Agent Pussycat: in the 1960s, the CIA developed a top-secret project meant to turn a cat into a cyborg spy
Next time your cat sidles up to you for an afternoon nap, it may actually be trying to steal your secrets – that is at least what the CIA in the 1960s was hoping felines would do after being turned into four-legged spies.
As part of a clandestine experiment appropriately dubbed Operation Acoustic Kitty, a veterinary surgeon implanted a microchip in the ear canal of a cat and a small radio transmitter at the base of the animal’s skull, hiding a wire antenna in his long grey-and-white hair.
The plan was to use the furry feline as a four-legged secret agent who would be able to discreetly eavesdrop on Soviet officials and record their private conversations simply by sitting nearby.
But the leaders of the project quickly learned what neatly every cat owner knows: unlike dogs, most felines do not follow orders and are not easily trained.
The failed experiment is detailed in a new book called Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, excepts from which appeared in Popular Science.
The author, Emily Anthes, writes that CIA officials got the project off the background by driving their newly minted furry James Bond to a park and tasked it with recording a conversation between two men sitting on a bench.
Operation Acoustic Kitty: A surgeon implanted a microchip in the ear canal of a cat and a small radio transmitter at the base of the animal’s skull, hiding a wire antenna into his long grey-and-white hair
But the ill-fated feline immediately failed the test by running into the street, where it was promptly run over by a cab.
In the aftermath of the disastrous experiment, Operation Acoustic Kitty was scrapped after the government had allegedly spent $20million to turn the tragic pussycat into a world-class information gatherer.
Truth reveled: Emily Anthes writes about the disastrous experiment that ended with the cat getting run over by a cab in her new book, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New World
In a heavily redacted ‘post-mortem’ summing up the botched effort, those involved in the costly operation wrote that ‘the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.’
In a 2001 interview with The Telegraph cited by The Atlantic, a former CIA agent further elaborated on the cat-bot debacle, offering gristly details of the operation.
‘They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity,’ he told the paper.
Although the plan to turn a cat into a cyborg secret agent did not pan out 50 years ago, the US government is now reportedly working to transform insects into Intel gatherers.
Scientists working for the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have already taken a first step on the path to bug-cyborgs by successfully developing tiny synthetic prototypes.
One of models is the Nano Hummingbird – a flying robot created after the bird, with a 6.5-inch wingspan that can stay in the air for up to 11 minutes.
Another prototype created by DARPA is the DelFly Micro, which measures less than 4 inches from wingtip to wingtip and can fly for 3 minutes.
Meet new cyborg critters: Scientists working for the Defense Department created two prototypes of artificial intelligence gatherers, including the Nano Hummingbird (left) and the DelFly Micro (right)