America’s First Felines

Whenever a new pet is introduced to the White House by the First Family it makes headlines. First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden told the media back in May 2021 that a cat would soon be welcomed into the White House. However, First Feline Biden won’t be the first cat to wander the halls of America’s iconic house. In fact, there have been many curious cats that have ventured in, around and outside of the White House gates that belonged to previous presidents!

Tabby and Dixie Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln was given two cats as gifts by former Secretary of State, William Seaward. He called the cats Tabby and Dixie. The former president also adored stray cats so much that his wife, First Lady Mary Ann Todd Lincoln, replied, “cats” when a reporter asked if the president had any hobbies. During the Siege of Petersburg in March of 1965, it’s documented that the president was distracted by 3 stray kittens. When he found out their mother had passed, he told a colonel, “I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.”

Soldier bonds with kitten on battlefield in World War 2 Germany.

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Siam Hayes

Nineteenth President Rutherford B. Hayes welcomed the first Siamese cat, Siam, to the White House. The female feline came from Thailand and was given to President Hayes and his wife First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes by America’s then Bangkok consul, David B. Sickles. When the cat became sick after several months at the White House, the president’s very own physician examined the cat, but unfortunately Siam passed away 5 days later.

Letter written to the President about Siam.

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Slippers and Quartz Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt had two cats, Slippers and Quartz. Slippers was a bluish-grey tabby cat that was known for having six toes, an extra toe on each of his paws that resembled a thumb. Slippers was a regular guest at formal White House dinners and frequently napped in corridors forcing guests to walk around his personal napping space.

St. Nicholas magazine illustration of Slippers napping during a formal White House dinner.

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Tiger, Blacky, Bounder and Climber Coolidge

Thirtieth President Calvin Coolidge had four cats during his time in the White House. Tiger was often seen as an accessory to the president because he frequently wore Tiger around his neck. However, Tiger enjoyed exploring beyond the gates of the White House and once ventured all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. Tiger wore a collar after that escape with “The White House” engraved on it, but shortly after he started wearing the collar, he disappeared. Blacky was the hunter of the cats and often brought the president his findings from exploring.  Bounder would often take part in a game of hide-and-seek where the president would hide Bounder from the First Lady, Grace Goodhue Coolidge. Climber was a Maltese Angora cat nicknamed Mud because of his appearance.

Navy Officer Benjamin Fink holding President Coolidges cat, Tiger.

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Tom Kitten Kennedy

Tom Kitten, was the cat of President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy. President Kennedy discovered he was extremely allergic to Tom Kitten after the cat was given to his daughter as a present from her grandmother, Jacqueline Kennedy. The first cat then went to live with White House staffer Mary Gallagher. The staffer would bring Tom Kitten back to the White House with her when the President was traveling for the first daughter to play with. Tom Kitten was the first White House cat to have an official obituary notice from the press. The obituary stated, “Unlike many humans in the same position, he never wrote his memoirs of his days in the White House, and never discussed them for quotation, though he was privy to many official secrets.”

First Lady Kennedy’s press secretary Pamela Turnure with Tom Kitten in 1961.

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Shan Ford

President Gerald Ford and his wife, First Lady Betty Ford,  gave their teenage daughter Susan a cat named Shan for Easter in 1973 before they moved to the White House. During their time in the White House Shan, a miniature seal pointe Siamese cat, enjoyed taking naps under the first daughters bed while she was at school. The cat was named after a town that the Ford’s visited previously in China.

Susan Ford holding her cat Shan in 1974.

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Misty Malarky Ying Yang Carter

Misty Malarky Ying Yang was the beloved male cat of Amy Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s daughter. The first daughter’s cat was often found alongside Amy while she played in her doll house or next to Amy meowing along during her violin lessons. The cat’s famous name also inspired the title for a song by Hungarian artist Gabor Szabo.

Amy Carter holding her feline friend Misty Marlarky Ying Yang.

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Socks Clinton

Socks, President Bill Clinton’s cat, was a stray cat that supposedly jumped into the arms of Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, after leaving the house that she took piano lessons at in 1991. First Lady Hilary Clinton would frequently take Socks to visit senior citizens and children in local Washington D.C. hospitals. Hollywood was also fond of Socks. The first cat was the subject of an episode of Murphy Brown, which followed the storyline of Socks being unintentionally kidnapped from the White House by the shows main character. Socks also appeared in Muppet form on an episode of Larry King that featured Kermit The Frog as a cohost. When the Clinton’s got their dog Buddy, the president’s secretary took Socks to live with her.

Socks on President Clinton’s shoulder in 1995.

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India Bush

President George W. Bush’s black cat, India, was rescued by the Bush family before the family moved to the White House.  The library was India’s favorite room once the first family moved into The White House. The family also dressed the cat up on some holiday occasions.

India posed with First Daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush on Jenna’s wedding day in 2008.

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About the Author:

Katie Schroeder graduated from Michigan State University and studied broadcast journalism. In her free time, Katie loves to travel and go to concerts with friends. She’s a dog mom to a 9-year-old shorkie named Bella, but is also a proud cat auntie to dozens of cats owned by multiple of her friends.


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