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A new cat comes to the White House

Willow is the new White House cat, joining other presidential cats
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There’s a new cat at the White House

A new cat has come to the White House. After much anticipation, a new cat has come to the White House. First Lady Jill Biden adopted Willow, a short-haired, two-year-old gray and white tabby. The cat is named after the first lady’s hometown of Willow Grove, PA.

This brings the list of cats at the White House to a minimal 15, out of a total 46 Presidents since the country was founded in 1789. The dogs dating back to George Washington have far outnumbered the cats, but that does not mean the canines have outshined or outsmarted the Feline First Cats.

It had been speculated that the Biden’s would add a cat to the White House since President Biden took office in January of 2021.

The first lady met Willow at a campaign stop in 2020, according to reports from the first lady’s press secretary Michael LaRosa, when the cat jumped on stage and the owners of the farm where the event was being held noticed the “immediate bond” they shared.

We wonder what took so long for the cat to come to the White House. But we understand Willow has been fostered by acquaintances for the last several months.

The news of Willow joining the first family at the White House comes just a month after the president and first lady welcomed a new German shepherd puppy, Commander to the family. At the time, the White House said a cat would arrive in January.

Willow now shares the White House with Commander, a pure-bred German Shepherd puppy, that the Biden’s adopted in December of last year.

The Bidens’ German Shepherd, Champ, died in June at the age of 13. Their other German Shepherd, a rescue named Major, has been living away from the White House after incidents of aggressive behavior towards staff members.

How famous will this new White House cat be?

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    How famous Willow will be, remains to be seen. She’s got tough competition from Bill Clinton’s cat Sox, who received more fan mail than he did.

    However, there’s a positive sign that he will have notoriety. Willow is getting her own bobblehead. The limited-edition bobbleheads of Willow went on sale recently at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum’s online store.

    The rendering of the $25 kitty figures features an image of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the background, with a photo of the famed feline inquisitively checking out her surroundings. The bobbleheads are scheduled to be delivered in June.

    Two-year-old Willow’s furry first family siblings have also been immortalized as endlessly nodding collectibles. The Bidens’ three German shepherds, Champ – who died last year – Major and Commander, also have bobbleheads in their likenesses.

    The Bidens first announced their desire to bring a cat to the White House just after Biden won the election, in late November 2020, and in April 2021, in an interview with NBC, the first lady suggested she had a female cat lined up a cat adoption. The first lady was quoted as saying the cat is waiting in the wings.

    The formal announcement of Willow came on Jan. 28, 2022.

    Cat dividing line on August Cat Holidays

    If you are enjoying this, you might also want to check out these Presidential White House Cat posts.

    Almost 20 years since a cat lived at the White House

    It’s been almost 20 years since a cat resided at the Whtie House. The last pet cat that residing at the White House was a black short-hair cat named India with former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

    Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, was the first president in more than a century not to have a pet in the White House.

    India “Willie” Bush (July 13, 1990 – January 4, 2009) was the pet cat of U.S. President George W. Bush and his family while he was in the White House. She lived with the Bush family for almost two decades. The Bushes got India, an all-black, female American Shorthair, as a kitten in late 1991 or 1992.

    The somewhat reclusive cat, who also had a nickname herself — Willie — moved with the family to the White House from the Texas Governor’s Mansion in 2001.

    India was content to take a back seat to the Bushes’ well-known Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley. Ind

    While India was a famed first cat, the Clinton’s cat Socks remains the most popular First Cat. We wonder if Willow can upstage him?

    It depends upon how the Biden’s want to spin the cat. It also depends upon whether the paparazzi (photographers) want to make him front and center stage.

    Socks, an adopted stray black and white short-haired cat, was a hit from Day One at the White House. In 1991, an 11-year-old Chelsea encountered him at her piano teacher’s house, where he jumped into her arms.

    • This cat was regal, and truly presidential, acting as the First Cat that he was. There were photos galore of him sitting at the Presidential Desk in the Oval Office. And it is reported that Socks received more fan mail than President Clinton.
    • In fact, Socks was such a favorite with photographers when Clinton won the presidency in 1992 that the Clinton family had to ask photographers to leave the poor cat alone. Although he had freely roamed the property of the governor’s mansion, Socks was – mostly confined to the inside of the White House for safety’s sake.
    • Socks handled the publicity with grace, never creating incidents or prompting diplomatic crises.
    • He brought national prominence to cats for a while, showing the world that a cat can be affectionate, friendly, and still dignified.
    • The Clintons used a harness and leash for many of his outdoor encounters, modeling the proper safety precautions for a cat in a new or potentially uncontained environment. That was not a common sight back in the 1990s
    • It seems Socks was a natural shoulder cat, enjoying face closeness and the advantage of being above the fray in social encounters. Sitting on one’s shoulder is a  sign of a confident cat, not to mention showing real trust on the part of both human and cat.

