Socks the cat faces cancer

WASHINGTON, D.C.; December 17, 2008

Socks, who held the post of White House cat during owner Bill Clinton's eight-year presidency, has received a cancer diagnosis. And as he approaches his 18th birthday, the disease may be further cause to predict that his days are numbered.

Presidential historian Barry Landau -- a long-time friend of Socks' current caretaker, ex-Clinton secretary Betty Currie -- told that the Clintons have been made aware of the situation.

"The president, Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea were told about it a few weeks ago," Landau said. "They were trying to schedule a visit so they can see him."

Landau, who admits that he thinks of himself as "Socks' godfather or uncle," said the Clintons also told Currie, "Spare no amount of money; do whatever you can so that Socks gets the very best care."

However, Landau said, the Curries ultimately decided to forgo treatment for the animal due to concerns over how treatment could compound the health problems Socks already experiences, including thyroid and kidney problems.

"They could have done intervention, but they wanted him to have a quality of life," he said.

It's a decision that countless American families must confront each year, as pets are often even more susceptible to household carcinogens than are their owners.

"The age-adjusted rate of cancer is actually higher in dogs and cats than it is in people," said Greg Ogilvie, of the California Veterinary Specialist's Angel Care Cancer Center and author of "Feline Oncology: Compassionate Care for Cats with Canc


"Cats spend a vast majority of their time in the household, and many of the things that increase the risk of developing cancer with regard to human health, cats are also susceptible to," he added.

Idaho veterinarian Marty Becker said a cancer diagnosis is little surprise in a cat of Socks' age.

"That cat's getting up there," Becker said. "Pets are living longer and longer, so we are seeing more of these problems of old age. That includes cancer and arthritis and brain aging," he said.

Fortunately, Ogilvie said, cancer is the most curable chronic disease in cats. As long as cancer is detected early and treated promptly, cats can often bounce back.

But he said that, in Socks' case, the Curries are wise to consider the old animal's quality of life.

"No matter what treatment is chosen, quality of life is first and foremost," he said.

And he added that, even as Socks faces a tough cancer diagnosis, he is inspired by the way many cats deal with the disease on a daily basis.

"One thing that I see each and every day is how much we learn from our kitties with cancer," he said. "Kitties don't allow myths and misperceptions about cancer to cloud their living every day. They're a good role model."

As for Socks, Landau said the former feline in chief is spending his final days living in the moment.

"[He] loves to be in the sun and loves chicken," Landau said.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.