The president fills many roles: a leader for the nation, America’s liaison to the world, and in many cases, the guy who ensures that heartworm pills have been taken and belly rubs have been administered. As long as there have been U.S. presidents in office, there have been famous pets living in the White House, too (up until the most recent administration, that is).
“Being the leader of the free world is likely a pretty stressful job. A dog or cat knows nothing of politics, and is a reminder of the simple life. Throwing a ball with a dog, or playing hunting games with a cat, is a brief escape from the pressures of the job,” says Dr. Liz Bales, VMD, founder of Doc and Phoebe’s Cat Co. “The bond between people and their pets may have many health benefits, including increasing fitness, and lowering stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. There are emotional benefits too, like decreasing feelings of loneliness and just plain making their person happy—and presidents are no exception. When the going gets tough, a dog or cat will always be a best friend.”
Herein, we’ve rounded up all these best friends who’ve taken up residence in the White House alongside their famous owners. From cats and dogs to raccoons and horses—and even, on one occasion, a one-legged rooster—it’s quite an animal farm.
Cleopatra and Caesar
John Adams, the first president to take up residence in the White House, wasn’t about to leave his pets behind when he moved in. Instead, he brought his two horses, Cleopatra and Caesar, with him to Washington, and had stables constructed on the White House property to house them. In fact, it was reportedly none other than Cleopatra and Caesar who brought the second president to his inauguration ceremony.
Once a stray, Bill and Hillary Clinton initially adopted Socks when they were living in Little Rock, Arkansas, later bringing him to the White House when Bill began his tenure as president in 1993. The black-and-white tuxedo cat lived in the White House for both of Clinton’s presidential terms and was eventually joined by Buddy, a Labrador Retriever adopted by the Clintons in 1997. Socks lived for 19 years, eventually passing from cancer in 2009.
Him and Her
Lyndon B. Johnson wasn’t content to move into the White House with just his wife and children. His prized beagles, Him and Her, also came along for the ride. In fact, LBJ was such a dog lover that he had the White House doghouse redesigned to provide more space to his precious pooches. Unfortunately, the pups didn’t last long in Washington; Her died just one year after LBJ entered the White House and Him followed suit two years later.
While many presidential pets moved into the White House with their owners, Miss Beazley—the Bush family’s Scottish Terrier—was adopted during George W. Bush’s time in office. The pup was a gift from the then-president to his wife, Laura Bush, in 2004, and moved back to Texas with the family before passing following a battle with lymphoma in 2014.
Murray the Outlaw of Falahill
Miss Beazley wasn’t the only Scottish Terrier to take up residence in the White House. Fala (full name Murry the Outlaw of Falahill) was given to Franklin Delano Roosevelt by a cousin in 1940 and moved into the White House that same year. One of the White House’s more famous non-human inhabitants, Fala was known for his ability to do tricks, as well as the president’s staggering devotion to him. In addition to insisting that only he feed the dog, Roosevelt even famously name-dropped the pooch during a 1944 speech to the Teamsters Union in which he refuted accusations that he’d accidentally left the dog behind after a trip to the Aleutian Islands.
Though the majority of White House pets have been those of the feline or canine variety, Calvin Coolidge decided that the mansion was also the ideal place to house a raccoon. After being sent the raccoon, later named Rebecca, to be cooked for Thanksgiving dinner in 1926, the Coolidges opted to spare her life instead and keep her as a pet. In addition to building her a tree house and taking her on walks around the White House property, Rebecca was also reportedly allowed to roam off-leash throughout the White House during her time there.
Sunny and Bo
Two of the most well-known presidential pets, Sunny and Bo are a duo of Portuguese Water Dogs who lived with the Obama family during Barack Obama’s tenure as president. Bo was given to the family in 2009, his particular breed chosen because the family wanted a hypoallergenic dog to avoid triggering daughter Malia’s allergies. And, in fact, Bo wasn’t the only member of his litter to earn a spot in a government official’s home: his littermate Cappy, was brought home by Senator Ted Kennedy’s family. In 2013, Bo was joined at the White House by another Portuguese Water Dog, Sunny.