    According to the Presidential Pet Museum reports,

    • He was the subject of a popular 1990s TV comedy, Murphy Brown, in which the star of the show unintentionally kidnapped him from the White House.
    • He starred in a never-released video game designed for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems in 1993. In the game, he had to dodge various obstacles such as spies and corrupt politicians to warn the Clintons of nuclear threat.
    • He appeared in Muppet form on Larry King Live for an interview with Kermit the Frog, who was guest hosting.
    • He was the subject of a cartoon book and a song; he was a character in a cartoon strip;
    • And he even appeared with President Clinton in a series of stamps in the Central African Republic

    Although he had freely roamed the property of the governor’s mansion, Socks was mostly confined to the inside of the White House for safety’s sake. He was a frequent visitor to the Oval Office, however, where he enjoyed sitting on the president’s shoulders.

    A wing chair in the West Wing, just outside the Oval Office, was another one of his favorite spots, and he also enjoyed hanging out in the office of Betty Currie, the president’s secretary.

    In a previous Paws Post about Presidential Cats, we stated Hillary Clinton often took Socks along with her to visit children or senior citizens in local hospitals and to other events in Washington, D.C.

    • He traveled in style in his own carrying case that was emblazoned with the presidential seal. At the events, he would sit on the first lady’s lap, seeming to enjoy the attention.
    • Beginning in 1996, an animated version of Socks greeted children to the new White House website.
    • In 1997, a chocolate Labrador retriever named Buddy joined the Clinton family at the White House.

    Although the two animals shared the web page, Socks was not at all fond of sharing his home with the dog. According to Hillary Clinton, Socks “despised Buddy from first sight, instantly and forever.”

    “He had had all the family attention for some years and found the dog’s presence hard to deal with,” she wrote. “He refused point-blank to be friends with this boisterous and intrusive canine, despite everyone’s best efforts. If they were left together, Socks would be found hissing, fluffed up and with back arched, while Buddy tried to chase him under the sofa. Although the cat had clipped claws, he never lost an opportunity to take a swipe at the dog.”

    Life After the White House

    When Socks died in 2009 at the ripe old age of 20, the Clintons issued the following statement:

    “Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere. We’re grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years.”

    Lincoln was the first to bring cats to the White House

    Even though President Clinton’s cat, Socks, is probably the most famous cat that lived in the White House, being nicknamed Chief Executive Cat. President Abraham Lincoln was the first President to bring cats to the White House.

    And most likely, Lincoln was the President that loved cats the most. We say that because he went so far as to rescue some feral cats from a Civil War battlefield. He had such a bond with felines that First Lady Mary Lincoln said her husband’s hobby was cats.

    When Lincoln was elected President, he left his dog Fido home in Springfield, Ill., but much to his surprise, Secretary of State William Seward greeted him with an unexpected gift, two kittens. Lincoln doted on the two cats, named Tabby and Dixie, so much that he once fed Tabby with a gold fork from the table during a formal dinner at the White House, much to his guest’s surprise. He would talk to his cats for hours, letting them snuggle in his lap.

    The List of Presidents with Cats at the White House

    • Joe Biden
    • George W. Bush
    • Bill Clinton
    • Gerald Ford
    • Jimmy Carter,
    • Ronald Reagan
    • John F. Kennedy had felines at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
    • Calvin Coolidge
    • Woodrow Wilson
    • Teddy Roosevelt
    • William McKinley
    • Martin VanBuren (2 tiget cubs)
    • Rutherford Hayes
    • Chester Arthur
    • And Abraham Lincoln

    More about the White House Cats

    Willow, President Joe Biden & First Lady Jill Biden (January 28, 2022, on)

    India, President George W. Bush & First Lady Laura Bush July 13, 1990 – January 4, 2009) Lived at the White House 2001 – 2004

    Socks, President Bill Clinton & first Lady Hilly Clinton 2001 – 2009, lived to be 20, 1990-1998

    Cleo and Sara, President Ronald Reagan, and First Lady Nancy Reagan. Ronald Reagan and his family-owned two stray tortoise-shell cats, Cleo and Sara. They actually did not reside at the White House. They resided at their vacation home, Rancho del Cielo, in California during his White House years. The Reagan’s also owned several other (unnamed) cats at the ranch.

    Misty Malarky Ying Yang, a seal point Siamese Cat with President Jimmy Carter & First Lady Rosalynn Carter. This was their daughter Susan’s cat.

