More Cat in HISStory!
In our ongoing series on Execative Kittehs, we fondly remember the poor, long-suffering Tiger, one of the menagerie of animals that infested the White House during Calvin Coolidge’s presidency (1923 to 1929). The smiling Officer is a member of White House Security, who posed proudly with Tiger after he “saved” the cat who had “got lost” by wandering away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for teh umpteenth time. The one not smiling is Tiger.
Living with a quiet animal-lover may sound ideal, but Tiger knew all too well about the down side of living with Silent Cal. While Mr. Coolidge had nuthin’ to say to Congress or the American Public, he did feel more than a little at home with the four-legged constituency. He and his critter-crazy wife Grace came to the White House with several dogs, rabbits, raccoons, mockingbirds, canaries, a donkey and a goose. Soon, word got out about Cal’s animal fixation and so peeps seeking favors would try to soften up the flinty old man by sending all kinds of animal gifts. “Kind people send us animals, puppies, kittens, queer animals sometimes—wombats and such,” the President wrote to a friend, conveniently forgetting to mention the pygmy hippo, the baby bear, the wallaby, the miniature antelope and a pair of lion cubs dropped off by the Sultan of Oman.
You can imagines the smell, right? Or the frustration Tiger must of felt at watching Rebecca, the Raccoon, steal kibble from a clearly marked cat bowl. Or the humiliation of surrendering the best napping spot in the East Wing (the Empire settee in the Red Room) to Smokey the Bobcat. On top of all that, Mr. Coolidge had a particular fondness for practical jokes, most of which revolved around hiding cats in various places for his wife to find – such as the dumb waiter or the roof. When Mr. President was found “in the basement putting a black cat in a crate with a rooster, just to see what would happen,” Tiger knew it was time to make a break for it.
And so he walked off. Several times. Each time, the Coolidges noticed, somehow, that one of the multitude was missing, and issued “Missing Cat Bulletin” over the radio. White House Security was ever on alert, dragging Tiger home from the bushes outside the Old Executive Building. Mrs. Coolidge had a special collar with “Tiger – White House” engraved on the name plate. Then one day, he didn’t come back.
“Perhaps,” the grieving Mrs. Gracie wondered, “instead of safeguarding him with the collar, we had made him a too attractive and tempting souvenir.”
Or perhaps that attractive souvenir was pawned for a bus ticket across town and a boat ride down the Potomac. Anything to get away from that zoo.