The Nine Lives of Socks Clinton

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Socks, the White House Cat from 1993 to 2001, died last week at somewhere between the ages of 18 and 20. He was euthanized due to cancer near his home in Maryland, where he spent his last few years with former presidential secretary Betty Currie. Socks lived an extraordinary life for a cat, going from homelessness to an honored position in the White House. He was a media darling and a spokescat for pets everywhere.

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Socks was born in either 1989 or 1990. Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea adopted Socks while Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Chelsea's piano teacher in Little Rock had noticed two stray cats living near her home. One of the cats jumped into Chelsea's arms and became Socks. The other cat was adopted into another home and became known as Midnight.

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Socks proved to be a media sensation even before the Clintons moved to Washington. Shortly after the 1992 election, president-elect Clinton had to tell the press to leave the cat alone. Photographers stalked Socks on the lawn of the governor's mansion, and even went as far as to lure him into camera range with catnip!

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As the official First Pet, Socks had the run of the Oval Office. He became a favorite of both the staff and visitors, including foreign heads of state. Socks was taken on publicity tours and visits to nursing homes and schools. The press took advantage of any opportunity they could get to photograph him. Socks even got his own fan club!
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Socks first appearance in a book was in 1993, when his cartoon self starred in Socks Goes to Washington by Michael O'Donoghue. The short story Socks Goes to the White House appeared. Socks was the subject of one episode of the TV show Murphy Brown, in which he is inadvertently kidnapped from the White House.

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Socks starred in a video game called Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill, designed for the Super NES and Sega Genesis systems in 1993. In the adventure game, Socks must cross obstacles such as spies and corrupt politicians to warn the Clintons of nuclear threat. Nintendo thought the game was too partisan, and the publisher Kaneko's US branch went out of business, so the game was never released.

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An animated version of Socks graced the kids' page at the White House website beginning in 1996. He was joined by the Clinton's dog Buddy in 1997. In real life, Socks hated Buddy the intruder. The Clintons adopted the Labrador as Chelsea left for college. Although the two pets spent over three together in the White House, Socks never tolerated the dog. They appeared together in a book by Hillary Clinton called Dear Socks, Dear Buddy.  It contained letters from children to the White House pets.

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When the Clintons left Washington in 2001, they decided it was best to separate Socks and Buddy. President Clinton's secretary Betty Currie was particularly fond of the cat, who spent a lot of time sitting or sleeping in a chair in her office. Currie had recently lost her own pet and asked if she could adopt Socks. So Socks went to live with Currie and her husband Bob in Hollywood, Maryland.

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At Currie's home in Maryland, Socks continued to make public appearances, although with advanced age, they became fewer and farther between. In 2002, Currie took Socks back to Little Rock to lead the Christmas parade, in which he rode in a '67 Ford Mustang once owned by Bill Clinton. Socks was a big supporter of animal-related charities. He signed photographs with his paw print to raise funds. Socks developed thyroid and kidney problems in his later years. He was diagnosed with cancer of the throat and jaw last year. Currie made the decision to have him euthanized on Friday, February 20th.

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See also: Five Fantastic Felines, Five Famous Felines, and The LOLcat of Death.

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February 24, 2009 - 2:45am
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