Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidential Cats

(President Clinton and Socks)
We all know that President Barack Obama has a dog named Bo and that former President George W Bush shared the White House with a few terriers and that President Clinton had a Labrador named Buddy. But did you know that President Bush had a cat named India or that Clinton had a cat named Socks? Too often our Presidential feline friends are overshadowed by their canine counterparts; so, in honor of President’s Day, let’s take a look at which presidents shared the White House with a cat…or two…or three.

The first mention of a “cat” occupying the White House was during Martin Van Buren’s presidency; he was our 8th president. But these were no ordinary cats, they were a pair of tiger cubs, given to him by the Sultan of Oman. The cubs did not stay long at the White House, due to pressure from Congress; the cubs went to live in a zoo. Our 13th president,Millard Fillmore, did not own cats, (he did have a few ponies), but he was a founding member and president of the Buffalo chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Abraham Lincoln had several cats, and our 19th president, Rutherford B Hayes, had a menagerie of pets including, a cat named Piccolomini, and two Siamese cats named Siam and Miss Pussy. Siam was the first Siamese cat in the United States.

William McKinley, our 25th president, had two Angora kittens named Valeriano Weyler and Enrique DeLome, and Theodore Roosevelt had two housecats named Tom Quartz and Slippers. He also had a lion and a wildcat. Woodrow Wilson, our 28th president, had a cat named Puffins.

(Photo: Presidential Pet Museum
Officer Benjamin Fink holds Tiger, the Coolidge's cat, at the White House on March 25, 1924.)
And it has been said that Calvin Coolidge had a zoo at the White House. Among his collection of pets was an alley cat named Tiger, another cat named Blacky and a bobcat named Smoky. He also had two lion cubs, who were gifts from dignitaries from other countries.

(Susan Ford with Shan)
Our 35th president, John F Kennedy, had a cat named Tom Kitten, and Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, had a Siamese cat named Shan, who stayed at the White House. Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, also had a pet Siamese cat named Misty Malarky Ying Yang.

(Amy Carter with Misty)
As mentioned, Socks occupied the White House during Bill Clinton’s presidency and has received more press than any other Presidential Cat. A cartoon version of Socks still hosts the children's version of the White House website and former First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote a children’s book featuring Socks. After Clinton left office, Socks resided with former Clinton secretary Betty Currie and her husband, due to continuing conflicts with the dog Buddy. Sadly, two years ago yesterday, Socks crossed the rainbow bridge at the ripe old age of 19.
(Socks peers over the White House Briefing Room's Presidential lectern)

To date, no other Presidential Cat caused more controversy than President George W. Bush’s cat, India “Willie” Bush. Living for almost two decades, this all- black female American Shorthair was acquired as a kitten in late 1991 or 1992 when twin daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush were nine years old.  Unfortunately, some people did not approve of the cat’s name and protested. For example, in the Indian state of Kerala, 101 dogs were reportedly renamed “Bush” in protest, and in 2004, demonstrators in the southern Keralian city of Thiruvananthapuram denounced the cat's name as an insult to the nation of India and even burned an effigy of President Bush in protest. The Bushes, however, did not change the cat's name. The cat actually got her name from baseball player RubĂ©n Sierra who was nicknamed "El Indio", during his time with the Texas Rangers when Bush owned the team. The name had reportedly been given to the family cat by daughter, Barbara Bush.
(Photo: Wikipedia, India "Willie" Bush)
Although our presidents’ dog companions usually make the spotlight, since the birth of our nation, 12 presidents (that we know of) have shared the White House with a feline friend or two. Perhaps the Obama family should consider adopting a kitty friend; there’s plenty of room in the White House for Bo and a cat. And with 3 to 4 million cats (and dogs) being euthanized in animal shelters across the United States each year, the President could do his part to save a life and speak the importance of adoption and spay/neuter programs. Sounds like a letter writing campaign to me? Dear Mr. President, I really think you should consider adopting a cat friend for Bo and your daughters, especially when there are so many great cats in need of good homes…

Address letters to:
President Barack Obama 
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Or send an Email

To read more about Presidential Cat and other Presidential Critters click here and here.

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