A Nation's Finest Felines: Presidential "First Cats"
Cats have paced the annals of history alongside humans for thousands of years. And with the recent Internet-borne discovery of cats' plan for world domination and enslavement of the human race, et cetera, it only makes sense that the would seek a place in the halls of power. And what better place than the White House? These cats are prepared to go all the way to the top!
Or, you know, the Presidents just genuinely liked cats. Actually, their daughters liked cats and the rest of the White House (and the free world) just had to get used to the idea. Here's a glimpse into the historied halls of the White House and the cats that stalked them!
A true cat lover, Abraham Lincoln was the first known president to bring felines into the White House. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln simply replied, “cats.” Lincoln's son had a cat called Tabby, whom Lincoln reportedly liked to feed with a gold fork - at White House dinners. On a wintery visit to a Civil War battlefield in March 1865, Lincoln rescued three half-frozen kittens. Lincoln pet the cats and quietly told them, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand this terrible strife that is going on.”
Before leaving a meeting in the officers’ tent that day, Lincoln turned to a colonel and said, “I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.”
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.
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. Sounds familiar!
Pictured above is Teddy Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin Roosevelt, with the six-toed Slippers.
Tom Kitten Kennedy
John F. Kennedy’s feline family member actually belonged to his daughter, Caroline. Tom Kitten, sometimes called “Tom Terrific” was the first Kennedy pet to arrive at the White House, in January 1961. President Kennedy was allergic to cats (and dogs) and had to keep his distance from the friendly little tabby. When he died, Tom Kitten merited his own obituary in a Washington newspaper.
Pictured above, Pamela Turnure, press secretary, introduces the media to Tom Kitten, Jan. 24, 1961.
Misty Malarky Ying Yang Carter
Jimmy Carter’s family owned Misty Malarky Ying Yang, a seal point Siamese cat with a name so unique it was even featured in a song! Gabor Szabo featured an original instrumental composition called “Misty Malarkey Ying-Yang” on his album Faces. While stalking the White House halls, Misty could often be found curled up in her favorite spot — Amy’s indoor doll house.
Bill Clinton’s cat, Socks, oft referred to as “Chief Executive Cat," was a domestic shorthair ‘tuxedo’ cat with stockings on his paws.
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.
For a complete list of Presidential pets from 1789-Present, visit presidentialpetmuseum.com!
Tabby Lincoln was a big boy! Abraham Lincoln was around 6’ 4" tall and would have thus dwarfed a small or average-sized cat.
It’s interesting that nobody before Lincoln had cats. From what I’ve read, most of the earliest Presidents preferred horses and dogs.
Any information I come across about the President interested me.
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