What cat wouldn't make a perfect spy? Unfortunately, one that the CIA picked to launch their experimental feline espionage program, codenamed: Acoustic Kitty. According to a recovered 1967 memo from the agency, researchers sewed audio recording equipment into a few good cats, then trained them to move short distances into strategic eavesdropping spots around Washington, D.C. The first furry surveillance drone was deployed in a park to spy on Soviet diplomats; sadly, within minutes, it was struck by a taxi and killed. The CIA resolved that "in a real foreign situation...it would not be practical." The project landed in the litter box. Or maybe that's just what they want us to think.
Forget Amazon drones—the future of package delivery is Carrier Cats! That's what the Belgian Society for Elevation of the Domestic Cat thought in the late 1800s: Even "a cat of average abilities" could be lured twenty miles into the countryside or a neighboring town, told to "scat," and eventually find its own way home. The Society thus devised a kitty delivery service, with messages placed in water-proof bags around the necks of 37 cats. Unless, of course, "the criminal class of dogs [undertook] to waylay and rob the mail-cats," as one 1876 Times article feared. In the end, it wasn't dogs or curiosity that killed catmail; transporting and organizing the critters was just not worth the time or scratch marks.
More recently: lemon was only two weeks old when he stumbled off the mean streets of Kyoto and into the warm lobby of Yoro Station. The attendant police officers immediately welcomed lemon as one of their own; now, fully grown and filling his own custom-stitched pair of uniform blues, Lemon can be proud to call himself Japan's first police cat. He mostly works a desk job (translation: sits on other cops' desks), but on a good day you might see him riding along with fellow officers to put children and elderly crime-targets at ease.
"One Alaskan cat managed to claw all the way to the top of his town’s politics," we reported here. "For 16 years, Stubbs, an orange manx, has served as honorary mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska. According to locals, the town’s 900 residents elected Stubbs as a write-in candidate after rejecting the human contenders. Talkeetna residents say Stubbs is the best mayor in the town’s history and praise his laissez-faire business practices."
The Prime Minister's office at 10 Downing Street has employed a cat as official government Mouser since the reign of Henry VIII, but Humphrey Appleby (1988-1997), rescued as a one-year-old stray, spent a storied decade mousing for Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair. Not immune to scandal, in 1994 he was accused of killing four robin chicks (but was later exonerated). In June 1995, Humphrey went missing for three months, and was assumed dead. When he was finally discovered at a nearby hospital in September, Humphrey was so thrilled to get back to work he released a statement to the public. "I have had a wonderful holiday at the Royal Army Medical College," Humphrey dictated to a civil servant, "but it is nice to be back and I am looking forward to the new parliamentary session."
Following in the footsteps of Justin Bieber, Tardar "Grumpy Cat" Sauce started her meteoric rise to fame with a single post. When this sourpuss—who suffers from feline dwarfism, face affixed in a permanent scowl—first appeared first appeared on Reddit in September 2012, a meme was born. Barely one year later "Grumpy Cat" made countless TV appearances, appeared on the covers of New York Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, became the subject of a best-selling book, and scored a deal for a "Garfield-like feature film" with Broken Road Productions. Who's frowning now? (See also: Lil' Bub and Maru, each cat boasting millions of YouTube views.)
When not chowing on vermin or fighting off venomous snakes, cats in ancient Egypt enjoyed a charmed life—and afterlife. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, men would sacrifice their own bodies during fires to keep cats guarded from the flames, and the death of a cat would be mourned by its family as if a human relative had passed. Even the honor of mummification was extended to cats, and cults of worship sprung around them for their resemblance to the feline-faced fertility goddess, Bast. Officially those were banned by imperial decree in 390 AD, but even as cat worship dwindled, their presence as house pets and pest-control remains strong in modern Egypt. Apparently, being able to kill a rat with your face goes a long, long way.