“Distracted by the sound of crying kittens . . .”

Abe Lincoln loved cats.

As a cat person (you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t), you alert to the sound of a crying cat or kitten as much as—or, if you’re me, more than—to the sound of a crying human baby. I didn’t choose to be childless, and I didn’t try or decide to have a full alarm response to the sound of feline distress. I can’t help it.

Neither could the sixteenth president. So strong was his visceral response to that sound that he heard it right through the din and human anguish of the Civil War.

It is reported that Lincoln was distracted by the sound of crying kittens at the Ulysses S. Grant headquarters in Virginia during the siege of Petersburg in March of 1864. Admiral David Porter wrote he was touched by the sight of the president “tenderly caressing three stray kittens.  It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”

Porter remembered Lincoln petting the cats and quietly telling them, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand this terrible strife that is going on.”

Before he left the officers’ tent, the president addressed a colonel and said, ” I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.”

You know he loved them. “Lincoln was the first president to bring cats to the White House, where he spoiled them shamelessly.

This photo looks fake. But the anecdote rings true.

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