All The President’s Cats

A weary President Lincoln was in his railcar, legs crossed, reading “Aesop’s Fables” by lamplight before bedtime.

A gray cat was in his lap. They were somewhere over the Indiana-Illinois border, careening through the night toward D.C.

The cat was named Equality. It wasn’t a very common name, he knew that. But it worked. Lincoln always was a big fan of equality.

The cat was an adopted rescue. Abraham found her on the campaign trail, several years ago. It had not been a fun campaign. In fact, it was hell.

He had just made a fiery speech at the Planter’s Hotel, in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he denounced slavery and preached his typical equality message. And the crowds ripped him a new one.

“All men are created equal,” he always shouted from the lectern. And he always meant it. But claiming all men were created equal in the mid-1800s was not a way to win friends and influence people.

Even so, it was his message. It was his belief. It was his praxis. And it made him unpopular.

There was that one time at Petersburg, Virginia, where he was heckled for half an hour before he ever got a chance to open his mouth and campaign. People honked horns at him, cat-called him, blew tin trumpets, and flung manure at his face.

There was another time in Illinois, where he waited for the heckling to stop for almost an hour, but it never did. Whereupon his audience drilled him with rotted chicken parts and overripened tomatoes.

Who brought vegetables and chicken carcasses to a campaign rally?

And so it was, one night while boarding the train after a speech gone terribly wrong, he saw the little gray feline, wandering near his train, hungry.

Lincoln was a 50-year-old man at the time, hoping to win the presidency. He had been wrestling with chronic depression for his entire life. He just wanted to make a difference. But it wasn’t working out. He was beaten down. What he craved tonight was friendship. Real friendship.

When all of a sudden, along comes this little cat.

He stooped low and called the cat to himself. His campaign manager was telling him it was time to leave. They had a long trip ahead of them.

But Abe was transfixed on a stray.

“Here, kitty, kitty,” he said.

The cat eventually came to him. He lifted her into his arms.

“I’ll call her Equality,” he said.

That night, Equality slept beside him. The next morning, Equality ate eggs and bacon alongside him at the table.

Over the years, they became close friends. Equality was with him when he won the presidency. She was with him when America erupted in a self-destructive bloodbath.

She was his partner. His constituent. His muse. His reminder.

She could often be seen in his office, reclining on his desk among important documents, smearing the ink.

One time, Equality and her buddies jumped on the table during an important White House dinner, attended by national dignitaries. Abe fed the cats from his own fork.

He told his audience that if the golden fork had been “good enough for former President James Buchanan,” then it was good enough for his cat.

Sometimes, members of his cabinet were annoyed when he would lift Equality and speak to the animal for long periods during important meetings. They thought their commander-in-chief was a nutcase.

But the President would only gaze into his cat’s eyes and remark that his cats were “smarter than my whole cabinet.”

Admiral David Porter once wrote that he was struck by the sight of the American president “tenderly caressing three stray kittens,” when visiting Petersburg troops during wartime.

“It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition,” said the admiral, “and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”

The admiral later recalled that Lincoln stroked the stray cats and quietly told them, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand this terrible strife that is going on.”

Equality was present throughout every major success during his turbulent White House years. She was present for every bone crushing defeat. Every sadness. Every death. Every triumph.

She was even present when he penned the words:

“…And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free…”

They say the President worked a long time penning the Emancipation Proclamation. They say he worked for weeks getting the language just right. He worked until he was haggard and baggy-eyed. Until his wrist joints hurt.

And when he was finished changing the world with the stroke of his deft pen, his cabinet members found him at his desk, with Equality in his lap.

“We hold these truths to be self evident,” he was whispering to the purring creature, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Equality. What a concept.


  1. Ann Thompson. - June 20, 2022 7:55 am

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Equality. Just Imagine.

  2. Barbara - June 20, 2022 10:03 am

    Well done, Sean! Great heartwarming picture painted with warmth, history and of a brave, wise man.

  3. Te - June 20, 2022 10:34 am

    Thank you. One of your more powerful narratives that sank deep into my mind. I can picture it easily. The other is what you wrote about Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.

  4. Lauri Reeg - June 20, 2022 10:49 am


  5. Richard - June 20, 2022 10:50 am

    Beautiful story And to think of telling such a story, inspired concept on your part, Sean. One more reason to revere and honor this great and great-hearted president

  6. Cheryl Jergenson - June 20, 2022 10:57 am

    I love it.
    one of your best.

