LACKLAND AFB, Texas – An experimental program to train housecats for military working roles will be scrapped, defense officials have told Duffel Blog. The $93 million initiative, which sought to utilize the feline’s stealth, agility and nine lives in espionage and counterespionage operations, was ultimately derailed by an inconspicuous, yet utterly intriguing, empty cardboard box.
“Training dogs, now that’s one thing. Cats are – well, cats are an entirely different animal,” admits lead handler, Master Sgt. Felicia Keys. “Dogs have discipline – you can teach a dog to ignore tennis balls, Frisbees, squeaky toys. A cat is going to do whatever the hell it wants.”
“Observe,” she says as she gestures to a video monitor showing a low-light training simulation from the adjacent room, where a military working cat (MWC) is being evaluated. The room has been outfitted to replicate an office filled with sensitive and classified materials posing a grave threat to national security.
Kitten First Class Nermal, a gray, mackerel tabby, has been assigned to stop a known hostile from stealing documents and embedding an improvised explosive device within a computer. Instead, Nermal can be seen batting a ball of yarn around for forty-five seconds before becoming bored and then discovering an unassuming but fascinating box. The infiltrator successfully plants the bomb and makes off with the data. A flashing red siren activates.
“End scenario!” yells Keys, exasperatedly rubbing her temples, eyes furiously squeezed shut. Taking a deep breath, she flicks a switch and a bright, white light floods the simulation room. Nermal exchanges a contemptuous glare with the role player, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Arbuckle.
“Every. Single. Goddamn. Cat,” Keys murmurs, clicking through dozens of still captures featuring MWCs in the same box, all exhibiting the same, disdainful scowl.
Keys absentmindedly fast-forwards through footage of Sr. Kitten Chopsticks, a lanky Siamese, chasing a laser dot for eleven minutes while Arbuckle again successfully gathers intelligence. Chopsticks then defiantly knocks a ceramic mug off of a desk, tripping an alarm.
The lead handler buries her face into her arms on the desktop, muttering incomprehensibly.
"I should have just been a drill instructor," she laments.
At press time, defense officials had abandoned a similar venture to utilize children in tactical applications when subjects repeatedly displayed a proclivity to turn cardboard boxes into fortresses or rocket ships.