The past few months have been difficult for the Biden administration, but things are finally starting to turn around. In the past week, we learned that President Biden will get to fill a Supreme Court seat, that the administration started distributing home COVID-19 tests and N95 masks without some embarrassing healthcare.gov-esque debacle, and now, that the White House cat has finally arrived. Are the first two things on that list objectively so much more important than the First Feline that it’s stupid to even list them together? Sure, I guess. But did my small heart grow three sizes when I saw these photos of the cat lounging around the White House? Absolutely.
You see, I’m one of the people the New York Times was mocking with this frankly rude recap of the White House cat drama:
The cat’s arrival was much anticipated after Dr. Biden casually mentioned in a November 2020 interview that she’d love to have a cat in the White House, and later lightheartedly suggested that the animal was “waiting in the wings.” To feline fans everywhere, this might as well have been a blood oath that a cat would soon be revealed.
I am not, as some of my colleagues have suggested, some Cat Fancy–reading feline obsessive (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But apparently the Clintons’ cat, Socks, left a big impression on me as a child. While covering politics for more than a decade has cured me of most of my West Wing–fueled optimism about our system of government, when my president tells me to get excited about a White House cat, I do it.
And really, if anyone deserves mockery, it’s the Bidens, not feline-loving Americans. The
public uproar minor Twitter obsession about this cat wasn’t entirely fueled by a few stray remarks from the First Lady. If the Bidens had simply shown up to the White House with a cat, people would’ve said “Wow, cute!” and quickly moved on. Instead, shortly after the 2020 election, the Bidens informed the media of the cat’s imminent arrival, with CBS Sunday Morning presenting this information as an exclusive bit of “breaking news.”
Obviously, this was tongue in cheek. But in the weirdness vacuum following Donald Trump’s exit from the White House, the fact that the Bidens promised a cat that never materialized stood out as one of the odder things about the new administration. And the Bidens added to the intrigue by making cryptic remarks about the cat every few months. In March 2021, Jill Biden revealed to the Today show that they had settled on a specific cat and “she is waiting in the wings.” Then in September, she told the New York Times that their dog Major’s biting incidents had complicated things and made it sound like adopting a cat was suddenly beyond the Biden White House’s capabilities. “The cat is still being fostered with somebody who loves the cat,” Biden said. “I don’t even know whether I can get the cat back at this point.”
So I was skeptical back in December when the debut of the Bidens’ new puppy, Commander, was accompanied by a promise that the cat would be arriving in January. But here she is with three days to spare. There can be miracles when you believe — or even when you stop believing the president and publicly complain that he isn’t delivering on his most frivolous promise.
And I have to say Willow was worth the wait as she meets all the criteria for a good White House pet.
Cute origin story? Check. Apparently Willow introduced herself to Jill Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign. “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,” said Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesman. “Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden.”
Cute name? I was initially perplexed by “Willow” as it seemed obvious that when the president adopts two pets and names one Commander, the other will be named Chief. But the Times reports, “Willow is named after the first lady’s hometown, Willow Grove, Pa.” Okay, check!
Cute talk of the cat scoping out the White House with pictures to prove it? You bet. “Willow is settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats and plenty of room to smell and explore,” LaRosa said.
Now that this silly drama around Willow’s arrival is behind us, we can simply bask in the joy of having a First Feline. A cat is a great way to lighten the mood around the White House without stuffing a staffer into an Easter bunny costume. Will Willow dress up for Halloween like India, the last cat to occupy the White House, during the George W. Bush administration? Will she star in a bizarre, unreleased video game as Socks did? Or will she forge her own path, maybe by getting into a scrape with Commander and destroying some valuable White House property? The possibilities are endless.