Why Felines Make the Purr-fect White House Pet
By Gwen Cooper
"Tradition has it that Adolf Hitler hated cats,” Roger A. Caras notes in his book Celebrating Cats. “He probably did; everything else was wrong with him."
Now, I’m certainly not saying—or even implying!—that any world leader without a cat is basically Hitler. That would be absurd.
But I’m not not saying it, either.
I guess my overall point is that any president, prime minister, potentate, or poobah looking to dispel rumors that he or she is the literal reincarnation of Adolf Hitler—and reasonable people can probably agree that “isn’t Hitler” is among the more desirable personal traits a world leader can have—would be well advised to adopt a cat or two (or possibly even five) in order to put such rumors to rest.
It would appear that President-Elect Joe Biden has taken this advice to heart; word on the street is that the pitter-patter of feline feet will once again be heard in the Oval Office come January 20th.
This is just as it should be, because everybody knows that cats make the very best Presidential pets—an empirical and inarguable fact attested to by a wide range of U.S. presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton. Abraham Lincoln reportedly took in numerous strays during his time in office and was gifted by a cabinet member with two kittens named Tabby and Dixie. “Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet,” Lincoln allegedly remarked on several occasions—which seems a bit hard upon the cabinet member who gave him Dixie in the first place, yet nevertheless was likely an accurate assessment.
Here are but a few of the reasons why cats make far superior Oval Office companions to the various dogs, goats, parrots, fighting cocks (stay classy, Andrew Jackson), horses, rabbits, and other critters that have graced the Executive Branch over the past two-and-a-half centuries:
Cats keep you humble. You may be President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and putative leader of the free world, but as far as your cat’s concerned, you’ll always first and foremost be Chief-Back-Scratcher and Undersecretary of Opening Doors (and closing them, and opening them, and closing them, and…).
And while ascending to the Presidency may grant you nearly godlike authority—the nuclear “football” giving you literal life-and-death power over billions of people at the push of a button—it’s hard to think of a better memento mori than waking up of a morning to find your cat’s cheerful puckered bung wedged firmly against your cheek.
I’m the most powerful human being in the world, probably won’t be the first thought that crosses your mind.
But cats aren’t humble themselves. It’s impossible not to feel affection for dogs with all their engaging, abject humility—the way they yip their eagerness and loll their tongues and pant excitedly and roll around on their backs with a complete lack of self-consciousness as they beg complete strangers to rub their tummies. While such displays undoubtedly add cheer to the homes of many a private citizen, they’re hardly appropriate in public office when it comes to conducting diplomacy or affairs of state.
Cats, on the other hand, are dignified and circumspect creatures, and therefore suitable to grace even the highest level of sensitive meetings. Not to mention, as any power player from Blofeld to Don Corleone can confirm, there’s no better companion animal for helping you gain psychological dominance over others in a meeting than a cat. “If he’s managed to gain mastery over this proud creature,” attendees will be asking themselves, “what can’t he do?”
Cats help you keep a clean desk. Granted, this is primarily accomplished by their somewhat annoying (but also endearing!) habit of constantly pushing things off of desks. But…still. It simply wouldn’t do to have presidential photo ops take place in front of a Resolute Desk that looks like something salvaged from the set of Sanford and Son.
Cats are mousers. Old houses—and the White House certainly qualifies as one—have a great deal of charm, but they seem to be particular magnets for mice. This is especially true of an older home that hosts a higher-than-average number of banquets and dinner parties.
This is why a Mouser-in-Residence makes such purr-fect sense. Skeptical? The Brits have long recognized the wisdom of deploying a four-legged front line when it comes to pest control, and have commissioned an official Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, who lives in the Prime Minister’s residence, since the 1500s. (The current Chief Mouser, a brown-and-white tabby named Larry, has been at 10 Downing Street since 2011.)
Certain “budget hawk” types like to go on and on and on about “wasteful government spending” and “lazy bureaucrats” and so forth. But a White House cat in her prime is one federal employee who will satisfy even the hawkiest hawk—and she’ll look absolutely adorable while doing so.
A cat won’t poop all over the Great Lawn. Unlike a dog. Just sayin’.
Gwen Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat; My Life in a Cat House: True Tales of Love, Laughter, and Living with Five Felines; Spray Anything: More True Tales of Homer and the Gang; and The Book of PAWSOME: Head Bonks, Raspy Tongues, and 101 Reasons Why Cats Make Us So, So Happy; along with numerous other titles. Her work has been published in nearly two-dozen languages. Gwen lives in Jersey City with her husband, Laurence. She also lives with her two perfect cats--Clayton "the Tripod" and his litter-mate, Fanny--who aren't impressed with any of it. Check out a full list of Gwen's titles on her Amazon.com author page.