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A History of Cats in the White House

Americans love kitties, including many U.S. Presidents. Check out our history of cats in the White House.


A Siamese cat and the White House

When it comes to the White House, cats have been some of our all-time favorite residents. Even though Morris the Cat never lived there—despite running for president in 1988 and 1992—there have been quite a few human presidents with cats in the family (or, as they might see it, cats with human presidents in the family). And many of those First Cats have been (nearly) as purrfect as Morris himself. Here are some of history’s most famous presidential cats.

President Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) 

Lincoln was the first president to bring felines into the White House. His cats Tabby and Dixie were gifts from Secretary of State William Seward. Lincoln was quite the cat person, even rescuing three motherless kittens while visiting General Grant during the Civil War. He regularly played with kitties to relieve stress during his presidency—a favorite de-stressing technique of cat lovers, even today. 

President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) 

Like Lincoln, Hayes was a fan of felines. In fact, the first Siamese cat to arrive in the United States was his cat, Siam. Siam was a gift from David B. Sickels, an American diplomat in Bangkok, to First Lady Lucy Hayes. The Hayes’ also had a kitty named Piccolomini. 

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) 

Teddy Roosevelt had an impressive collection of White House pets, including a six-toed cat named Slippers, and Tom Quartz, named for a fictional feline in Mark Twain’s Roughing It. Apparently, regal Slippers could be found all over the White House, and would snooze in the hallway outside the banquet hall, where visiting dignitaries had to step around her to enter. 

President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) 

The Coolidges owned a menagerie of pets, complete with a few felines. The 30th president′s cats included Tiger, Blacky, Bounder, Timmie and even a bobcat named Smoky. 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 Gerald Ford (1974-1977) 

Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan brought along Shan Shein, a lovely Siamese cat, to the White House. Although the kitty didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with Liberty, the family’s golden retriever, she loved to hang out in the Lincoln bedroom, usually under the bed. 

President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) 

Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy also brought a sweet Siamese cat into the White House. The feline’s full name was Misty Malarky Ying Yang—a mouthful that even inspired a song by Gabor Szabo. Misty liked to hang out in Amy’s dollhouse and frequently meowed along with the first daughter’s violin practice sessions. 

President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) 

Bill Clinton came to the White House with Socks, one of the most well-known and beloved First Kitties. He was so famous that he had a book and song written about him. Later, he even had a website. Socks didn’t get along with presidential canine Buddy, though, and eventually went to live with Betty Currie, the president’s secretary. 

President George W. Bush (2001-2009) 

George W. Bush brought his adorable family cat India “Willie” Bush to the White House. This ebony beauty liked to spend her days in the presidential library and, like Socks, had her own website. She would also sometimes appear on the “Barneycam” videos taken of presidential pooch Barney. 

President Joe Biden (2021-Present)

Once a farm cat, Willow Biden quickly rose to fame when she was adopted by President Joe Biden and the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. Willow first met Dr. Biden after hopping onto stage in the middle of a campaign speech, and word has it their bond was immediate. The gorgeous, green-eyed gray tabby was adopted at age two and named after Dr. Biden′s hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

Why These Presidential Cats Are Basically Just Like Yours

As fun as it is to learn about the glamorous lives of presidents′ cats, the truth is, they all stepped into their litterboxes one leg at a time. OK, maybe two legs at a time. You get the idea.

The point is, felines all have the same basic needs — and you don′t have to be commander in chief to give your cat The Good Life. It′s pretty simple, actually: All your cat needs is a good home (White House or not), good health and good food. And it all starts with a good human like you.

Looking to boost your approval rating with the feline demographic? Check out this Morris-approved cat care Q&A.