Saturday, December 4News That Matters

The purr-fect addition? White House prepares to add a cat to family – but there’s one Major problem

Socks the Cat, the First Pet of former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton, is one of the last felines to have graced the White House, seen here in the press room in 1993 - Smith Collection/Gado 

Socks the Cat, the First Pet of former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton, is one of the last felines to have graced the White House, seen here in the press room in 1993 – Smith Collection/Gado

Joe Biden’s 3-year-old German Shepherd, Major, has not had an easy time at the White House since he moved in.

The rescue dog has bitten two members of staff, been accused of defecating on the floor in front of the Diplomatic room and has been signed up for extra training sessions in order to improve his behaviour.

At one point, he was even sent back home to Delaware.

But now, the rambunctious canine is facing a new threat: a cat.

Jill Biden confirmed on Friday that a female feline is “waiting in the wings” and would be joining Major and his more docile big brother, 12-year-old Champ, very soon.

Asked if the cat was his idea in a joint interview with his wife on NBC’s Today show, dog lover Mr Biden simply said: “No.”

Joe Biden with Champ and Major - Official White House Photo by Adam SchultzJoe Biden with Champ and Major - Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Joe Biden with Champ and Major – Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The idea was floated by the first lady on the campaign trail last year. She told Fox News: “I’d love to get a cat. I love having animals around the house.”

With 132 rooms and 18 acres of land at the White House, it is hoped that there will be enough space for the three pets to co-exist peacefully.

But the Bidens aren’t taking any chances with Major.

“They took him into a shelter with cats, that was part of his training,” said Mrs Biden. “He did fine.”

The new cat, about which little is known, will be the first to tiptoe round the White House for more than a decade, after the Trump family shunned pets and the Obamas kept two dogs.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has joked that the cat will “break the internet” when it arrives.

Former President George Bush's pet dog Miss Beazley crosses paths with pet cat India on the South Lawn of the White House - REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo Former President George Bush's pet dog Miss Beazley crosses paths with pet cat India on the South Lawn of the White House - REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo 

Former President George Bush’s pet dog Miss Beazley crosses paths with pet cat India on the South Lawn of the White House – REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

George W. Bush had two Scottish terriers called Barney and Miss Beazley, in addition to their cat, India, who was with the family for 18 years, until her death in 2009.

Bill Clinton had a chocolate Labrador named Buddy and a cat named Socks.

Former President Bill Clinton and Socks the Cat - Smith Collection/Gado Former President Bill Clinton and Socks the Cat - Smith Collection/Gado 

Former President Bill Clinton and Socks the Cat – Smith Collection/Gado

Mr Biden will hope that the cat provides a calming influence at home, after he was heckled by protesters at a rally in Georgia.

While making a speech to mark his first 100 days in office, a small group of people shouted: “End private detention centres, now” and “abolish ICE,” referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

In an off the cuff response, Mr Biden said: “I agree with you. I’m working on it, man. Give me another five days.”

To clarify what he meant, Mr Biden added: “Folks, you all know what they’re talking about.

“There should be no private prisons, period… none, period. That’s what they’re talking about, private detention centres.

“They should not exist and we are working to close all of them… I promise you.”

The US has the largest immigration detention system in the world, with around 200 facilities, with around 80 per cent run by private companies.

The number of people in ICE detention centres changes daily, but Newsweek reported that currently it is around 15,000.

Closing private facilities was an election pledge Mr Biden made but has so far not kept.

“The federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants,” he said on the campaign trail.

Mr Biden is facing a crisis on the southern border, with 100,000 people intercepted in February and a 15-year high 171,000 in March.

Last month’s figures included 19,000 unaccompanied children.

Detention centres have been swarmed and photographs emerged of ‘pods’ designed for 250 people holding up to 400, with children sleeping on mats, covered with foil blankets.

Minors lie inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley - AP Photo/Dario Lopez-MillsMinors lie inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley - AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

Minors lie inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley – AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

Last night, Mr Biden travelled to Pennsylvania to celebrate 50 years of Amtrak – the American rail network. “This is something I wouldn’t have missed for the world,” he said.

Mr Biden has a long association with the train network. His first wife Neilia and their daughter Naomi died in a car crash in 1972, so Mr Biden travelled by train from Washington DC to Delaware for more than 90 minutes each night to return home to his young sons.

He was nicknamed “Amtrak Joe” and last night he said the company was his family.

He used the appearance to push his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which would provide $80 billion to rebuild and improve the train network.