Caturday Felid: Lincoln and cats

July 30, 2011 • 5:25 am

by Greg Mayer

During this 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, it is edifying to recall that Abraham Lincoln was not only a great president, but a great cat-lover.  “Disunion”, the NY Times series on the 150th anniversary  (which is generally quite good), in a piece on regimental mascots and pets, notes that

Even President Lincoln wasn’t immune to the solace provided by animals during the war. When Mary Todd Lincoln was asked if her husband had a hobby, she replied, “cats.”

Lincoln on $5 bill and cat.
(From The PeraLion on tumblr)

The National Park Service elaborates on his aiulurophilia:

Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President, loved cats and could play with them for hours. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln replied, “cats.” President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginia in March of 1865. The civil war was drawing to a close and the enormous task of reuniting the country lay ahead, yet the President made time to care for three orphaned kittens. Abraham Lincoln noticed three stray kittens in the telegraph hut. Picking them up and placing them in his lap, he asked about their mother. When the President learned that the kittens’ mother was dead, he made sure the kittens would be fed and a good home found for them.

Darwin, who was born on the same day as Lincoln, preferred dogs.

16 thoughts on “Caturday Felid: Lincoln and cats

  1. You’d think that the Civil War would have simultaneously quenched American’s blood lust and convinced us that maybe, just maybe, war isn’t such a bright idea after all. Yet, in the century and a half since then, we’ve been in two global wars and a half-dozen regional ones — the last two still ongoing, with us as the invaders.

    What the hell is worng with us?


      1. Oh, certainly — by “war,” I meant the big conflagrations, not the constant drone of small-scale operations where all we do is kill brown-skinned people by the hundreds.

        Afghanistan is included in my inexact figure. The recent conquest of Panama isn’t — and only because the American citizenry and the punditocracy don’t think of it as a war.

        An accurate statement of “scores, if not hundreds of wars in the past century and a half” would be dismissed outright as the ravings of a lunatic entirely out of touch with reality. But “two global wars and a half-dozen regional wars” is something all will instantly recognize.


      2. Wow! That is nuts!

        I can’t wait for China’s rise to emasculate US. Nothing but war can stop that now. :-/

    1. I don’t think that war is so simple that people “tire” of it.

      More likely its disappearance is correlated to democracy and safety. In which case it connects through the Gini index to religion; religious societies should on the main be more conflicted. US fits the bill.

      But I find it amusing that an effective theory of war in Europe is that people tire. One of Sweden’s modern authors (Gillou) once described our history roughly thusly:

      “Sweden has been in war with Russia five times over the last several centuries. Two times we won. Two times they won. And one was a draw.”

      So what is the use, huh? Sweden is no longer the old superpower it was (and warfare was the main reason responsible for creating but also destroying that), Russia has kicked that bucket too, and US is soon surpassed by China…

    1. Now now sasqwatch, please do not impugn the qualities of the Great Man! As a fellow possessed by hunting in his early life a dog was a required companion. I like doggies too though I do not go running about killing birdies & beasties! Another new book on Darwin

  2. Albert Schweitzer also had respect for cats. To fulfill his “reverence for life creed,” a cat had gone to sleep on one of his arms laying on his desk while he wrote with the other. When he finised his task he did not want to wake the cat and sat still until the cat awoke.

    1. Oh, that’s nothing. Baihu does that to me at least a couple times a day. I don’t always let him finish his nap…it’s probably about 50% / 50%. Most of the time I wake him, of course, it’s just because my own arm has fallen asleep and I need to restore circulation…after which he’s welcome to resume his nap (and he usually does).



    1. And Darwin loves you too! Feel the warm doggy embrace of Charles Darwin. 🙂
      Come to think of it, I am pretty sure Darwin comes from something like ‘deor wine’ – dear friend.

  3. My favourite dog is the one that sits in the corner and never moves or barks – a statue! The cat likes to nuzzle up and lick it flat on the face.

  4. “Darwin, who was born on the same day as Lincoln, preferred dogs.”

    Damn. I guess this seriously discredits the astrology hypothesis. What a shame. 🙂

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