Some cats are such dedicated wanderers that they just won’t stay home—even if “home” happens to be the White House. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, found this out the hard way in 1924 when their cat named Tige (for “Tiger”) went wandering not once but twice. This is the story of Tige’s comings and goings, pieced together from what news reports we could find.
The Coolidge zoo
The Coolidges occupied the White House beginning in August 1923 when Calvin became president after Warren G. Harding’s sudden death. By the time they left in 1929, the Coolidge White House had been home to quite an assortment of animals, including several dogs (we counted thirteen listed by the Presidential Pet Museum), two canaries, a thrush, a goose, a mockingbird, two cats (Tige and Blacky), two raccoons, a donkey, and a bobcat. Then there were two lion cubs, a wallaby, a pygmy hippo, and a black bear. I swear I am not making this up.
Tige’s first disappearance results in radio broadcast, new collar
Mr. Benjamin Fink, the Navy Department
guard who found Tige and returned him
to the White House, poses proudly with the
wayward feline. March 25, 1924.
According to the original photo caption,
Fink found Tige “promenading” around the
Navy Building a few blocks from the White
House and immediately took him back home.
The photo is part of the National Photo
Company Collection, Library of Congress.
The striped tomcat named Tige seems to have been something of an adventurer, and on Friday, March 21, 1924, he went missing from the White House. He could not be found over the weekend, and on the following Monday evening, “at the request of White House officials,” a radio appeal was made for his return. Stations WCAP in Washington and WEAF in New York made the “lookout” broadcast, reporting that the cat had been missing since the previous week. The notice went out to the eastern half of the country.
The appeal worked, as on the following day, a guard found Tige wandering in the vicinity of the Navy Building (which was along Constitution Avenue, a few blocks from the White House) and delivered the cat back home. (Reported in the Boston Daily Globe Mar. 25, 1924.)
On March 27, the Boston Daily Globe reported that “a nice broad collar was bought for Tige today on which his name and address is inscribed.” The collar also had a bell on it (Washington Post, July 24, 1924). The president apparently believed this collar would make it easier to have Tige returned if he got away again, and it probably would have, if a tourist hadn’t later taken it as a souvenir. (Clearly, White House security has changed a lot since then.)
Tige’s second disappearance, this time for good
Just three months later, sometime in late June 1924, Tige again went missing. Both the Washington Post and Boston Daily Globe reported on July 24 that the cat had been lost for a month and was presumed to be gone for good. Coolidge had reportedly decided against a second radio announcement because “Tige plainly had indicated his preference for society other than that found around the White House.”
As far as we know, Tige was never returned to the Coolidges, making this a sad lost-cat tale, though we hope that the wandering tiger cat found a comfortable place to settle down.