Cat Spies: How Felines Became the CIA’s Top Secret Agents in 1960s

In the 1960s the CIA kicked off a secret program intended to innovate an era of a new type of spy. The project became known as Acoustic Kitty, and it used cats in an attempt to spy on Soviet embassies. Meant to subtly eavesdrop on private conversations, the kitties were surgically implanted with microphone chips and radio transmitters.

A veterinary surgeon was in charge of implanting the microphone in the cat’s ear canal. The radio transmitter was placed at the base of the skull, and a wire worn in the fur.

The cat would then be released near to whoever the intended target was.

Cats were chosen for project Acoustic Kitty because, according to former CIA project members, the felines could easily be conditioned to listen to human voices.

There were many problems with this plan. The cats, once released, were difficult to control. They would become distracted by hunger and would wander off in search of food. The first Acoustic Kitty was meant to transmit the conversation of two men on a Washington D.C. park bench, but was struck by a taxi and killed almost immediately.

Cats aren’t the only non-human spies employed by the U.S. government. Other top-secret operatives include everything from ravens, pigeons and more to spy—all attempts to varied, but limited success.

According to Robert Wallace, a former director of the program, the cats were treated as humanely as possible. The equipment was removed from the cats at the end of the trials, and the felines reportedly lived long, normal lives afterwards.

Little was ever known about the project, until it was declassified in 2001 along with other CIA documents.