In a "tail" of espionage, the U.S. allegedly launched a mission dubbed "Acoustic Kitty" to deploy surveillance cats during the height of the Cold War.
In an attempt to monitor Russians who were in Washington, D.C., during the Cold War, American officials allegedly proposed a plan to use cats to eavesdrop on the Soviet Union, The Atlantic reports. The project, reportedly known as "Acoustic Kitty," consisted of surgically implanting animals with radio transmitters and microphones.
"They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up," Victor Marchetti, executive assistant to the director of the CIA in the 1960s, was quoted as saying in the 2001 book, "The Wizards of Langley," according to The Atlantic.
"The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity."
The CIA reportedly invested $10 million into designing, training and surgically operating the very first Acoustic Kitty. During the first mission, agents released the feline from the back of a van and watched the animal head towards the embassy. However, after walking for about 10 feet, the cat was hit by a taxi and killed.
"There they were, sitting in the van, and the cat was dead," Marchetti recalled.
On Reddit, commenters were greatly amused by the possibility of such an occurrence.
"I'm imagining a cat, wearily dragging its body along the ground," Kittimm wrote. "Completely overlaiden with microphones, microfilm, cameras. It looks like a hastily-packed fluffy pencilcase. One leg has been completely replaced with a telescope and its tail is stark upright, clearly an antenna. It's released from the van, looks around, and sees a car coming. And with every ounce of its remaining strength, hobbles its way under the oncoming [tires]."
Although the Acoustic Kitty died 10 feet into its first mission, which translates into $1 million spent per foot on the job, documents suggest that the project was deemed a success regarding the ability to train felines.
"This is in itself a remarkable scientific achievement,” according to partially-redacted national security documents from the George Washington University archives. "Knowing that cats can indeed be trained to move short distances."
Nevertheless, it was determined that this strategy was not the best use of the organization’s resources.
" ... [T]he environmental and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that, for our purposes, it would not be practical," the document stated.