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The Sad Case of Acoustic Kitty

And we wonder why they pee on all our stuff.

George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The subject of animal experimentation for the advancement of medical science or space exploration can prove a tricky topic, as you might imagine. Say what you will about swapping monkey heads, but those experiments taught us much of what we know about the possibilities and limits of full body transplants. Still, this argument doesn't win over everybody. Even fewer people buy into the necessity for the United States Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) deployment of "Acoustic Kitty."

It was the 1960s, the midst of the Cold War, and espionage was the stage for many of the machinations between the U.S. and Soviet superpowers. Given the political climate, you might be tempted to forgive the CIA for blowing five years and more than $10 million attempting to train a cat, but the addition of surgically implanted listening equipment, a battery and a tail-based antenna tend to tip things in favor of the critics [source: Edwardes].

Following further surgical attempts to bug the cat and curb its hunger, it darted under a taxicab during a field test and died. Was the animal's death an accident or an act of sacrifice to end a monstrous program? Today, house cats continue to ignore their human owners, presumably free from surgically implanted spy equipment.

The American public didn't learn about Acoustic Kitty until the related documents were declassified in 2001.

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