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Acoustic Kitty – the CIA’s attempt to turn cats into cyborg spies

Tijana Radeska

As long as we dig deeper in the Russian – American game through the years what might we not find. Perhaps all movies and sci-fi inventions in one place. If there are trained monkeys who steal gold, why can’t there be spying cats? Many might think of this idea but soon everyone would give up if it comes to realizing it. Actually not everybody. CIA and KGB won’t. This time, it was the CIA that came up with the “inventive idea” of surgically implanting microphones and radio transmitters in cats!

The agency considered using exploding cigars or seashells to remove Cuban leader Fidel Castro; they employed psychics to attempt “remote viewing” of Russian military secrets, and the CIA even put the Soviets on the business ends of clairvoyant minds to attempt mind-control.

Acoustic Kitty

Acoustic Kitty. Source

In the 1960s, in the midst of the Cold War, espionage was the stage for many of the machinations between the U.S. and Soviet superpowers. The CIA project “Acoustic Kitty” was funded and launched by the Directorate of Science and Technology in 1961. The intention was to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and the Soviet embassies. The idea was that the cats would eavesdrop on Soviet conversations from park benches, window sills and garbage containers. The cat was meant to just stroll up to the sensitive conversations, completely unnoticed.

It might sound funny until one realizes that kittens were surgically transformed into cyber cats. Batteries were put in the cat and they were wired while their tail was used as an antenna.

After several surgeries and intensive training, the cyborg cat was ready for its first field test. The CIA drove the cat to a Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C., and let him out of a parked van across the street. The cat ambled into the road and was struck by a taxi almost immediately. The CIA operative put the cat’s remains into a container in order to prevent the Soviets from discovering the sensitive and expensive listening devices.

Due to the embarrassing nature of this project, there aren’t many available sources for more information about it, but there is Victor Marchetti, former CIA officer who in 2001 gave The Telegraph newspaper some more details about the project:

“They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally, they’re ready. They took it out to a park bench and said, “Listen to those two guys. Don’t listen to anything else – not the birds, no cat or dog – just those two guys!”

Also, there is a document which praises the Acoustic Kitty team for their efforts:

“The work done on this problem over the years reflects great credit on the personnel who guided it, particularly (censored), whose energy and imagination could be models for scientific pioneers.”

The agency poured some $10 million into designing, operating on, and training the first Acoustic Kitty, according to several accounts.