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Acoustic Kitty

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Acoustic Kitty was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) project launched by their Directorate of Science & Technology in the 1960s, which intended to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies.[1]

In an hour-long procedure, a veterinary surgeon implanted a microphone in the cat's ear canal, a small radio transmitter at the base of its skull, and a thin wire into its fur.[2] This would allow the cat to innocuously record and transmit sound from its surroundings. Due to problems with distraction, the cat's sense of hunger had to be addressed in another operation.[1] Victor Marchetti, a former CIA officer, said Project Acoustic Kitty cost about $20 million.[3]

The first Acoustic Kitty mission was to eavesdrop on two men in a park outside the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. The cat was released nearby, but was hit and allegedly killed by a taxi almost immediately.[4] However, this was disputed in 2013 by Robert Wallace, a former director of the Office of Technical Service, who said that the project was abandoned due to the difficulty of training the cat to behave as required, and "the equipment was taken out of the cat; the cat was re-sewn for a second time, and lived a long and happy life afterwards".[5] Subsequent tests also failed.[1] Shortly thereafter the project was considered a failure and declared to be a total loss.[6] However, other accounts report more success for the project.[7]

The project was cancelled in 1967.[1] A closing memorandum said that the CIA researchers believed that they could train cats to move short distances, but that "the environmental and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that for our (intelligence) purposes, it would not be practical."[8] The project was disclosed in 2001, when some CIA documents were declassified.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Donald, Graeme (2011). Loose Cannons: 101 Myths, Mishaps and Misadventurers of Military History. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84908-651-6.
  2. ^ Anthes, Emily (2013). Frankenstein's cat : cuddling up to biotech's brave new beasts (First ed.). New York: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-15859-0.
  3. ^ "Cat was walking bug". Herald Sun. November 5, 2001.
  4. ^ Curtis, Adam, "You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough", The Living Dead, BBC television documentary, 1995, interview with Victor Marchetti at 28:10
  5. ^ TV series "The World's Weirdest Weapons", season 1, episode 6: "Weapons Of The Superspies", Yesterday TV
  6. ^ Jeffrey T. Richelson, The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002), 147-48. ISBN 0-8133-4059-4.
  7. ^ Vnederbilt, Tom (October 2013). "The CIA's Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren't Even Human". Smithsonian Magazine. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 1 November 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  8. ^ U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (March 1967). "Views on Trained Cats Use" (PDF). George Washington University. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 17, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2014., redacted (pdf)
  9. ^ Julian Borger (September 11, 2001). "Project: Acoustic Kitty". The Guardian Newspaper. Archived from the original on May 26, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA, John Ranelagh, rev. ed., New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987, at p. 208.

External links[edit]