The CIA’s Secret Project To Turn Cats Into Spies

History’s earliest animal cyborgs? In the 1960s the CIA implanted cats with technological devices to turn them into living surveillance machines, io9 reveals:

In an hour-long procedure, a veterinary surgeon implanted a microphone into the furry feline’s ear canal and a small radio transmitter at the base of her skull, and weaving a thin wire antenna into her long gray-and-white fur. This was top-secret Operation Acoustic Kitty. The leaders of the project hoped that by training the feline to go sit near foreign officials, they could eavesdrop on private conversations.

The problem was that cats are not especially trainable, and the program was abandoned; as a heavily redacted CIA memo from the time delicately phrased it, “Our final examination of trained cats…convinced us that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.”

20 Comments on "The CIA’s Secret Project To Turn Cats Into Spies"

  1. Matt Staggs | Mar 22, 2013 at 11:32 am |


  2. That is so funny that the limiting factor is that cats have better things to do!

    • Matt Staggs | Mar 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

      Cats are only partly domesticated. They’re willing to make concessions to humans for creature comforts, but most of them can return to the wild with little effort. Definitely, my cats would probably have other things that they’d prefer doing.

      • Yeah Cats are anarchists. George Orwell had them pegged in Animal Farm

      • Anarchy Pony | Mar 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

        It’s also a factor of feline psychology, the majority of feline mammals are quite solitary and individualist, generally only interacting with other members of their species to mate. Cooperation and teamwork are not part of their evolution.
        Canines on the other hand are exceedingly social and cooperative, given their pack animal nature, and enjoy spending almost all of their time with other members of their species, or humans if they are domestic. In reality, human small group social dynamics are not that dissimilar from that of canines, which is why humans and dogs are so able to work together on a wide range of tasks.

  3. There’s no mention of dogs though.

  4. Hadrian999 | Mar 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm |

    sigh……training cats, I swear the CIA R&D had to be a fun place to work in the 60’s with all the nonsensical plans they developed, hell the kill castro division was comedy gold all by itself

    • They are probably pumping human glial stem cells into fetal cats as we speak. Along w/ modified T. gondii nanobots designed to created resonant reciever cysts on key neural control nodes.

    • David Duke-Astin | Mar 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

      They also did psychic research and other lunatic, time-wasting crap (remote viewing lol). The Cold War was very good for funding.

  5. I bet they got some pretty juicy info on all of the foreign mice operatives, though.

  6. Anarchy Pony | Mar 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm |

    It apparently doesn’t mention it here, but the reason the project was abandoned was that almost immediately after the cat was released, it was hit by a truck.

  7. Hey CIA – if you let me work from home, I’ll feed you ideas better than this all day long! I require 75k and a comprehensive benefits package. Deal?

  8. “The problem was that cats are not especially trainable”
    our tax dollar at work and in waste.

    • InfvoCuernos | Mar 23, 2013 at 6:02 am |

      Maybe, or maybe this project was funded with money from the sale of narcotics. I’m not sure which option I like less.

  9. InfvoCuernos | Mar 22, 2013 at 11:07 pm |

    You know how they came up with using cats? The conversation probably went like this:
    “We need a stealthy, sneaky, snoopy animal that is common enough not to raise suspicion”. and that’s why so many CIA projects flop, designing things from the backend. Apparently none of these super geniuses has ever had a cat.

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