Acoustic Kitty was a CIA project launched by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology, which in the 1960s intended to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. In an hour-long procedure a veterinary surgeon implanted a microphone in the cat's ear canal, a small radio transmitter at the base of its skull and a thin wire into its fur.
This would allow the cat to innocuously record and transmit sound from its surroundings. Due to problems with distraction, the cat's sense of hunger had to be addressed in another operation. Victor Marchetti, a former CIA officer, said Project Acoustic Kitty cost about $20 million.
The first Acoustic Kitty mission was to eavesdrop on two men in a park outside the Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. The cat was released nearby, but was hit and allegedly killed by a taxi almost immediately. However, this was disputed in 2013 by Robert Wallace, a former Director of the CIA's Office of Technical Service, who said that the project was abandoned due to the difficulty of training the cat to behave as required, and "the equipment was taken out of the cat; the cat was re-sewn for a second time, and lived a long and happy life afterwards". Subsequent tests also failed. Shortly thereafter the project was considered a failure and declared to be a total loss. However, other accounts report more success for the project.
The project was cancelled in 1967. A closing memorandum said that the CIA researchers believed that they could train cats to move short distances, but that "the environmental and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that for our (intelligence) purposes, it would not be practical." The project was disclosed in 2001, when some CIA documents were declassified.
Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals. Early symptoms can include fever and tingling at the site of exposure. These symptoms are followed by one or more of the following symptoms: violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, an inability to move parts of the body, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Once symptoms appear, the result is nearly always death. The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is usually one to three months, but can vary from less than one week to more than one year. The time depends on the distance the virus must travel along peripheral nerves to reach the central nervous system.
Rabies is caused by lyssaviruses, including the rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus. It is spread when an infected animal bites or scratches a human or other animal. Saliva from an infected animal can also transmit rabies if the saliva comes into contact with the eyes, mouth, or nose. Globally, dogs are the most common animal involved. In countries where dogs commonly have the disease, more than 99% of rabies cases are the direct result of dog bites. In the Americas, bat bites are the most common source of rabies infections in humans, and less than 5% of cases are from dogs. Rodents are very rarely infected with rabies. The disease can be diagnosed only after the start of symptoms.
Animal control and vaccination programs have decreased the risk of rabies from dogs in a number of regions of the world. Immunizing people before they are exposed is recommended for those at high risk, including those who work with bats or who spend prolonged periods in areas of the world where rabies is common. In people who have been exposed to rabies, the rabies vaccine and sometimes rabies immunoglobulin are effective in preventing the disease if the person receives the treatment before the start of rabies symptoms. Washing bites and scratches for 15 minutes with soap and water, povidone-iodine, or detergent may reduce the number of viral particles and may be somewhat effective at preventing transmission. As of 2016, only fourteen people had survived a rabies infection after showing symptoms.
Rabies caused about 17,400 human deaths worldwide in 2015. More than 95% of human deaths from rabies occur in Africa and Asia. About 40% of deaths occur in children under the age of 15. Rabies is present in more than 150 countries and on all continents but Antarctica. More than 3 billion people live in regions of the world where rabies occurs. A number of countries, including Australia and Japan, as well as much of Western Europe, do not have rabies among dogs. Many Pacific islands do not have rabies at all. It is classified as a neglected tropical disease.
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The sand cat (Felis margarita), also known as the sand dune cat, is the only cat living chiefly in true deserts. This small cat is widely distributed in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Starting in 2002, it was listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List because the population was considered fragmented and small with a declining trend. It was downlisted to least concern in 2016.
Owing to long hairs covering the soles of its feet, the sand cat is well adapted to the extremes of a desert environment and tolerant of extremely hot and cold temperatures. It inhabits both sandy and stony deserts, in areas far from water sources.
- "Sand Cat" | 2015-12-02 | 47 Upvotes 15 Comments
The ship's cat has been a common feature on many trading, exploration, and naval ships dating to ancient times. Cats have been carried on ships for many reasons, most importantly to control rodents. Vermin aboard a ship can cause damage to ropes, woodwork, and more recently, electrical wiring. Also, rodents threaten ships' stores, devour crews' foodstuff, and could cause economic damage to ships' cargo such as grain. They are also a source of disease, which is dangerous for ships that are at sea for long periods of time. Rat fleas are carriers of plague, and rats on ships were believed to be a primary vector of the Black Death.
Cats naturally attack and kill rodents, and their natural ability to adapt to new surroundings made them suitable for service on a ship. In addition, they offer companionship and a sense of home, security and camaraderie to sailors away from home.
- "Ship's cat" | 2014-03-03 | 277 Upvotes 72 Comments