Cats have a regal air and seem aware of their power over humans. Large cats, such as lions, have often been the symbol of monarchy, and statues of lions have graced palaces and luxurious residences of kings. Cats were worshiped in ancient Egypt, and the image of the cat dominates ancient Egypt.
One can easily make the association between political power and cats, however, given the fact that cats tend to have a will of their own and are not exactly the most obedient and submissive of features, many people who crave power have preferred dogs. However, there are some notable cat lovers among presidents and prime ministers.
American presidents in the 19th century had their share of animals, but these were not usually animals meant for cuddling and petting but had a practical value such as horses. Some presidents owned rare birds and even lizards, these creatures had mainly a decorative function or were objects for curiosity and study. In the late 19th and early 20th century, pet ownership among presidents became more popular, and many presidents had large menageries of animals, particularly Teddy Roosevelt, who seemed to own any animal that could legally be owned by anyone. President McKinley had kittens, but most other presidents preferred dogs to cats.
There is the famous portrait of Calvin Coolidge’s First Lady Grace Anne with a collie, but the family also had a cat named Tiger. Woodrow Wilson had a cat named Puffins, but Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, and Kennedy tended to focus on photographs with dogs rather than their cats. The canine trend among politicians culminated with Richard Nixon’s speech featuring his dog Checkers.
While President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy owned a Siamese cat, felines played second fiddle to dogs in the White House until the Clinton Presidency.
Presidential cats finally got the attention they deserved with the ascendancy of Socks Clinton, who was a black and white cat owned by Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea. Once when the president’s daughter was at a piano lesson, a stray cat wandered in and walked right into Chelsea’s arms. Socks traveled with the Clintons from the governor’s mansion in Arkansas to the White House. Socks was a philanthropist and often shared its food with a stray cat called Slippers. Children who visited the White House were given a warm introduction with an animated version of Socks.
However, Sock’s dominance as the official presidential pet ended in 1997 when the Clintons adopted a Labrador they named Buddy. This development was a disaster for Socks, who felt a dislike for the dog. First Lady Hillary Clinton reported that Socks, “despised Buddy from the first sight instantly and forever.” President Clinton commented, “I did better with the Palestinians and Israelis that I did was Socks and Buddy.” Unfortunately, coexistence was not possible for the presidential cat and dog, and Socks went to live with Betty Currie, the president’s secretary after President Clinton left office. There is little doubt that such a decision would have sparked controversy if Clinton had still been in office. Socks spent over a decade with the Curries and was even allowed to travel to and appear in the Arkansas Christmas parade in 2002, and was also taken on speaking engagements with Currie. Socks passed away at the age of 20 in 2007.
Another head of state who was an enthusiastic cat lover was the sometimes cantankerous and delightfully eccentric British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Some of Churchill’s crankiness can be excused on the fact that he presided over one of the most difficult chapters in British history and fought off the Nazi threat in World War II. Churchill always took the time to enjoy the company of his cats both at 10 Downing St. and in his private residences. Churchill was known to snap at people occasionally when he was in a tense mood, and not often with an apology, but he always felt remorse when he snapped at one of his cats.
Churchill had two cats he was particularly fond of called Mickey Tabby and Tango Marmalade. In his biography of Churchill The Last Lion William Manchester related an incident in which Churchill was speaking to Lord Chancellor on the phone. Mickey Tabby was playing with the phone and Churchill exclaimed, “Get off the line you fool!” He then explained to Lord Chancellor that he was talking to his cat. Manchester wrote that Churchill offered the cat the kind of apologies he never extended to human beings by cajoling the pet and asking, “Don’t you love me anymore?” Mickey kept his distance from the Prime Minister for a day or so, and even when Churchill was inundated with important business, he found time to announce to his valet in the morning, “My Mickey has come to see me this morning. All is forgiven.”
It is not true that behind every great leader is a cat. Some cats have been tired of taking a secondary role to politicians and have decided to seek the halls of power themselves. Barsik is a cat that ran as a mayor in the Siberian town Barnaul. The townspeople had grown tired of corrupt leaders and decided they needed a change. Barsik received 91% of the vote, but he was not officially registered.
One cat that has been registered for the 2016 election is Limberbutt McCubbins. He is a Democrat tabby running on a platform of higher wages, an equitable tax code and affordable healthcare for animals.
One of the most famous pet politicians that met with some success was Hank the cat who got 6000 write-ins for the Senate race in Virginia. The coon cat passed away in 2014, but despite his demise, he still has 112,000 Facebook followers.
Stubbs is an orange cat who has been the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska since 1997. He takes a daily trip to a restaurant and drinks water mixed with catnip in a glass goblet, and is even rumored to be eyeing a Senate run.