The White House has a long history of family pets, some more exotic than others. The first furry friends in the executive mansion belonged to its first presidential residents — John and Abigail Adams — who had two dogs named Juno and Satan. Teddy Roosevelt owned an entire menagerie during his term, including guinea pigs, snakes, birds, several horses, and many other animals. But few Presidents had quite as much affection for their pets as Abraham Lincoln did for his cats, Tabby and Dixie.
Both Tabby and Dixie were gifted to the President by William Seward, his secretary of state, and the two kittens lived at the White House (likely along with other strays invited by the commander in chief). Many anecdotes from government officials, family, and friends speak to Lincoln’s unyielding affection for his feline friends. Caleb Carman, a friend of the President’s, once said that Lincoln could “talk to [cats] for half an hour at a time.” Lincoln himself, known for his sharp wit, once quipped that “Dixie is smarter than my whole Cabinet!” And supposedly, the President was even distracted at the 1865 Siege of Petersburg during the Civil War due to the nearby meowing of kittens. But the anecdote that most cements Lincoln’s ailurophilia into history comes from his wife, Mary Todd. When asked if her husband had any hobbies, she had one simple reply: “Cats.”