Willow’s in the White House!
First Lady Jill Biden promised a cat would reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a presidential pet during her husband’s administration, and a year after President Joe Biden was sworn in, Willow the cat has joined the First Family in Washington.
Willow is a gray tabby who got Jill Biden’s attention in a very cat-like way: She invited herself onstage while the First Lady was giving a campaign speech for her husband on a Pennsylvania farm in 2020.
A campaign official later called the farm’s owner, Rick Telesz, and asked if the Bidens could adopt the friendly moggie. Willow is two years old and is the first presidential cat since India, a black American Shorthair who belonged to former President George W. Bush’s daughters, Barbara and Jenna. India lived to the ripe old age of 18, outliving Bush’s two terms as president.
The Bidens had another cat lined up, but delayed the cat’s arrival because their dog, Major, wasn’t adjusting well to the White House and was known for biting staff and Secret Service agents. Major’s been sent back to the family home in Delaware, but in the meantime the cat the Bidens were going to adopt got attached to its foster family and became a foster fail.
Willow seems to be doing just fine. Michael Larosa, the First Lady’s press secretary, told reporters Willow has been “settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats, and plenty of room to smell and explore.”
She’ll be doing a lot of exploring — there are 132 rooms in the White House, and most former presidential cats were given the run of the executive residence as well as the West Wing. Socks, President Bill Clinton’s cat, had access to the Oval Office and was sometimes spotted in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, even choosing the famous podium for a lounging spot once.
Cats have a long and distinguished history in the White House, from the incredible fame of Socks to Abraham Lincoln’s Dixie and Tabby. Lincoln once called the former “smarter than my whole Cabinet,” while he often embarrassed his wife by feeding the latter from the White House dinner table. Click here to read our post from last year detailing the lives and adventures of presidential cats.