When a cat jumped onto the stage while Jill Biden was giving a speech, the first lady fell in love with the fur ball.
After the event, President Joe Biden and his wife adopted the tabby and named it Willow after the first lady’s hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Now the feline lives in style at the White House alongside a German shepherd puppy named Commander.
Willow is the first kitty to pounce, play, and nap at the White House since 2009, when former President George W. Bush's black cat, India, ruled the residence. But the first presidential kitties belonged to Abraham Lincoln—he even fed them off gold White House forks.
HOWL TO THE CHIEF
Former President Barack Obama's daughters lobbied hard to get a pet. It worked! The president and first lady accepted a puppy as a gift from one of their friends, Senator Edward Kennedy. The dog was a Portuguese water dog that they named Bo. Then in 2013, the Obamas brought home a second Portuguese water dog, Sunny.
FIRST FAMILY PETS
President George W. Bush became president in 2001, eight years after his father, President George H.W. Bush, was also president. Father and son lived in the White House—and so did their dogs.
Millie was an English springer spaniel that was the first President Bush's family pet. She gave birth to Spotty, who moved into the White House with the seocond President Bush! The commander in chief also had two Scottish terriers named Barney and Miss Beazley, but Spotty was the only pet to live in the White House during two administrations.
But more than dogs have lived in the White House. The wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, had silkworms. Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, had an opossum. And Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, had a raccoon named Rebecca that walked on a leash!
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president, was famous for his many pets. His six kids had snakes, dogs, cats, a badger, birds, guinea pigs, and more. When Roosevelt's son Archie got the measles, his brother Quentin thought a visit from the family pony might cheer him up. So Quentin put the animal on the White House elevator and brought him to Archie's upstairs room.
Quentin's animal adventures didn't end there. Once he borrowed a bunch of snakes from a pet store. Running to show his father, Quentin interrupted an important meeting and dropped the snakes all over his father's desk!
During World War I, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, kept a herd of sheep on the White House lawn to help support the war effort. Many workers were overseas, so the sheep cut the lawn by eating the grass. The wool was auctioned to raise money for the American Red Cross, a group that helps people in emergencies.
Some of the more unusual U.S. presidential pets have been gifts from other world leaders. James Buchanan, the 15th president, received a herd of elephants from the King of Siam (now called Thailand). The Sultan of Oman gave Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, a pair of tiger cubs.
Modern presidents know better than to have wild animals as pets. So what's next? A White House zoo?