Cats in Space

Cats in Space. It may sound like it could have been a skit on the original Muppet Show, but along with dogs, chimps, monkeys and a variety of other species cats were part of early space programs. The contributions of our feline friends, along with other animals  who made the ultimate sacrifice, have often gone unnoticed as they became unwilling victims to the advancement of space exploration and human curiosity.

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The U.S while never actually sending cats into space did subject them to a ride on the “Vomit Comet”. Weightlessness, cats and pigeons.

Animals were used in early space programs to gain understanding of biological processes and the effects of space flight and gravity so that human injuries and loss could be reduced. Many countries used animals in early space programs including the U.S. Russia, China and Japan, but France included cats. Among the cats that the French used, who were subjected to a battery of tests including compression chambers, centrifuges and rocket-propelled sleds, a male named Felix and female named Félicette were chosen to be part of the first mission in 1963. Felix however had other plans and went missing just before the mission. Smart Cat.

Félicette, the first cat in space, cats in space, animals in space,

Félicette, who was found on the streets of Paris, stepped in to replace Felix as the first cat in space and, on On October 18, 1963 she was launched on the Véronique AG1 rocket from Algerian Sahara desert rocket base. After a 15 minute flight reaching an altitude of 130 miles Félicette made it back safely to Earth – alive. She had electrodes implanted in her brain so that they could measure brain activity and to register any changes that may have happened during the flight. Although Félicette did not actually orbit the Earth she came back a hero and was celebrated for her “valuable contribution to research” however, her celebrity did not last long. Not much is documented about her fate but it was noted in one blog that she was put to sleep not long after so that the electrodes could be studied. The not so glamorous side to the story and the reality of what happens to the majority of cats used in research.

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Cats in simulated spacesuits [NASA archive]

Félicette wasn’t the last cat to go to space, and on October 24 France launched another cat who did not make it back alive. There were problems with the recovery and the delay cost the unknown ‘astrocat’ his or her life.

The story of Félicette and the other cats used in the French space program appear to have quietly slipped away into history, but it’s an important story to be told and one that should not be forgotten.

What does the future hold for cats in space? At the time there doesn’t seem to be any plans for these experiments to be repeated, however recently the Iranian Space Agency announced plans to send a Persian Cat into space. The announcement met with backlash and rightfully so, but whether or not the unlucky feline will make it to orbit is unclear.

Here’s hoping we keep cats, and all other animals, grounded and the only time we see our feline friends visit space is in a video like this.

Remembering The Cats of War

Today we remembered those men and women who served and gave their lives in wartime, however it also appropriate to acknowledge and remember the millions of animals who served alongside them. Horses, dogs, donkeys and even pigeons all work animals, protectors, messengers many saving the lives of humans while giving their own. Lesser known and often forgotten, are the cats of war. They were more than just mascots who comforted officers and boosted morale, they played key roles.

Throughout the “war to end all wars,” cats were a common sight in the trenches and aboard ships, where they hunted mice and rats. Beyond their “official” duties, they were also embraced as mascots and pets by the soldiers and sailors with whom they served.

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Ship’s cat aboard the HMAS Encounter. [Wikipedia]

An estimated 500,000 cats were dispatched to the trenches, where they killed rats and mice; some were also used as gas detectors. At sea, cats had the run of the ship — a tradition dating back thousands of years.

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Faith the Faithful Church Cat

Faith, a cat who made her home at Saint Augustine’s Church in London in 1936. On September 6, 1940, the mother of one apparently had a funny feeling and moved her recently born kitten from the warm upper floors to the basement — just a day before London was hit by German air bombs. She and her kitten, Panda, were rescued from beneath the rubble by Father Henry Ross, and she was later awarded a special medal for “steadfast courage in the Battle of London.”

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Able Seacat Simon

Able Seacat Simon (his official title), of the Royal Navy’s HMS Amethyst, began his career in 1948 as the Amethyst’s formal ratter. During the time he served, Simon performed his duties so well that he was twice awarded in 1949. The first after a particularly grueling incident with Chinese forces, Simon was awarded an Amethyst campaign ribbon for his valiant service. The next was the Dickin Medal for animal gallantry. Simon is the only cat to have received the Dickin Medal, and when he died, he was buried with full naval honors.

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Famous image of Miss Hap the kitten – Korea, ca 1953

Accepting her fate as an orphan of war, ‘Miss Hap’ a two-week old Korean kitten chows down on canned milk, piped to her by medicine dropper with the help of Marine Sergeant Frank Praytor … The Marine adopted the kitten after its mother was killed by a mortar barrage near Bunker Hill. The name, Miss Hap, Sergeant Praytor explained, was given to the kitten ‘because she was born at the wrong place at the wrong time’.”

Click here for more photos of the cats of war.

Whisker Wednesday – Black Cats

I love black cats, I instinctively have a place in my heart for them.  My cat Simon lived for 18 years and since his passing, every time I meet another black cat I think of him.

Black Cat, Cats, beautiful Simon the early years

I just finished a cat sitting job watching 4 cats, 2 of which were black. One little cat named Boo was more shy than the others so it was really special to form a bond with him. He  decided to follow me around and watch my every move when I snapped this pic.

Black cats, sweet, cats, cat sittingBoo wants to know what’s up

Black cats still get a bad rep even today, but I think they are amazing and epitomize grace, mystery, luck and perseverance. I also think they are sometimes overlooked or under appreciated and people need to consider adopting them when looking for a cat.

Apparently in 1961 Hollywood, there was no shortage black cats, or love for, as droves of people and what looks like hundreds + black cats turned out for the “Black Cat Auditions“. It was likely for the Vincent Price show Tails of Terror.

Black Cat, Hollywood Audtions, 1961,Seems like Hollywood was full of some really well trained black cats. I wonder who got the part?

“A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”
Groucho Marx