For generations, a beloved tradition in the United States has been falling in love with the pets owned by U.S. presidents. These dogs, cats, and pets of all shapes and sizes have captured the hearts of Americans and made the White House a much livelier place!
We can’t list all of the pets owned by U.S. presidents over the years. But we can highlight some of the cutest, most famous, and surprising pets who have ever graced the White House.
Doggos are the most common pets owned by U.S. presidents
#1: Pushinka, President Kennedy’s Russian pup
Pushinka’s arrival at the White House in 1961 may have been an act of diplomacy or a show of Soviet Russian humour. That’s because Pushinka’s mom, Strelka, had made history in 1960 as one of the first living beings to ever successfully go to space. Strelka’s breakthrough was a blow for the Americans in the Cold War Era Space Race.
Despite the somewhat boasting gesture, the Kennedy family accepted Pushinka without hesitation. Once it was determined that she wasn’t secretly a Russian spy, the fluffy white mixed dog made the official list of pets owned by U.S. presidents.
JFK would later call Pushinka’s offspring, “pupniks.”
#2: Spotty Fetcher, the only dog to live in the White House twice!
Spotty was a boisterous English Springer Spaniel who was born in the White House during the George H.W. Bush presidency from 1989 to 1993. Spotty was given to George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, who named her after a famous baseball player. Little did Spotty know, she wouldn’t be leaving the White House for good.
In 2001, George W. Bush won the presidency, and packed little Spotty up to move back into the White House. She’s the only dog to have lived in the White House under two different presidencies.
#3: Major and Champ, Joe Biden’s stately German Shepherds
As of January 2021, German Shepherds Major and Champ have moved all their chew toys and doggy beds into the White House. And, they’ve made history while they’re at it! For his part, Major is the first presidential dog to be adopted from a rescue organisation. At just two years old, this young pup has already brought energy to the White House grounds.
Champ, on the other hand, is a paw-litical pro at this point. He was just a puppy when Biden became Vice President to Barack Obama (a dog-lover with a pair of Portuguese Water Dogs, himself), so he’s familiar with life in the public eye. Lucky for these doggos, President Biden has a team who can regularly exercise and play with Champ and Major.
Cats who have called the White House home
America’s leaders aren’t just dog lovers. Quite a few cats have also called the White House home!
#4: Tabby and Dixie, the first felines in the White House
The United States has seen a division between cat people and dog people since the American Revolution. However, it wasn’t until 1861, when President Abraham Lincoln took office, that the White House welcomed its first cats.
Not only did President Lincoln introduce his two cats, Tabby and Dixie, to the presidential grounds, but he also adopted more kittens during his time in office. As one of the more stressful terms in American history, historians claim that President Lincoln cherished the moments that he could relax and play with his beloved cats.
#5: Socks, President Clinton’s camera-loving cat
As far as feline celebrities go, Socks knew how to capitalise on his screen time. During his time in the White House from 1993 to 2001, this black-and-white Domestic Shorthair was routinely photographed in all the most important spots. You could find him at the Press Secretary lectern, on the lawn where his beloved POTUS was giving speeches, and sitting at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.
Socks came from humble beginnings. The Clintons adopted him from the street. But, during his time in office, Socks would become one of the most recognisable pets owned by U.S. presidents.
The strangest pets owned by U.S. Presidents
It hasn’t always been scrappy pups and fluffy kittens. In fact, you’d be surprised at the range of animals who have resided at the White House!
#6: Josiah, President Teddy Roosevelt’s…badger?
To be sure, the Roosevelt administration had their hands full during their stay in the White House from 1901 to 1909. That’s because this outdoorsy president had all but filled the White House with every type of pet: ponies, snakes, chickens, rats, pigs, lizards, and more. And perhaps the most surprising of all pets owned by U.S. presidents was Josiah, the badger.
The story goes that Josiah was a gift from a 12-year-old girl from Kansas whom the president met while on an official tour. Receiving the two-week-old badger was apparently the highlight of this animal-loving president’s trip.
Josiah had a habit of nipping the presidential family and staff, but he easily burrowed into the heart of President Teddy. Eventually, the family decided that he would be happier in New York’s Bronx Zoo, where he wouldn’t clash with the president’s many other pets.
#7: Rebecca, President Coolidge’s Thanksgiving Gift
Nowadays, the typical Thanksgiving meal in the U.S. consists of a huge turkey, surrounded by mashed potatoes, green beans, and cranberry sauce. But back in the time of President Coolidge’s term, from 1923 to 1929, the menu was more flexible.
Still, it was a bit of a surprise when the state of Mississippi gifted the presidential family with a traditional Southern entree, a raccoon. The Coolidges, whose love for animals rivaled President Roosevelt, opted to adopt the raccoon rather than roast her, and Rebecca became an official pet of the White House.
As it turns out, raccoons don’t make great pets, and Rebecca made life difficult for everyone from the secret service to the White House decorators. But President Coolidge had a soft spot for Rebecca. He regularly walked the grounds with her on a leash, and would bring her along for family vacations. Apparently, he couldn’t find a suitable Pet Sitter for such a challenging companion!
#8: Woodrow Wilson’s flock of sheep
Alright, an entire flock of sheep might not qualify for a list of pets owned by U.S. presidents, but these fluffy farm animals did make quite a statement when they were introduced during World War I.
More than simply companion animals, the sheep had a job to do. During the scarcity of the war, the flock kept the grass short to save manpower. The White House even auctioned off their wool to raise over $50,000 for the Red Cross war fund!
Amazingly, the daughter of one of those wool buyers recently donated her stash to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum. There, the squishy wool skein serves as a reminder that the White House has been home to all sorts of different animals.
Which of these pets owned by U.S. presidents is your favourite?
Are you drawn to the cat-loving leaders, or do you prefer the White House to be a dog-friendly zone? Maybe you’d like to see another unusual animal in the White House.
One thing is for sure. Americans have always loved the pets owned by U.S. presidents!