As presidential cat, Willow Biden has privileges

As presidential cat, Willow Biden has privileges.

By Kate Bennett, CNN

(CNN) -- In the dog days of summer, Willow the cat rules the roost.

On Friday, Willow's crate was spotted being carried by a staff member from the White House residence to Marine One, the presidential helicopter that will ferry the feline -- along with President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden -- to Rehoboth, Delaware, and the family's beach house.

Whether a cat can appreciate a sojourn by the sea remains questionable, but for Willow, the Rehoboth house is one of several changes of scenery she gets to appreciate as a presidential pet.

"Willow often spends the weekends with the First Family, including in Rehoboth, Wilmington, and Camp David," the first lady's press secretary Michael LaRosa told CNN.

When she is not being whisked away for the weekend, Willow has privileges to roam the White House. She is predominantly restricted to the White House executive residence's private second and third floors, where CNN is told Willow particularly enjoys the solarium, a bright space above the South Portico, where she "receives lots of attention from the Executive Residence staff." In Wilmington and at Camp David, "she often sits on the porch in the sun," says LaRosa.

Back home, Willow also likes to visit working staff in the East Wing, taking leisurely naps on the desk of the press secretary, chasing her toys in and out of offices and generally being open to scratches. Once or twice, Willow has explored beyond her domain, making it as far as the chief usher's office on the main floor, just next to the North entrance.

The East Wing staff has made a sign to alert when Willow is out and about, which features of photo of her face and reads: "Willow is on the prowl! Please keep these doors closed."

The thousands and thousands of square feet Willow now calls home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are a far cry from her humble beginnings as a barn cat in Pennsylvania, where during a campaign speech by Jill Biden, she cozied up to the soon-to-be first lady. For Biden, it was love at first sight.

"Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when she jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks," LaRosa said several months ago. "Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden."

She named her Willow after her hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Though it wouldn't be until January that Willow actually moved into her digs at the White House, she enjoyed staying with Biden acquaintances in Washington, DC, until the timing was right to officially add her to the Biden home.

In December of last year, the Bidens announced the arrival of Commander, a German Shephard puppy. Willow had to wait a bit for the dog situation to shake out. Champ, the Biden's beloved 13-year-old dog died last June, and Major, their younger adopted German Shepherd, had some well-documented issues adapting to the White House. Major was rehomed with family friends.

But like most cats, Willow doesn't concern herself with caring all that much about dogs, though she and Commander now have a "warm and playful relationship," according to LaRosa.

"We don't anthropomorphize their relationship with human terms like 'boss,'" he says, before adding, "However, my money would be on Willow every time."

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