Jill Biden Has a White House Cat—Presidents, Though, Tend to Be Extroverted, a Trait They Share With Dogs

From a Washington Post story by Maura Judkis headlined “The Bidens finally have a White House cat. World, meet Willow.”:

The long-awaited White House cat has joined the Biden family — and her name is Willow. Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for first lady Jill Biden, confirmed the 2-year-old, gray-and-white short-haired tabby’s arrival, saying the cat is “settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats and plenty of room to smell and explore.”

Willow is named after Jill Biden’s hometown of Willow Grove, Pa. The cat comes from an unnamed Western Pennsylvania farm where the Bidens made a campaign trip in 2020.

“Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when she jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks during a campaign stop,” wrote LaRosa in a news release. “Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden.”

The cat joins Commander, the German shepherd puppy the Bidens adopted last month, following the death of their dog Champ and the rehoming of their dog Major, both German shepherds. Major had trouble adjusting to his new home in the White House, having made headlines for several biting incidents. Major was the first shelter dog in the White House.

Willow will be the first cat to live in the White House since President George W. Bush’s cat, India, in 2009 — and one of only a dozen feline inhabitants in the entire history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Andrew Hager, historian for the online Presidential Pet Museum, attributes the disparity to personality — both the presidents’ and the cats’. Presidents tend to be extroverted, a trait they share with dogs, which have been the most popular presidential pet by far.

“I always think that some of it is the fact that cats are a little bit less trainable,” says Hager. “So it’s harder to bring a cat to a news conference and have it sit there and look cute.”

Willow, photographed in the White House on Wednesday, met first lady Jill Biden during a Pennsylvania campaign stop in 2020. (Erin Scott/White House)

The first presidential cats belonged to Abraham Lincoln, who famously fed Tabby and Dixie with the White House’s gold forks. When his wife objected, the president apocryphally quipped that if the gold fork was good enough for former president James Buchanan, it was good enough for Tabby.

Other famous feline White House residents include Amy Carter’s siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, who made an appearance during President Jimmy Carter’s first state dinner. President Bill Clinton’s black-and-white cat, Socks, was a frequent visitor of the Oval Office and was occasionally walked outdoors on a leash. But Bush’s black cat, India, was frequently overshadowed by his Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley.

The Biden family had announced their intention to get a cat before they even moved into the White House, in a late November 2020 interview with CBS. The subject came up frequently in briefings: Last March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki deflected a reporter’s question, saying, “We know that the cat will break the Internet, but I don’t have any update on its status.”

Since then, the White House has teased the cat’s arrival as being imminent. Last April, Jill Biden told the “Today” show that the cat was “waiting in the wings.” At the time, Major was receiving special training to acclimate the dog to cats.

In September, Jill Biden told the New York Times that the cat’s arrival was delayed because of Major’s behavioral issues and revealed that the pet was in another household’s temporary care.

“The cat is still being fostered with somebody who loves the cat,” she told the Times. “I don’t even know whether I can get the cat back at this point.”

But when Commander’s arrival (and Major’s rehoming) was announced in December, LaRosa confirmed that the cat would join the family by the end of January.

No word yet on if Willow has been introduced to Commander — and whether the pair get along.

Maura Judkis is a features reporter for The Washington Post. She is a two-time James Beard Award winner. She joined The Post in 2011
Also see the New York Times story by Katie Rogers headlined “Relax, America: Willow, the White House Cat, Has Arrived”. The opening grafs:

WASHINGTON — The cat has landed.

After keeping the nation on tenterhooks since even before taking office, the Biden White House announced on Friday that a gray cat named Willow had joined the first family, more than a year after the plucky farm feline from Pennsylvania caught the eye of the first lady, Jill Biden, while she was on the stump for her husband.

“Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when she jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks during a campaign stop,” said Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesman. “Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden.”

Willow is named after the first lady’s hometown, Willow Grove, Pa.

The cat’s arrival was much anticipated after Dr. Biden casually mentioned in a November 2020 interview that she’d love to have a cat in the White House, and later lightheartedly suggested that the animal was “waiting in the wings.” To feline fans everywhere, this might as well have been a blood oath that a cat would soon be revealed.

For more than a year, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was peppered with questions about the administration’s cat policy by reporters and other interested parties. She seemed aware of the stakes behind the cat’s public rollout.

“I’m also wondering about the cat,” she said during a question-and-answer session with Twitter users last January, “because the cat is going to dominate the internet.”

On Wednesday, Willow, a shorthair tabby with jade-green eyes, formally moved into the White House, just over a month after the Bidens revealed that they had added Commander, a German shepherd puppy, to the mix. Dr. Biden said in an interview with The New York Times this fall that the cat had been living with a foster parent who had grown attached….

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