January 5th, 2009
01:06 PM ET
5 years ago

'First Cat' dies

President Bush and an aide carry the First Cat and First Dog onto Air Force One, when both pets occupied the White House.
President Bush and an aide carry the First Cat and First Dog onto Air Force One, when both pets occupied the White House.

(CNN) – The White House announced Monday that the First Cat had passed on.

"The President, Mrs. Bush, Barbara, and Jenna are deeply saddened by the passing of their cat India ('Willie'),” said spokeswoman Sally McDonough.

“The 18 year-old female black American Shorthair died Sunday, January 4, 2009 at home at the White House. When Barbara was nine years old, she named India after the former Texas Ranger baseball player, Ruben Sierra, who was called 'El Indio.' When Barbara and Jenna moved away to college, India, affectionately called “Kitty” by the family, stayed at the White House with the President and Mrs. Bush. India was a beloved member of the Bush family for almost two decades. She will be greatly missed."

The cat’s name became in issue in 2001 after Hindu nationalists said the original moniker was an insult — and urged followers to call their dogs ‘George Bush.’

Update: The First Lady's office said the cat's name did not change as a result of the Indian protests; the Bush daughters had both named and nicknamed the cat before arriving in the White House.

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. Steve in Philly

    I really think we need to calm down and let this story play out before reaching any conclusions.

    Has anyone really seen the dead cat or is this another scare tactic to get our sympathy? They named the cat Indio but called it Kitty and then changed its name to Willie. What was the Secret Service's name for it and maybe there was a shadow cat to confuse AL Quaida .

    IMO – the cat is alive and well and has been secretly shipped to Crawford TX. to escape any last minute errant shotgun blasts by Dick Cheney.

    January 5, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Me

    This "news" story demonstrates the deliberate dumbing down of America. Thanks CNN.

    January 5, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. American

    A family just lost their pet and people on here are using it to lash out at others for not worshiping Obama. Grow up, people, and learn to have respect for a lost pet.

    January 5, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Jeff From Jersey

    He's still got 8 more lives to haunt the whitehouse with.YIKES!

    January 5, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. chuck

    A BLACK CAT,A BLACK DOG AND A BLACK SECRETARY OF STATE. THESE THREE FAT BLACK CATS ARE THE ONLY BLACKS TREATED VERY WELL BY GEORGE BUSH. ALL OTHER BLACKS ARE ON THEIR OWN ---REMEMBER HURRICANE KATRINA.

    January 5, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Scott L

    @Rebekkah-

    They got your click on the page and the ad views. They all just want the click so they will post whatever headline they think you will click on.

    "Pictures of Obama girls first day of school" is probably more likely to attract clicks than "Rain predicted in Oregon today"

    January 5, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. Sympathy

    My condolences to the Bush family. All things considered, it's probably best that a cat that age doesn't have to go through a stressful move out of the White House in two weeks...

    January 5, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. Irving, TX - Loves President Obama

    Eric and Cam, you haven't even given Obama a chance to get into office before you start talking about him not doing anything,

    Did either of you do anything before you started a new job before you got to the job. Give me a break.....

    Is really sad that you are still hating on Obama....

    January 5, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. mlktoast

    "The cat’s name was changed to Willie in 2001 after Hindu nationalists said the original moniker was an insult..."

    S the same idiots who shot Gandhi had a problem with a cat's name which was bestowed by a little girl. Surprise, surprise...
    Long live India!!
    (the cat, that is)

    January 5, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. tooironic

    Not a Bush fan, but my sympathies to them for the loss of their kitty. As a pet person, I realize how these furry critters snuggle into a spot in your heart, and how there is that awful emptiness when they are gone.

    Eighteen years is a good run, though–they obviously took good care of India/Willie.

    January 5, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Wow, Obama's kids go to school., Bush's cat dies; CNN is sure at the pointy end of the spear with trailblazing journalism today. You forgot the newsflash about the sun coming up this morning though.

    January 5, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Relax People

    OMG. Why are people so freaking uptight these days? Sure this story and the Obamas first day of school isn't exactly headline news. It's just fun and heartwarming to read these stories. Why do we have to be all doom and gloom with all the bad news that's going on in the world. What a bunch of sourheads!