  7. janet - June 20, 2022 11:09 am

    Oh, that we should treat Equality with the tenderness of petting a precious kitten.

  8. Beth Wannamaker - June 20, 2022 11:18 am

    What a wonderful, beautiful writing this morning! Thank you!

  9. Judy klamo - June 20, 2022 11:22 am

    We need this story now more than ever. We have forgotten his wise words

  10. Lander - June 20, 2022 11:48 am

    How good it is to show kindness, especially when there is hate, suspicion, and strife all around.

  11. Marion W Ovaska - June 20, 2022 12:08 pm

    This brought tears.

  12. Cheryl Newsome - June 20, 2022 12:10 pm

    I didn’t know this story! Where did you find out about it? I knew he rescued three kittens once–but this is new to me. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Frank - June 20, 2022 1:32 pm

      I think Sean is merely taking a bit of artistic license to emphasize today’s holiday theme.

  13. Sonya Tuttle - June 20, 2022 12:44 pm

    Agreeing with Cheryl Newsome, how did you learn this great trivia!?

  14. Mike McGill - June 20, 2022 12:52 pm

    I strongly believe in equality also but not equity !!! I hope and think people in general know the difference and how it is affecting our great nation. Really enjoy your articles daily !!! Have made reading them part of my morning “quite” time.

  15. Patricia Gibson - June 20, 2022 1:14 pm

    Such a simple truth but so missed

  16. Harriet White - June 20, 2022 1:27 pm

    I love this. I didn’t know he had a cat. The one you wrote about Gettysburg was increasing too.

    • Harriet White - June 20, 2022 1:27 pm

      I meant to say incredible not increasing

  17. Patricia Thomason - June 20, 2022 1:40 pm

    One of my favorite articles you’ve written. ❤️

  18. Dani K - June 20, 2022 1:51 pm

    Thank you. Thank you for your daily messages. Your stories speak honesty and truth. Not like Jesus, but truth. Lol. Equality is a wonderful concept that many unfortunately still struggle with…. We must remember that there is a difference between what is equal and what is equality..

  19. Peggy M. Windham - June 20, 2022 2:22 pm


  20. Floyd white - June 20, 2022 2:42 pm

    Any man who has bathed in a community shower knows that all men are not created equal.

  21. Rosemary Mize - June 20, 2022 2:50 pm

    My-0-My what a pet can do for one

  22. Miss Jillian Crocker - June 20, 2022 2:59 pm

    Love you, Sean.

  23. Ruth Mitchell - June 20, 2022 3:19 pm

    What a wonderful story for the celebration of this historic day!

  24. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - June 20, 2022 3:20 pm

    As one whose only USA contact is a grandfather who was born towards end of the war between the States, I have always adored Abraham Lincoln, for his background, his vision & his fantastic speeches. I also adored Robert E Lee. One of the high points of a visit to DC was Lincoln’s memorial. What a sad fate befell him at a time he could have done so much more good. I wonder what his thoughts would have been could he but see the USA as it is now. Equality, no sir, not anywhere in the world, not until mankind begins to act like Jesus & heed his great commandment to love one another. Great story today Sean

  25. H. J. Patterson - June 20, 2022 3:23 pm

    Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents we’ve ever had simply by doing what was right and not putting the party of over the people. We need a big dose of this right now.

  26. Sue - June 20, 2022 3:54 pm

    The best most emotional one yet!👍👍❤️❤️

  27. Teresa Harrison - June 20, 2022 4:07 pm

    Thank you, thank you. Equality = Peace

  28. Gloria Miller - June 20, 2022 4:58 pm

    Love your writings…I enjoy seeing them in my inbox and know that something you have written will bring either a smile or a tear to my face.
    Today, I had to look up the word praxis – I had never read it or heard it before – and I’ve been around a few decades! Good word. Keep writing.

  29. MAM - June 20, 2022 5:18 pm

    We are all equal in God’s eyes! And we all have equal opportunity if we avail ourselves of it. Thanks, Sean! Well done!

  30. wfsuga - June 20, 2022 5:43 pm

    How much better things would have been for our beloved South had Lincoln not been assassinated. He was perhaps the greatest president in out history.