Herbert Hoover was one of the few presidents to actually use his pet to aid his campaign. In an attempt to make Hoover seem like a man of the people, photos of the then-presidential-candidate with his dog, a Belgian Shepherd named king Tut, were released to the media, garnering Hoover a wealth of attention and praise. Sadly, shortly after moving into the White House, the dog passed away at age eight.
John Adams wasn’t the only president to keep horses at the White House—in fact, JFK did the same. A gift from Lyndon B. Johnson to John F. Kennedy’s eldest child, Caroline, the First Daughter dubbed her pony Macaroni, and frequently rode the horse around the White House lawn. Macaroni was far from the Kennedy family’s only White House pet, however; the family also kept multiple dogs, a cat, a rabbit, hamsters, parakeets, and other ponies during their time in the White House.
Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection
Rebecca the raccoon may not have been the strangest pet to take up residence in the White House. Benjamin Harrison, the country’s 23rd president, was famous for keeping two opossums, named Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection, in the White House with him during his four years in office.
Gerald Ford’s dog, Liberty (full name Honor’s Foxfire Liberty Hume) was given to the president and his wife, Betty Ford, during the family’s first year in the White House. Just a year after her arrival, Liberty gave birth to a litter of puppies in the White House, and continued to live with the Ford family until her death in 1984.
Four-legged friends aren’t the only pets who joined their human companions in the White House. During Dwight D. Eisenhower’s time in office, he brought home a parakeet named Gabby, who lived with the Eisenhower family in the White House for three years until her death and is buried on the White House grounds.
Millie, an English Springer Spaniel belonging to George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, not only lived in the White House with the First Family, she’s one of the few presidential pets with a New York Times bestseller under her belt. The pup and Barbara Bush released Millie’s Book, a children’s book, in 1990. Millie also gave birth to puppies in the White House, including Ranger, adopted by the Bushes, and Spot Fetcher, raised by George W. Bush.
Martin Van Buren easily holds the record for the most exotic pets to ever set foot in the White House. The eighth president was given a pair of tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman, although Congress eventually prevented them from becoming full-time White House residents, and they were later donated to a zoo.
Misty Malarky Ying Yang
Joining the ranks of the White House’s more creatively-named pets is Misty Malarky Ying Yang, the Siamese cat belonging to president Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy. In addition to her unique moniker, Misty held the distinction of being the last cat to live in the White House from 1981 to 1993, when Bill Clinton and Socks moved in.
President Warren G. Harding’s Airedale Terrier, Laddie Boy, served alongside the first family during their time in the White House, from 1921 until Harding’s death in 1923. The devoted pup, who died in 1929, six years after his master’s passing, was later immortalized in a copper statue that is now part of the Smithsonian’s collection.
Theodore Roosevelt kept one of the more peculiar presidential pets during his time in office. In addition to a collection of dogs, cats, guinea pigs, a rat, pig, rabbit, barn owl, hyena, pony, bear, snake, macaw, and badger, the 26th president was the proud owner of a one-legged rooster.
President William McKinley was one of the many presidential bird owners, keeping a yellow-headed Mexican parrot in the White House during his time in office. The bird, named Washington Post, reportedly showed his patriotic spirit by regularly whistling “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
While Ronald and Nancy Reagan kept a menagerie of pets during their relationship, including cats, dogs, and horses, their most famous animal companion was Rex, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who lived with them in the White House from 1985 to 1989. The dog was reportedly terrified of the Lincoln Bedroom, but quite happily slept in his dog house, a veritable pet palace complete with portraits of his owners, fashioned by the Washington Children’s Museum.
A bunch of sheep
Though most presidential pets were adopted or purchased for companionship, President Woodrow Wilson kept his for financial reasons. The 28th president maintained a herd of 48 sheep during his time in the White House and used them as a means of keeping the White House lawn trimmed without having to pay gardeners. In fact, the sheep actually brought in significant cash, earning more than $52,000 for the Red Cross when their wool was auctioned off.