    January 5, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. PA Law

    For all those that still don't get it....it's not Obama. It's his message! He's reminded all of us that we can hope and dream again. In the midst of financial problems, wars, diseases, famines, etc., we'd forgotten that. Hope is the most powerful weapon we have. It moves us all to do great things. Hope triggers us to the do ordianary and then the extraordinary. Pretty soon, we are doing the impossible! Remember that guy from the 1960s that dared us all to dream of a better time? Many thought him crazy then, but now he's a national hero to most! Celebrate hope and dreams this January 19th – MLK Day.

    January 5, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. Boston Irish

    My advice to all those griping that this isn't news, don't read it then. Did somebody force you to? You must have known by the title of the article what it was about.

    Being a catlover, I am very sorry to hear of this beloved pets death. You haters should be told the same thing when one of your pets die, but I hope you aren't. It's nice to know that Willie had a long and wonderful life.

    January 5, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Jersey Peace

    This is not only a tragedy; it's indeed a calamity for the entire humanity! Bush's cat dies, oh no! I am sure this will add to the sorrow that engulfs the widows and orphans of the Iraq war (both American and Iraqis). Also, I am not sure how Africa with all of its miseries will handle the Bush's sad news!

    January 5, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. AnaB

    My sympathies go to the Bush family. It's always hard losing a pet.

    January 5, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. Bill

    Like Hindu nationalists have something more pressing to whine and complain about...the cat was probably named "India" because it was as black as "India ink". The Bush family did not need to rename their cat, and the nationalists should have just gotten over themselves. I know what it's like to lose a pet, cat or dog...it's not easy, and I do feel for them.

    January 5, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. mary

    Sorry to hear of the death of beloved family member kitty cat- Willie.
    Condolences to the Bush family.
    mary

    January 5, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. Scott

    I don't get why the name India was an insult.

    January 5, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. Joseph

    some of you are a bunch of unhappy people who need something to complain about. It's funny for those who don't like Bush or his actions, yet you didn't do anything about it, what decisions would you have made in his stead, you don't know, so don't complain about his job when you yourself can do no better. I don't even like his actions but I have the forethought to think and understand that he did what he considered his best, it's our fault for electing him ........ TWICE.... I am a registered democrat, yet when we got attacked everyone sang his praises when we attacked Afghanistan, and when we fist attacked Iraq, it was when things didn't go as planned that every one jumped ship on him.And as far as you Obama haters he hasn't been in office yet and you criticize him. You might as well come to terms he will be worn into office in 2 weeks get a grip. If he fails then chastise him, yet then again you could probably do no better. So again i say to all you bitter bloggers...... GROW UP............. I find it funny how an article about the first cat turned into a slander fest of the current president and his soon to be predecessor

    January 5, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. Angie

    Reporting on the presidential pets has been long standing. Remember Roosevelt's Fala; Nixon's Checkers; etc. This is a loss to the Bush's and I sympathize with them as I would sympathize with anybody who loses a pet of 20 years.

    To those who are upset about the reporting of Willie's death: Get over it. If you don't like the news...don't read it. Too bad you have nothing better to do than voice your discontent.

    January 5, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Rick

    We should know by now that anything that happens with a President or his family will be reported. That's the way it is – why complain – you have the right to ignore. But for the cold-hearted ones that don't think a pet dying matters to the family – go see Marley and Me.

    January 5, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Karen

    Everyone can identify with the loss of someone you love, whether it is a person or a pet. India/Willie/Kitty was obviously loved.

    To those who say this is an unimiportant story; if Bush lost a relative it would be important. Why not a pet? Many of us have deeply mourned for a lost cat or dog. I had a cat die last year and I still get tears in my eyes when I think of him. Is he on the same level as a person? No, losing him still hurt very much.

    If you don't care about this story, why did you bother posting anything?

    January 5, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Ariana

    I don't agree with Bush, but I LOVE cats. I have 2 of my own, so he has my sympathy.

    January 5, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. brenda

    I am saddened to hear of the loss of the First Cat. I am sure that the cat brought much love and joy to the family and helped to relieve alot of stress during hard times. My thoughts are with the family. There is a special place in Heaven for our furry feline friends and they will be missed.

    January 5, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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