Joe and Jill Biden confirmed in a new interview that a cat will soon be joining them at the White House, though it remains unclear how the Biden’s two German shepherds — including the now infamously nippy Major — will respond to the development. Speaking with Today, Jill Biden said of the cat that “she is waiting in the wings” to move in and insisted that the special training Major has received has included time in a shelter with cats. The president, meanwhile, denied that it was his idea to add the cat — and they refused to confirm when, exactly, the cat would arrive:
To be clear, the news was also no cat in a bag: Adding a feline to the White House menagerie has long been part of the Bidens’ (or at least Jill Biden’s) plan to bring a new normalcy to the place. As Petsradar.com noted just after Inauguration Day, no cat has occupied the White House since India “Willie” Bush, a female American Shorthair who reigned over the grounds from 2001 to 2009. At least 11 U.S. presidents have allegedly lived with cats, according to the cat-picture authority Pictures-of-cats.org, while the editor of Mustlovecats.net told The Hill in 2013 that, in fact, 12 presidents have actually dared to allow cats near the Situation Room.
The Obama family opted against indulging any cats in the White House, which one cat-behavior expert decried at the time as “a missed opportunity for pet bipartisanship.” The Trump family, afterward, only had room for one authoritarian in the White House. So since 2009, the most notable developments in cat politics have been left to the internet — like the cat who mercilessly trolled former vice-president Al Gore in 2012:
In March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned that the Biden cat would “break the internet,” but the president — who is attempting to marshal an enormous infrastructure package through Congress while championing how boring his administration is — has apparently decided to throw caution to the wind.
How well the Biden cat will take to life at the White House, where they are undoubtedly many vacuum cleaners, or to foreign relations with the Bidens’ dogs — remains to be seen. And as the Clinton family’s cat, Socks, showed the world, being a White House cat can also mean being hounded by another adversary:
Socks was a ubiquitous presence at the White House during the Clinton years and became famous enough that a D.C. hotel held a “Socks Appeal” competition in 1993, during which a semi-expert panel, including the editor of Cat Fancy and Garfield creator Jim Davis, tried to find a another cat who looked like Socks from some 1,200 entries. (The winner received — and likely quickly decided to disregard — a hand-crafted cat bed which was a to-scale model of the White House.)
The other unknown is how well the Biden cat will be able to adjust to the rancor of hyper-polarized American politics. It is not yet clear, for instance, whether Trump-world operatives have already begun seeking out dirt on the cat and indeed whether that was really why the FBI raided the home of Rudy Giuliani this week. But while presidential politics is ruthless, as anyone owned by a cat can attest, the animals are far from defenseless and aren’t afraid to use their many skills, particularly indifference, to put others in their place.