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A gator and a raccoon named Rebecca: Pets that have called the White House home

The Biden family is about to welcome a cat. But, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has really seen it all.
Credit: Library of Congress/ Theodore Roosevelt Center/

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — While the halls of the White House have been walked by our nation's leaders and their families, there's also a long history of four-legged companions tagging along. 

Most recently, President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden welcomed their German Shepherds Major and Champ back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

While there have been hiccups along the way, it appears things have settled enough for the Biden's to welcome a furry addition to their family with a cat's arrival coming "pretty soon."

The new cat would join the ranks of President Bill Clinton's cat Socks and President Ronald Reagan's cats Cleo and Sara.

But it turns out, the pets that have been kept at the White House get a little more wild than just cats and dogs – literally. 

Over the years, presidents have been noted for having alligators, ponies, raccoons and bears for pets, and that just skims the surface.

Here's a look at some of the more uncommon pets that have called the White House home: 

President Calvin Coolidge

Rebecca the raccoon was said to have been given to the Coolidge family in 1926 by a supporter from Mississippi. The animal was suggested to be served up for dinner but was spared when the family fell in love with her, according to the White House Historical Association. 

According to the National Parks Service, the Coolidge family also received lion cubs, antelope, bears and a pygmy hippo from foreign diplomats.

Credit: Library of Congress

President John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams actually kept a pet at the White House that is all too familiar in Florida – an alligator. He reportedly received it as a gift in 1826 from the Marquis de Lafayette.

The president's wife, Louisa Catherine Adams, also kept a massive amount of silkworms at the White House, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society. In a diary entry, the then-president detailed one night how she was winding silk from several hundred of the insects after they dined with a guest.

President Theodore Roosevelt

The 26th president of the United States had a rather large collection of pets during his time in the White House, according to the National Parks Service. 

His family had parrots, guinea pigs, rabbits and most notably a badger named Josiah "whose temper was short but whose nature was fundamentally friendly."

Also among the Roosevelt family's odd animals were a one-legged rooster, hyena, bear and lizard.

Credit: Theodore Roosevelt Center/Library of Congress

President Andrew Jackson

His most interesting pets, according to historical notations, came from well-known explorers Lewis and Clark. The duo is said to have given the president a pair of grizzly cubs and a parrot. 

The Presidential Pet Museum says Jackson also had a foul-mouthed parrot that infamously cursed at the president's funeral. 

President John F. Kennedy

A total of 23 pets lived with the Kennedys at the White House, according to the JFK Library. And while a majority were dogs, there was not a lack of other domestic animals roaming the grounds. 

A pony named Macaroni, a rabbit named Zsa Zsa and a canary named Robin were among the packed crew living with the family during JFK's presidency.

Credit: JFK Library

President James Buchanan

While they weren't kept at the White House, Buchanan was sent two bald eagles from the Sierra Nevada region, according to Lancaster History's website. The majestic birds were instead kept in his backyard in Wheatland where they walked "in stately dignity."

President William Taft

A beloved cow called Pauline Wayne took the spotlight under Taft's presidency. The old girl was used as a dairy source but was said to have been adored beyond her role. The White House Historical Association adds she was kept in the same stables as the presidential carriage horses. 

Credit: Library of Congress

President Martin Van Buren

A pair of tiger cubs called the White House home after they were given to Martin Van Buren by the Sultan of Oman, according to the National Parks Service. 

The Smithsonian National Zoo reports the president wanted to keep them, but Congress said that the wild animals belonged to the public.

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