    Calvin and Grace Coolidge had big and small cats as well as a host of other animals at the White House. It is sometimes referred to as ‘almost a zoo’. He had four house cats named Boulder, Tiger, Mud, Timmie, and a bobcat named Smoky. He also was said to have two lion cubs.

    Siam, Rutherford Hayes received the first Siamese cat in the U.S., named Siam. She was sent to Mrs. Lucy Hayes in 1879 as a gift from a U.S. diplomat, David Sickels, in Bangkok, Thailand

    Shan Shein, President Gerald Ford & First Lady Betty Ford. Her parents gave Shan to Susan in 1973 as an Easter present, and the cat moved with the family from their home in Arlington, Va. to the White House when Ford became president in 1974.

    Tom Kitten, sometimes called ‘Tom Terrific’, President John F Kennedy & First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. when he wasn’t making the President sneeze, belonged to President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy. What makes Tom interesting is that he was rarely actually at the White House.

    Despite his many pets, JFK had allergies and it seems that Tom’s presence was enough to trigger the allergies, including sneezing and watery eyes. Just a few weeks after Tom arrived at the White House, the President re-homed him to go live with White House staffer Mary Gallagher. Gallagher had two sons around Caroline’s age, and she often arranged for Caroline to come over to play — with the boys and the cat. When he died, Tom Kitten merited his own obituary in a Washington newspaper.

    President Woodrow Wilson had two cats, Mittens, and Puffins. However, his most famous pet was Old Ike, the president’s ram that would graze the White House lawn.

    The Theodore Roosevelt family had multiple pets during their time in the White House — the most out of any president with 23 different animals. One pet was Slippers, a six-toed grey-blue cat. He also had a cat called Tom Quartz, said to have been named after the character in Roughing It by Mark Twain. Slippers often fell asleep in the hallway, and at one state banquet, it is said guests had to walk around her as they made their way to the dining room.

    William McKinley owned two Turkish Angora cats, Valeriano Weyler, named for the governor of Cuba, and Enrique DeLome, named after Spain’s Ambassador.

    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.

    President Chester Arthur has an Internet photo with cats, but we only found references to Miss Pussy. Other reports say he didn’t have any pets. It’s not very well-known, but Chester A. Arthur comes from a long line of cat groomers. In fact, he’s one of the most renowned cat groomers to ever be president.

    Cat dividing line on August Cat Holidays

    Presidential Cats – The Siamese Cats

    Rutherford Hayes received the first Siamese cat in the U.S., named Siam. She was sent to Mrs. Lucy Hayes in 1879 as a gift from a U.S. diplomat, David Sickels, in Bangkok, Thailand. In the original letter documenting Siam’s arrival, she is described by Sickels as “mahogany-colored” and “one of the finest specimens of Siamese cats that I have been able to procure in this country.” Siam was allowed to roam the White House and often made ‘grand entrances’ whenever the First Lady entertained guests.

    Siam was shipped from Thailand, via Hong Kong, then to San Francisco; and from there, she traveled by land to Washington. Elegant and slender with long legs and bright blue eyes, Siam created quite a stir in the White House. Lucy Hayes at first named the cat Miss Pussy, but later changed her name to Siam after noticing her regal bearing and high-born attitude. The cat soon became the president’s daughter Fanny’s favorite.

    After only a few months, Siam became sick and did not recover, even though the President’s own physician Dr. J. H. Baxter, was asked to examine the cat and care for her. Instructions were given to preserve the cat’s body, but a stuffed Siam has never been found, according to the Hayes Presidential Center. The Hayes also had another less famous cat, Piccolomini, who took a backseat to the famous Siam.

    Many decades later, two more Siamese cats made their home in the White House.

    Gerald Ford’s Presidential Cat – Siamese Shan

    President Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, brought her miniature seal point Siamese cat named Shan with her to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when her father became president in 1974. Her parents gave Shan to Susan in 1973 as an Easter present, and the cat moved with the family from their home in Arlington, Va. to the White House when Ford became president in 1974.

    The cat, whose full name was Shan Shein, was named after a town the Fords visited in China. When Susan Ford, President Gerald Ford’s teenage daughter, was in school for the day, her cat, Shan, would often hide under the bed in the Lincoln bedroom. Shan slept in Susan’s bed at night and spent her days trying to avoid Liberty, the Ford’s gregarious golden retriever. Shan preferred women over men, but she made an exception for the President, often rubbing against his legs and waiting for an opportunity to get into his lap. Shan was even featured in People’s Magazine.

    Presidential Siamese Cat –  Carter’s Misty Malarky Ying Yang

    The Siamese cat vibe at the White House continued for another term with President Jimmy Carter’s daughter’s seal point Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang. The personable, high-energy Misty made her presence known among Amy’s 39 teddy bears, and could often be found curled up in her favorite spot — Amy’s indoor dollhouse. The cat even had a song named after it – Gabor Szabo created an instrumental track called ‘Misty Malarky Ying Yang’.