    Interesting side note (since there are excerpts from the Emancipation Proclamation in today’s essay). The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Southern states in rebellion (and arguably over which Lincoln had no jurisdiction). It did NOT free slaves in the remainder of the Union. One has to wonder how slaves in Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, etc. felt about that little wrinkle. Perplexed and displeased would be understatements, I would think. Of course, the EP was a political and diplomatic, not pragmatic, maneuver, and a brilliant one. But I have always wondered why it is incorrectly viewed as the vehicle which freed the slaves when it was anything but that. I’m gratified that Juneteenth has become the focal point for a celebration of the end of slavery because it sure as heck wasn’t the Emancipation Proclamation.

  31. Cindy Moon - June 20, 2022 6:17 pm

    Good read!

  32. Becky Souders - June 20, 2022 6:49 pm

    Bravo, Sean Dietrich… one of your best!

  33. Carol Pilmer - June 20, 2022 8:51 pm

    Equality, what a concept! Thank you for sharing this incredibly human story….

  34. Linda Moon - June 20, 2022 10:22 pm

    Like the president, I’ve always been a fan of equality and cats. –“with Equality in his lap”…what a great and larger truth you penned for us readers. Beautiful.
    When my cats join me on my lap later this evening, I will be thinking of President Abraham Lincoln and his cats.

  35. Mary Berryman - June 21, 2022 3:16 am

    Thank you for telling a wonderful side to Abraham Lincoln. I believe in my heart that God sends animals into our lives when we need them the most.

  36. Penny Leary - June 21, 2022 3:42 am

    Great read! I truly enjoy your writings and look forward to each!
    I hope you are feeling better and no side effects from Covid. I am a social worker in a hospital and it has been an incredibly sad, trying, and disheartening two years. We each have our story; as I always read, visualize, and empathetically see and hear your experiences and testament.
    I am the mother of a great son that you so blessed with two writings. Benjamin Pennington Leary is my son, you wrote of his smile in summer 2018 and of the day I lost so much 8/31/18. I have wanted to write for so long, just did not know when I could. Ben would have been 20 on Saturday 6/18, just so saddened by his loss. I related back to your Angel stories though-I sent 20 lanterns into the night sky that day; I videoed each, there is a small yellow butterfly/Angel like flying around in every video. Quite remarkable, but quite like my Ben to want me to see his presence. St.Jude and Ronald McDonald house there gave him more than a little time, they gave a young boy the courage to wake and take a step and smile each day, to be confident in himself and grow into a young man. The sadness of saying to his mother, I don’t want to die, but such grace and wisdom in the matter of a second when the doctor said, Ben, I cannot cure you, but I can do all in my power to help during this process and help through this time. Ben said, I am not going to sit around and feel sorry, you all can discuss details.
    I need to look for a picture of the smile when your writing of him came out, truly amazing. Thank you for all of the good you do, thank you for your care and love for another. We each are no better than the person on our side, our problems have been and started when someone felt differently. Again, each story is how we become who, why, and how we act daily.
    Loved the writing today, it reflects so much.
    Thank you Sean. I am so sorry it has taken me so long to say just that; thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
    Penny Leary
    Proud mother of Benjamin Leary 6/18/02 – 8/31/18
    Sarah Leary 7/7/96
    Joshua Leary 6/21/99
    Hope the new address is working well too!! I am so sorry for the loss of Jaime’s mother. I should have said that in the beginning!! Grief as you knew is a hole in your soul!!

    • Jeanne Hobson - July 1, 2022 5:22 pm

      Beautiful tribute to your son. So sorry for your loss. May GOD comfort and give you peace as you grieve.

  37. Gloria Van Nostrand - June 21, 2022 5:14 pm

    What a great man and great President.

  38. Debbie Taylor - June 22, 2022 12:12 pm

    What a beautiful story and look into the person Abe Lincoln was.

  39. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 26, 2022 10:53 pm

  40. Leesa Wimberley - June 27, 2022 11:42 pm

    I appreciate the recounting of this story of perhaps our greatest president. Although I’d have to say we have never truly achieved equality. Not for women (white, brown or black). Not for blacks. Or Native Americans. Not for immigrants irregardless of your place of origin. No, we stand a long way from equality in this wonderful country. Especially today. But, thank you for returning to the story of the great Emancipator and his hope for this country. Maybe someday we’ll get there with our democracy. Maybe.

  41. Jan Werbish - July 1, 2022 2:50 pm

    Beautiful story on Lincoln today, you have such a gift for writing ! Happy 4 th to you and your wife!


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