The Bidens welcome their new ‘first cat’ Willow to the White House

Regardless of where you stand when it comes to US politics, we can all agree on one thing: the best residents of the White House are always the pets.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden brought the presidential tradition back to the Oval Office after taking office last year, bringing along their dogs Champ and Major.

Now, the family has a new “first pet,” and this time it’s a cat! Meet Willow, the presidential cat who arrived at the White House today:


Bringing a cat into the administration has long been a “campaign promise” of the Bidens: shortly after being elected, the then-president-elect announced he was planning to get a new cat.

But the family delayed the new pet’s arrival while focusing on getting their dogs acclimated to the new surroundings after some behavioral issues. But the First Lady teased that they had a cat “waiting in the wings” who would arrive soon.

Willow’s arrival

Willow, a gray shorthair tabby cat, has finally arrived. She was named after Jill Biden’s home town of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.


Willow and the First Lady have a history together, and met by fate during the 2020 election campaign stop at a farm in Pennsylvania.

“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, according to the New York Times.

“Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden.”

The Bidens’ pets

Willow is the second new pet the Bidens have brought home in recent weeks. She joins the family’s new German Shepherd puppy, Commander, who arrived at the White House last month.

President Joe Biden pets the Biden family dog Champ in the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, prior to a bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members to discuss supply chains. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The president began his tenure with German Shepherds Champ and Major. But sadly, Champ died in June at the age of 13. And Major — who made headlines and history as the first rescue dog to become a White House pet — unfortunately didn’t adjust well to the hectic new surroundings, and after some biting incidents, is now living separately with family friends.

But the new “first cat” is reportedly adjusting well to Washington. “Willow is settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats and plenty of room to smell and explore,” LaRosa said.


History of presidential pets

While former president Donald Trump did not have any pets in his four years in office, presidential pets are a tradition that goes back to George Washington, with nearly all the Commanders-in-Chief having at least one furry friend.

Go back far enough and you’ll see some unusual choices: some president-owned animals include donkeys, alligators, hyenas and even bears. Occasionally the White House pets even make their way into the history pages, like then-Vice President Nixon’s famous “Checkers speech” which mentioned his cocker spaniel, Checkers.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt with his dog Fala (Public Domain)

Dogs seem to be more popular than cats for sitting presidents, but the tradition of the “First Cat” goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln, whose cats Tabby and Dixie he reportedly called “smarter than my whole cabinet.”

Willow is the first cat in the White House in over a decade: the last president to own one was George W. Bush, who had a black shorthaired cat named India. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, also had a cat named Socks.

Socks at the podium in the White House Press Briefing Room (Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome to the White House, Willow! Congrats to the president and his family on this adorable new arrival.

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