    Presidential Cat – George W Bush’s India, nicknamed Willie

    President George W. Bush’s cat India, nicknamed Willie, let her Fido friend take the spotlight as she was timid and didn’t gain the media attention directed at Socks. Willie would hang out in the White House Library. George and Laura Bush adopted India in late 1991 when their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were nine-years-old. At the time, Bush owned the Texas Ranger baseball team, and daughter Barbara named the ink-black cat after a star baseball player, Rubén Sierra, who was nicknamed ‘El Indio’. India lived to be 18-years-old before passing away in 2009.

    In July 2004, protesters in Kerala, India, burned an effigy of President George W. Bush in protest of his cat’s name — India. In addition, members of the citizen’s group Prathikarana Vedi assembled before the Kerala assembly saying that the jet-black cat’s name was an insult to their country, even though he was named after a famous ballplayer.

    Presidential Cats: Ronald Reagan

    Presidential Cats
    Ronald and Nancy Reagan with cats

    Ronald Reagan and his family-owned two stray tortoise-shell cats, Cleo and Sara. They actually did not reside at the White House. They resided at their vacation home, Rancho del Cielo, in California during his White House years. The Reagan’s also owned several other (unnamed) cats at the ranch.

    President John F Kennedy

    President John F Kennedy and his cats

    Tom Kitten, sometimes called ‘Tom Terrific’, when he wasn’t making the President sneeze, belonged to President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy. What makes Tom interesting is that he was rarely actually at the White House.

    Despite his many pets, JFK had allergies and it seems that Tom’s presence was enough to trigger the allergies, including sneezing and watery eyes. Just a few weeks after Tom arrived at the White House, the President re-homed him to go live with White House staffer Mary Gallagher. Gallagher had two sons around Caroline’s age, and she often arranged for Caroline to come over to play — with the boys and the cat. When he died, Tom Kitten merited his own obituary in a Washington newspaper.

    Calvin and Grace Coolidge

    Calvin and Grace Coolidge had big and small cats as well as a host of other animals at the White House. It is sometimes referred to as ‘almost a zoo’. He had four house cats named Boulder, Tiger, Mud, Timmie, and a bobcat named Smoky. He also was said to have two lion cubs.

    Blacky regularly enjoyed cream in a saucer and liked to hang out in the White House elevator. One day, Tiger became lost outdoors, and a radio announcement—a new technology at the time—helped to locate him. Timmie liked to hang out with a family canary perched between his shoulders.

    President Woodrow Wilson had Puffins & Teddy Roosevelt had Slippers

    President Woodrow Wilson had two cats, Mittens, and Puffins. However, his most famous pet was Old Ike, the president’s ram that would graze the White House lawn.

    The Theodore Roosevelt family had multiple pets during their time in the White House — the most out of any president with 23 different animals. One pet was Slippers, a six-toed grey-blue cat. He also had a cat called Tom Quartz, said to have been named after the character in Roughing It by Mark Twain. Slippers often fell asleep in the hallway, and at one state banquet, it is said guests had to walk around her as they made their way to the dining room.

    William McKinley owned 2 Turkey Angoras & Martin van Buren had two tiger cubs

    William McKinley owned two Turkish Angora cats, Valeriano Weyler, named for the governor of Cuba, and Enrique DeLome, named after Spain’s Ambassador.

    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.

    President Chester Arthur

    President Chester Arthur has an Internet photo with cats, but we only found references to Miss Pussy. Other reports say he didn’t have any pets. It’s not very well-known, but Chester A. Arthur comes from a long line of cat groomers. In fact, he’s one of the most renowned cat groomers to ever be president.

    Presidential Cats
    President Chester Arthur and cats

    According to folklore, calico cats are lucky. Japanese sailors traveled with calicos to ensure a safe voyage and protect their ships from harm. In England and the United States, male calicos are considered especially lucky thanks to their rarity.

    There may be a host of other cats that have roamed the White House, and if you find some, please share so we can add them to the list. All photos here were shared from various sites across the Internet.

    While the number of dogs gracing the White House outnumbers cats, the history of presidents owning pets dates back to the founding of the country.

    It is said some commanders-in-chief have used the pets to appeal to a broader audience, soften their image as pet friendly, or maybe just because they love animals. P

    Repost: Cat Stanley Salutes First Felines

    What do you think it would be like for a cat to live at the White House? For the latest Paws news, sign up for our email list and receive YOUR FREE Guide to Stop Kitty from Destroying Your Sofa.

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