The Horrendously Cruel CIA Operation Designed To Train Cats To Become Spies

The CIA came up with a lot of controversial projects, but this one is by far the cruelest.

cat in sunglasses on CIA background Casimiro PT / Aaban / Cat Box / Shutterstock

The government has long been the subject of many conspiracy theories, some true and some make-believe. There is the "heart attack gun," created to assassinate world leaders, forced drug addiction tested on the CIA's own agents, and even mosquitos used as biological weapons.

One super-strange Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation you may never have heard of is Project Acoustic Kitty, a plan to train cats to spy using a microphone, antenna, transmitter and battery.


What was Project Acoustic Kitty?

Project Acoustic Kitty took place in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War, when the CIA’s Office of Technical Research and Office of Research and Development used $20 million over five years to turn a cat into a superspy.

They were looking for new weapons and ways to increase national security.

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To do this, CIA researchers implanted a radio transmitter at the base of the cat’s skull, sewed a microphone into its ear canal, and embedded an antenna into the tail of the cat.

According to former CIA agent, Victor Marchetti, “A lot of money was spent. They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity."

As horrific as that sounds, Project Acoustic Kitty was a remarkable scientific achievement, albeit short-lived.

Unlike some of the aforementioned government experiments, this one was never featured in a Congressional hearing, but there are some documents and statements from those within the CIA confirming that Project Acoustic Kitty was definitely real.


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Did the experiment work?

In order for Project Acoustic Kitty to work, the CIA would have needed to train a notoriously disobedient animal to follow very specific instructions. But they thought the other feline characteristics like curiosity and sneakiness would help it slither in and out of private places without being spotted.

They planned to use audio cues to control the cat so it would go to places where confidential discussions were taking place. With all of the spy-like hardware, the kitties still had to look normal and could show no objects protruding from their bodies or weird scars.

After conducting tests on dummies and live animals, the first Acoustic Kitty was "born."


But there were a ton of environmental and security factors to contend with. That first cat never reached its destination as it was run over by a taxi and killed while crossing the road.

Jeffrey Richelson of the NSA Archive said, “I’m not sure for how long after the operation the cat would have survived even if it hadn’t been run over.”

In heavily redacted CIA documents, despite the failure of the project, it said, “cats can indeed be trained to move short distances.” But, in the end, the agency admitted that using cats as spies “would not be practical.”


By 1967, the project ended, and all remaining parts of the spy cat were disposed of. There hasn’t been any additional documentation suggesting there might be additional Acoustic Kitties, and thankfully so, since the project seemed unnecessarily cruel and not well-thought out.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, who entertains and informs readers with in-depth analysis of conspiracy theories, legends, and myths.