For most of the latter half of the 20th century, the United States and the Soviet Union were leading adversaries in the nuclear arms race known as the Cold War. Seemingly no potential advantage was to be overlooked, regardless of sector or industry. This was true in technology and espionage as well, and, in the 1960s, the CIA found a marriage of the two which could have been a potential game-changer.
That innovation? A bionic spy cat named the Acoustic Kitty.
According to former CIA agent turned author Victor Marchetti, the CIA had developed a way to, literally, wire a cat so that it could be used in espionage missions. The CIA surgically implanted a power supply into the cat, as well as wires going into its brain and its ears. A microphone was layered into its ears and an antenna through its tail. The implanted device was able to determine when the cat was aroused or hungry and suppress those urges, allowing it to carry out its mission — cuddle up to some Soviets and listen to their conversations. The entire operation, from start until its end, cost the government somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million and took about five years to develop.
In testing, the CIA discovered that the Acoustic Kitty had a fatal flaw. A surveillance van drove up to the test subjects and released the cat, which again according to Marchetti, made its way across the street unnoticed. Unnoticed, that is, by an oncoming taxi cab, which struck the cat, killing it immediately.
The CIA decided to drop the spy cat program soon thereafter.
Bonus fact: In 1995, the United States issued a patent to a pair of Virginia inventors for a “method of exercising a cat.” That method, as drafted in patent number 5,443,036, is by playing with the cat with a laser pointer. The patent expired in 2007.
From the Archives: The Two Soviets Who Saved the World: You know, by stopping nuclear war.
Related: A stand-alone, automatic laser designed specifically to entertain cats. 500++ reviews (although most seem to be jokes).