The Biden cat is finally out of the bag.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden have been teasing a feline companion to join their two German shepherds (the late Champ and the sometimes temperamental Major) since taking office. (They also recently adopted another German shepherd puppy, Commander.)
And at long last, the White House introduced the presidential tabby on Friday: a striped gray, black and white kitty named Willow.
The Bidens teased that a cat could be joining the first family back in November 2020, and the subject famously came up again during a March 2021 press conference following reports that the younger dog, Major — who made history as the West Wing’s first rescue dog — allegedly bit a member of White House security. White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that Major had caused “a minor injury” to an unnamed individual, before addressing questions about a potential Biden cat.
“Where is the cat? Today is a good day for the cat,” Psaki said at the time. “I don’t have any update on the cat. We know that the cat will break the internet, but I don’t have any update on its status.”
Here are five things to know about the first family feline.
Willow’s name has special significance for the first lady.
The cat is named after Dr. Jill Biden’s hometown of Willow Grove, Pa.
Willow first caught the first lady’s eye after interrupting her campaign speech in 2020.
FLOTUS spokesman Michael LaRosa told the New York Times that “Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when she jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks during a campaign stop. Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden.”
Willow has been living with a foster family for the past year.
The first lady previously told the Times that Willow has been living with a foster family, in part because there was some concern that one of their German shepherds, Major, would be aggressive toward the cat. Major appeared to struggle adjusting to the pressures of living in the West Wing — something animal behavior experts like “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Milan could sympathize with — and the pup has received some additional training. He’s been living in a quieter environment with friends of the family for the past month.
In fact, the first lady told the Times that she was worried about whether she would be able to tear Willow away from her foster home. “I don’t even know whether I can get the cat back at this point,” she said, since the foster family “loves” her. It apparently worked out, as Willow has now been pictured residing in the White House.
So what kind of cat is Willow?
Willow is a domestic shorthair cat — a gray tabby, to be precise, with jade green eyes. Domestic shorthairs are the most popular cat breed in the country, according to Rover.com — they’re basically the mutts of the cat world, coming in all colors, shapes and sizes. The ASPCA estimates there are more than 80 million of them in the U.S. So Willow could be considered the cat of the people. And they are generally healthy cats that live 12 to 14 years or more, on average.
Willow is the first cat to live in the White House in 14 years.
George W. Bush’s black cat India was the last feline to call the West Wing home. But despite the gaps in first cats during the Obama and Trump administrations, there’s been a long history of felines making their marks on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Abraham Lincoln was given two cats, Tabby and Dixie, by his secretary of state — and he once said that Dixie was smarter than his entire cabinet. And of course, President Bill Clinton had Socks, ho became so popular that he starred in a 2017 Super Nintendo platform game, “Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill.”
You can read more about the history of presidential pets here, such as bear cubs on the White House lawn, and alligators in the bathtub.
For now, the White House press photos suggest that Willow seems to be settling in just fine. “Willow is settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats, and plenty of room to smell and explore,” LaRosa said in a statement.