WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time in more than a dozen years, a cat is living at the White House.
Her name is Willow, and she’s a 2-year-old, green-eyed, gray and white farm cat from Pennsylvania, who first caught the eye of first lady Jill Biden out on the campaign trail.
“Willow is settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats, and plenty of room to smell and explore,” said Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson.
Jill Biden had said after her husband, Joe Biden, was elected in November 2020 that they would bring a kitty to the White House, but months passed without a sighting or word of when she would arrive. Then last month, the White House said the cat would come in January.
Willow is named after the first lady’s hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The short-haired tabby made quite an impression on Jill Biden after she jumped up on stage and interrupted her remarks during a 2020 campaign stop in Pennsylvania, LaRosa said.
“Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden,” he said. The owner gave the first lady the cat, who was kept away from the White House until the time was right to move her and her litter box in.
The White House has been without a feline resident since India, President George W. Bush’s cat, who died at the mansion in January 2009, just before the end of his term. Before that, President Bill Clinton had his cat, Socks, at the White House, too.
Stacy Cordery, who teaches history and leadership at Dickinson State University, said welcoming a pet is always a happy time for any family, and that dog and cat ownership could help boost the Bidens’ public appeal at a time of political trouble for the president.
Cordery, who has written books about President Theodore Roosevelt and his family, noted the contrast between Biden and his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, who did not have a pet at the White House during his presidency.
“I do think that part of their goal is to make the White House feel more approachable,” Cordery said of the Bidens.
They have owned cats in the past, but not since the death of their kitty Daisy.
Willow joins Commander, a German shepherd puppy Joe Biden introduced in December as a birthday gift from the president’s brother James Biden and his wife, Sara. White House press secretary Jen Psaki teased that Willow could show up someday at one of her daily briefings.
“She has a standing invitation. It would be purrrfect,” Psaki tweeted, adding #COTUS — which stands for “Cat of the United States.”
The Bidens had two other German shepherds, Champ and Major, at the White House before Commander.
But Major, a 3-year-old rescue dog, started behaving aggressively after he arrived in January 2021, including a pair of biting incidents. The White House had said Major was still adjusting to his new home, and he was sent back to the Bidens’ Delaware home for training.
The Bidens, after consulting with dog trainers, animal behaviorists and veterinarians, decided to follow the experts’ collective recommendation and send Major to live in a quieter environment with family friends, LaRosa said last month. Champ died in June at age 13.