The 1960’s were certainly a weird time for the CIA. You have probably heard of Project MKUltra where the CIA experimented with psychedelics and mind control. While MK Ultra is a very well known project, you probably haven't heard about Operation Acoustic Kitty, or the time the CIA attempted to turn a cat into a cyborg super spy. And yes this experiment went about as well as you would have expected.
Why a Spy Kitty?
Some unknown genius working for the CIA in the 60’s had the brilliant idea that the US would be able to spy on unsuspecting soviet diplomats using a spy cat. The idea was that the cat would be able to listen in on private conversations between foreign operatives undetected. I’m not going to poke too many holes in this plan quite yet but whoever came up with this idea was probably taking some of that MKUltra LSD.
It took the CIA five years to develop Operation Acoustic Kitty and it ended up being a joint effort between the CIA’s Office of Technical Services and Office of Research and Development. Luckily for the moron who came up with this “brilliant idea,” no one seems to remember who initially came up with the idea once it was flushed out and somehow approved. Perhaps everyone was in too deep and too embarrassed to rat on one another
Operation Acoustic Kitty
On top of being a ridiculous premise, the CIAs engineers had their work cut out for them. They needed to develop equipment that was small enough and comfortable enough to implant inside of the cats without impacting their natural movements or causing them to dislodge the equipment. On top of the size restrictions, the power source, transmitter and antenna also had to withstand the cat's internal body temperature, humidity and chemistry. The engineers built a three quarters inch transmitter to imbed at the base of the cats skull, a microphone planed in the cats ear canal, sewed the antenna under the cats fur and along its tail, and had to install small, removable batteries. The size of the batteries gave the CIA a lot of trouble because they needed to be small enough to be concealed, however, this meant the spy cat had very little recording time.
Before rigging up a poor living cat with all the recording equipment, the CIA at least had the foresight to experiment with the equipment on dummies before moving to living cats. When they tested the equipment on living cats, they monitored their reaction to the equipment to make sure they were comfortable and that they behaved normally. After wasting millions of taxpayer dollars developing this technology the CIA weighed the potential fallout from negative publicity versus the benefit of a successful project before wiring up the first kitty CIA agent.
It dumbfounds me that nowhere in the planning process someone working for the CIA was like hummm before we invest millions of taxpayer dollars into this project maybe we should way the pros and cons. Is this how the CIA runs all of their projects? Blow millions of taxpayer dollars and then consider the ethical implications? Also who the fuck thought this would work? Why wasn’t there a guy who said “hey guys let's not blow $80,000,000 on this project because it makes no god damn sense.” Any way I digress.
The CIA selected an adult female grey and white cat to be the first cyborg super spy kitty. It only took one hour for the vets to rig her up with all the high-tech spy gear. After she came to and recovered from the surgery, the CIA agents decided now would be the best time to figure out if a cat could even be trained.
Did seriously no one I don’t know try and train the freaking cats before implanting one with a radio? Or I don’t know before blowing $10 million (or $80 million in today's money) developing high tech equipment. You’d think that's step one see if cats can even be trained to do the job not build all this expensive equipment than figure out if it works later
Anyway, it turns out that cats are not easy to train. The spy cat was able to move small distances and could target certain locations in an environment she was familiar with, however, outside of the lab she was untamable. The second she got bored, distracted, or hungry, the spy cat would wander off and do her own thing. The cat's hunger became such a big issue and the CIA invested so much money in the project that rather than giving up, they added more wire to control the cats hunger.
Spy Kitty in Action
I swear to god what you're about to read is one hundred percent true. This is one of the most insane endings to a story imaginable. Like you really can’t make this shit up.
On the spy kitties' very first field test, a recon van was parked across the street from a park, where two marks were sitting on a bench. The cat was supposed to cross the street walk over to the men and record the conversation. What actually happened is shocking to say the least. The two agents in the recon van released the cat from the van and she was immediately hit and killed by a taxi cab. A taxi cab runs over the $80 Million spy cat. You literally cannot make this shit up.
Oh and the agents in the car new they fucked up instantly. They had to scrape the cats remains off the street to make sure the Soviets didn’t get their hands on their spy technology.
Well there wasn't much fallout from this project because the CIA did a very good job covering it up but my god what a stupid idea. It’s honestly embarrassing that this went through multiple levels of approval. Did seriously no one stop along the way and think this plan is absolutely bonkers and we should stop it immediately?
I hope you enjoyed this blog. If you did check out our podcast episode about Operation Acoustic Kitty on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and your favorite podcast platform. Also please consider sharing this blog with a friend or on social media. As always, stay spooky misfits!