The CIA Tried to Turn Cats into Secret Agents—and It Ended Really Badly

Milk. Shaken, not stirred.


In popular media, those who partake in espionage tend to possess very specific traits. Spies are agile, sneaky, and always able to land on their feet. Their senses are always heightened and it seems as though nothing can truly surprise them. Except for cucumbers.

Oh, wait. That was just a description of cats. Cats and spies do seem to share quite a few characteristics, huh? Well, as it turns out, the CIA seemed to make a similar connection back in the 1960s, according to Smithsonian. And no, cats are not sending out secret spy messages when they purr. This is what they’re doing.

The project was called “Project Acoustic Kitty” within the CIA and took five years to complete. The kitten cadets would be selected, then modified so that they could be used for surveillance purposes. Some cats have been actually been active during wartime. 

Could you say that the CIA was training cat burglars?

No, no you couldn’t. They weren’t stealing anything.

The cat in question would be turned into a cyborg, essentially, as it would have a surgically implanted audio transmitter, battery, and microphone, according to Mental Floss.  The project went through testing on dummies and live animals, running up a bill of up to $20 million. Issues arose from the cat’s inability to stay focused on the task at hand, due to hunger and the fact that it’s a cat and cats tend to do that. This is what your cat’s behavior is trying to tell you, and why your cat meows, rather than taking up secret agent work. 

The folks in Langley powered through all the trials and tribulations and finally made it to the point of practical application in the field. The first Acoustic Kitty was ready to be deployed.

And then, on the way to its first mission, the cat was hit by a taxi.

The whole project was scrapped in 1967, and we all missed out on the opportunity to have a British spy agency called MI9-Lives.