Over the years, many presidents have had pets in the White House. Horses, parrots, goats, and dogs have all lived there, but cats have been some of the residence’s most beloved and memorable inhabitants.
Often, cats came to live in the White House as pets of the president’s children.
President Lincoln (1861-1865) was the first person to host a cat there, at the request of his son, Tad. That cat’s name was Tabby, and soon another cat, Dixie, would call the White House home. Lincoln once remarked that Dixie was “smarter than [his] whole cabinet.”
The next nineteenth-century cats to reside in the White House belonged to President Rutherford Hayes (1877-1881). He had three cats: Siam (a Siamese cat who was a gift from the American Consul in Bangkok and also the first Siamese cat in America), Miss Pussy (also a Siamese), and Piccolomini (breed unknown).
The early twentieth century brought many more cats to the presidential home. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1901-1909) had two cats. Slippers, a gray cat, had the distinction of having six toes, and the loyal feline Tom Quartz was named for the cat in Mark Twain’s novel, Roughing It.
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In the 1920s, President Calvin Coolidge hosted four White House cats. Coolidge had a particular affection for cats; as a child, he saved an entire litter of them from drowning. Smokey, Blackie, Timmie, and Tiger were all beloved by Coolidge, who would often carry Tiger in his arms.
Sometimes, Tiger would go missing, and President Coolidge would always put out a radio appeal for the public’s help in finding him. Eventually, Tiger and the others were fitted with collars and engraved name plates, though Tiger sadly ran away again and was never found.
Feline companions have been frequent White House lodgers in the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, too.
Tom Kitten was the beloved feline friend of President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline. He was so special that when he died, his obituary was printed in the local newspaper.
No cats lived at the White House in the 1980s, and the most recent “First Cats” have been President Clinton’s cat, Socks, in the 1990s and President George W. Bush’s black cat, India, in the 2000s. Socks had the honor of appearing on a set of stamps with President Clinton and even had his own fan club and newsletter.