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  • July 02, 2024 5 min read

    As we know well, the Catosphere is highly regulated, shrouded in mystery, and suspicious of those who profess interest in it. But we also know that we are canine-and-cat-chroniclers, and as such must not - will not - be discouraged. So it is with a lion’s heart and a determined chin that we bring you a Very Special Column All About Cats and their colossal contributions to our great nation. For as we celebrate Independence Day, what better time to look into the history of arguably the most independent creatures of all and note their proximity to the seat of American power?

    Our story begins in 1620, when a capable company of cats made plans to leave the rainy shores of England in search of sun, statehood, and above all, solitude. Cats had long been employed on boats to keep them free from interlopers and hungry rodents to protect sailors’ food stores, and this gave rise to the means of accomplishing their audacious goal. In classic cat fashion, they resolved to persuade a bunch of humans that They, The People, lacked sufficient freedom in their own land and should thus go somewhere more accommodating. This wasn’t hard for the cats; cats are smart and humans, especially English ones (of whom your columnist is one, mea culpa) tend to overestimate, among other things, their adaptability. And so it came to pass that in September of that year, after a few false starts, the cats were on their way across the Atlantic. 

    (The cats asked me to note here that those false starts would not have happened had they not been compelled to allow the humans take charge, and that is one of the reasons that cats have insisted on independence ever since, and declared it much earlier than 1776.)

    Having traversed the ocean, the cats disembarked and, in common with their human counterparts, set about creating a colony. Unlike their human counterparts, their fur and significant smarts rendered them impervious to the cold winter that greeted them and so once they set themselves up with some comfy beds, they immediately had a seafood feast. Fun feline fact, it is this feast that created our association of cats with fishing and fish.

    Feast eaten and dishes cleared, the cats began to disperse; some remained in what is now Massachusetts, others moved south and westwards to increasingly warmer climes. As they did so, their thick, long hair became less and less necessary, and accordingly their kittens were born with shorter coats; the American Shorthair was born! This wonderful breed remains one of the most popular in the United States and beyond, and has retained the resilience and adaptability of its feline forefathers, thriving in the hottest and coldest corners of the country and even taking up residence in the White House which of course was always the plan. 

    All good things to those who wait, and after a century or so in the hinterland, the cats finally persuaded a president to share his home with not one but two kittens! President Lincoln’s cats, Tabby and Dixie, were the gift of his Secretary of State, William Seward, who was persuaded to make the presentation by a cat descended from a prominent Salem family; as if by magic, the cats were IN!  Instantly bewitched, Lincoln’s respect and admiration for felines grew to the point that he rescued three orphaned kittens whilst visiting General Grant during the Civil War. History did not record what kind of collar Lincoln favored, an egregious omission, but we feel confident in our assertion that whatever kind, it would have been red, white, and blue to match the colors of our great nation’s flag - a bit like this one

    Following the triumph of the American Shorthairs, the Siamese were next, spearheaded by the imaginatively named Siam who was a gift to President Rutherford Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes, from an American diplomat stationed in Bangkok. This cat was the first of its breed to come to the USA but by no means the last, with Siamese cats quickly becoming a popular pet for subsequent presidents - Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter had Siamese cats - and for families all over America. Elegant, graceful, and patrician - the Jackie Kennedy of cats; who could resist? Well, it turns out the answer is the Shorthair, who, by the early noughties, were determined to regain primacy. Leading the counter-revolution was India Bush, an oil baron cat who rode a wave of black gold from the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    TL;DR: she believed she could so she did.

    Known as President George W Bush’s pet, the truth is that India was instrumental in many top-level decisions. In keeping with her status, India elected to have self-grooming stations installed in both the east and west wings of the White House, the chief feature of which were the amazing EZ Mount Self-Grooming Brushes. Mission accomplished. But as remarkable as the power and influence of India Bush was, it was her immediate predecessor who is the most famous first family feline, and that of course was Socks; as befits his historical significance, it is with his story that we shall conclude, chronology shronology...

    ...The Clintons rescued Socks as a kitten and brought him to the White House where he embarked on a routine of sleeping, snacking, and skulking around the house and grounds, as well as feuding with his bitter rival, Buddy the Dog. Such was Socks’ charisma, he soon attracted a loyal and devoted fanbase who followed his every move - so much for solitude - and received hundreds of letters, cards, and gifts each week from well-wishers. As savvy a politician as Bill Clinton, and equally charming, Socks sent thanks to all those who had written to him on headed White House notecards, and it was this act that caught the attention of a congressman who - and this is true - launched an investigation into Socks. The fool. 

    According to the congressman, Socks should not have used White House stationary or postage as he was not entitled to spend taxpayer dollars.

    According to Socks, NO ONE CARES, KILLJOY.

    Having been widely reported, the investigation went nowhere and Socks continued to be a fan favorite, as well as the subject of a book, together with Buddy - !!! - by none other than Hillary Clinton herself. 

    Independent, strong-minded, and full of grit and determination, cats really are the embodiment of America herself. As we celebrate the 4th of July, don’t forget to raise a glass to the great cats of our great nation, and make a toast to their health! We shall be toasting you, your families, and your cats*.

    Happy Independence Day one and all! 🐾🐈🐈‍⬛🐱🇺🇸🗽♥️💫

     

    *also your dogs but the Cat Council insisted that be a footnote. 

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