Many of our presidents have been “dog people”, but there have been some distinctive Presidential cats, too. On this President’s Day, let’s take a few minutes to recognize ten Presidential cats that have inhabited the White House:
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission on goods purchased via these links, at no additional cost to you.
Presidential Cats Prior to 1900
- Martin van Buren owned two tiger cubs — gifts from the Sultan of Oman. He was eventually pressured (by Congress) to move them out of the White House and donate them to the local zoo.
- A true cat lover, Abraham Lincoln was the first known president to bring felines into the White House, including his son Tad’s cat named Tabby. Lincoln reportedly liked to feed Tabby with a gold fork at White House dinners. During a winter visit to a Civil War battlefield, Lincoln rescued three half-frozen kittens and brought them back to the White House until good homes were found for them.
- 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.
- William McKinley owned two Turkish Angora cats, Valeriano Weyler, named for the governor of Cuba, and Enrique DeLome, named after Spain’s Ambassador.
Presidential Cats 1900-1980’s
- Theodore Roosevelt had two cats, six-toed Slippers and Tom Quartz. 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.
- John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, owned Tom Kitten. President Kennedy was 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.
- 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.
Presidential Cats 1990-Present
- Bill Clinton’s cat, Socks, was a domestic shorthair ‘tuxedo’ cat with sock-like markings on her feet, and Clinton referred to her as “Chief Executive Cat.” She had her own fan club page on the White House Web site and her own in-box for the fan mail she received. 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 in 2009, her ashes were flown back to Arkansas for burial.
- George W. Bush’s black cat India created a stir with some people in the country of India. They became upset over the cat’s name, believing it was a mockery of their nation. The cat was actually named after a baseball player, Ruben Sierra, whose nickname was “El Indio.” India lived to be 18 years old before passing away in 2009.
Many books have been written about the variety of presidential pets including Abraham Lincoln’s turkey and Woodrow WIlson’s ram. The Presidential Pet Museum launched a series of Presidential Pet books, Old Ike, a fictionalized story of Woodrow Wilson’s ram was first in the series.
Pushinka: Fictionalized Story of John F. Kennedy’s Dog , second in the series, was published in 2018,
To see a complete list of Presidential pets from 1789-Present, go to presidentialpetmuseum.com