Next week we celebrate President’s Day, which is technically an observation of George Washington’s birthday (on February 22nd). But, there was another well-known president of the United States who had a birthday this month – Abraham Lincoln. This year, it’s Honest Abe which draws our focus, not for his many presidential accomplishments, but for his love of cats!
Our 16th president was the first of any of our presidents to bring felines into the White House during his tenure – a trend that has continued to the modern era, most recently with President Bush’s cat, Willie, and President Biden’s feline, Willow.
President Lincoln was gifted his two kitties, Tabby and Dixie, from his Secretary of State William Seward when it was decided that Lincoln’s dog Fido would have to stay home in Illinois after Abe’s election. The two cats immediately won over the President’s affection.
When the Commander-In-Chief’s attention is so frequently diverted to his faithful felines, it’s hard to imagine Tabby and Dixie didn’t have their heart’s desire during their time in the White House. Lincoln was observed spending long amounts of time sitting, petting, and talking to his two friendly felines.
Tabby was known to be fed from the table during formal dinners. And, upon encountering frustration with his own Cabinet, Lincoln was heard to have said, “Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet! And furthermore, she doesn’t talk back!”
Tabby and Dixie were not the only cats in Lincoln’s favor. He was known to bring home strays from time to time, resulting in his wife, Mary, to comment “cats” were Abe’s hobby.
During the last advances of the Civil War while visiting General Grant, President Lincoln came across three motherless kittens. He took the three of them in his lap and remarked, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand this terrible strife that is going on.”
Colonel Horace Porter watched Lincoln during this encounter and recalled,
“He would wipe their eyes tenderly with his handkerchief, stroke their smooth coats, and listen to them purring their gratitude to him. …at an army headquarters, upon the eve of a great military crisis in the nation’s history, to see the hand which had affixed the signature to the Emancipation Proclamation and had signed the commissions… from the general-in-chief to the lowest lieutenant, tenderly caressing three stray kittens.” [Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Volume IV, p. 146.]
Be sure to check out our other blogs for more tips, tricks, and education when it comes to you and your pet!
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