A short history of White House cats

“Cats,” wrote The Conversation gravely in 2013, “remain under-represented in Washington.”

It’s a problem that the Bidens are set to remedy. Last week, first lady Jill Biden teased that a cat is “waiting in the wings” to join the family and their two dogs at the White House. The newcomer won’t be the first four-legged friend to knock pens off the Resolute Desk, though; here are seven notable White House cats who blazed the trail for First Kitty Biden.

Tabby and Dixie, the O.G.s

When President Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was asked if her husband had any hobbies, the first lady replied simply: “Cats.” She wasn’t kidding: Reportedly Abe loved his cats so much that he’d even feed them from the dinner table, to Mary Todd’s dismay. Lincoln was also the first president to introduce cats into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the form of Tabby and Dixie, who were a gift from his secretary of state, William H. Seward. “At one point, [Lincoln] told a friend that Dixie was ‘smarter than his entire cabinet’ and ‘didn’t talk back,’ which was a bonus,'” Andrew Hager, the historian-in-residence at the Presidential Pet Museum, told The New York Times.

Siam, the immigrant

Don’t be surprised if the Bidens adopt a Siamese cat, as a nod to a White House tradition that began with Siam in 1878. Born in Thailand, Siam made a two-month journey to Washington, D.C., by way of Hong Kong and San Francisco, to become the first-known Siamese cat in the United States. She was sent as a gift to President Rutherford B. Hayes from David B. Sickels, an American diplomat at the U.S. Consulate in Bangkok, and reportedly enjoyed meeting all the visitors at the White House: Siam “always . . . [entered] the room when Mrs. Hayes had visitors . . . the cat marched in and show[ed] no hesitation, though the parlor was full of strangers,” newspapers reported. Though Siam sadly died not long into her White House tenure, the tradition of Siamese cats continued in Washington with Shan Shein, who belonged to President Gerald Ford’s daughter, and Misty Malarky Ying Yang, who belonged to President Jimmy Carter’s daughter.

  Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr. mocked a new CIA recruitment ad in which a staffer identified as a millennial with anxiety

Slippers, the undignified welcome mat

Theodore Roosevelt famously kept a menagerie at the White House that included a “small bear,” a lizard, a blue macaw, a pig, a pony, a one-legged rooster, a badger, a barn owl, several guinea pigs, an assortment of snakes, a number of dogs, as well as two cats, Tom Quartz and Slippers. While Tom Quartz often bullied Roosevelt’s terrier, it was six-toed Slippers who “had no sense of decorum,” the Presidential Pet Museum reports. He even once “flopped himself down for a nap right in the middle of the corridor that … dignitaries were using to get to the dining room,” an incident that was memorialized in St. Nicholas Magazine.

Tiger, the runaway

(Blackie and Tiger | Photo by National Photo Company, 10 Oct. 1923, via

Source:: The Week – Politics


(Visited 4 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *