beatrix Potter. President Kennedy was later diagnosed as being allergic to cats (and dogs) and had to keep his distance from Tom Kitten. When he died, Tom Kitten merited his own obituary in a Washington newspaper.
- Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, owned Shan Shein, a sealpoint Siamese cat named after a city in China. Shan slept in Susan’s bed at night and spent her days with Mrs. Ford while Susan was at school.
- Jimmy Carter’s family owned Misty Malarky Ying Yang, a sealpoint Siamese cat that daughter Amy continually spoke about. While at the White House, Misty could often be found curled up in her favorite spot — Amy’s indoor doll house.
- Ronald Reagan and his family owned two stray tortoise shell cats, Cleo and Sara, that lived at their vacation home, Rancho del Cielo, in California during his White House years. The Reagans also owned several other (unnamed) cats at the ranch.
- Bill Clinton’s cat, Socks, belonged to his daughter, Chelsea. Apparently, Socks was rescued in Arkansas after Chelsea spotted her through a window during a piano lesson. Socks was a domestic shorthair ‘tuxedo’ cat with sock-like markings on her feet, and Clinton referred to her as “Chief Executive Cat.” Socks had well-publicized feuds with Buddy, the family’s Labrador retriever, whom she reportedly despised from the day she first met him. She had her own fan club page on the White House Web site and her own in-box for the fan mail she received, which was kept on Clinton’s secretary Betty Currie’s desk. Socks was featured on a set of stamps issued by The Central African Republic and her image was also used in the White House to mark routes for visiting schoolchildren. When Socks died of cancer in 2009, her ashes were flown back to Arkansas for burial.
- George W. Bush and his family owned India “Willie” Bush, a beautiful black cat named after baseball player Ruben “El Indio” Sierra of the Texas Rangers. Willie was known to be very shy and reclusive and died just before the Bushes moved out of the White House. They also had Ernie, a striped cat named after Ernest Hemingway, who became “too wild” to reside in the White House and was eventually sent to live with friends in another state. A third cat, Cowboy, was said to be the president’s favorite, but he died of kidney disease shortly after Bush took office.
Next month: Presidents and their dogs!