Operation Acoustic Kitty: How CIA Trained House Cats To Become Spys

operation acustic kitty cia copy

By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

Cats are smart, sneaky, and suave. They are the perfect James Bond, the perfect Ethan Hunt, and the perfect spy for every season. So, why did the CIA- which has a habit of going unconventional- never try to bring them into the folds of espionage?


As it turns out, the organization did try that out in the 1960s. According to a book published by Emily Anthes in 2013, there was an attempt by the CIA to introduce what would have been Operation Acoustic Kitty. The plan was to stick a tiny microphone in the ear of your favorite kitty, along with a radio transmitter in its body.

The procedure for such an Operation took an hour, with a veterinary surgeon implanting a small microphone in the ear canal of the cat. There would also be a small radio at the base of the cat’s skull. This would officially turn the feline into a breathing surveillance machine. The idea was to train the cat in such a way that it would be innocently sitting near a top representative of the government, while officials at the other end would be eavesdropping on the conversations. There was just a single hitch in this plan- cats don’t like being trained. 

Operation Acoustic Kitty was deemed a failure because these felines never had an innate desire to please their human owners. Also, the cat that the CIA tried to implant the transmitter in didn’t really care much about national security. The first test conducted by the CIA led to them taking the test subject to a park where it was supposed to eavesdrop in on the conversation of two men nearby. What took place was quite tragic, as the cat wandered off and was hit by a taxi.

Now, while one would think that the CIA would be humane enough in their attempts to surgically implant a chip in a cat, the procedure made most operatives nauseous. In 2001, a former agent of the organization spoke about how the surgeons would be slitting the cat up, then put batteries in the poor animal, and then wire it up. The tail of the cat was then used as an antenna. Needless to say, this was nothing short of a monstrosity- something PETA would rightfully rally against.

Operation Acoustic Kitty Was Shelved After A Few Tests 

Incidentally, the events of the first test involving Operation Acoustic Kitty have been mired in controversy. While one agent maintained that the cat had been hit by a taxi and died immediately, Robert Wallace- the former Director of the Office of Technical Service in the CIA denounced it. In 2013, Wallace claimed that the only reason why this operation had been scrapped was due to the difficulty in training stray cats to obey instructions.

In the case of this cat, they made sure to take the equipment out of the cat, after which it apparently lived a long life. Several other tests conducted by the organization failed as well. As it turns out, the CIA had never produced any feline that would be performing as asked of them. The project was allegedly abandoned in 1967. 

What took place in the history of Operation Acoustic Kitty next was quite astounding- the CIA tried to sell the experiment as a major success. And this came despite the unsuitability of using cats as surveillance machines and the high cost of the equipment involved. In a memorandum that was enclosed, the agency stated that they believed in training cats to move extremely short distances. But, the security and the environmental factors involved in this technique in foreign conditions would be quite impractical, for both the cat and the handler involved. For those who are interested in delving deeper into animal experimentation done by the CIA, Project Operation Acoustic Kitty isn’t the only one.

Image credit: 123RF

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