Felicette the Space Cat

Felicette, a beautiful tuxedo cat, in her space training gear.


Felicette, a beautiful tuxedo cat, in her space training gear.

Milo Martinson, Photojournalist

World powers have sent numerous animals to space, such as dogs, fish, and monkeys, but did you know that cats have also been in the cosmos? We all know how space exploration companies worldwide sent animals to space to test the impact of space on living beings. Felicette was one of the first animals to venture into space and the first ever cat to make a trip out of the atmosphere. 

The French Government purchased 14 cats to put into space training programs. All of these cats were female since they are known to have a more calm demeanor than their male counterparts. These cats had permanent electrodes surgically implanted into their brains so scientists could monitor their brainwaves during in flight training and when they would be on their flight to space. Lucky little Felicette passed all the tests with flying colors, leading to her being selected as the first kitty to go to space. With all her training complete, scientists were optimistic the mission would be a success for this special girl. On the 18th of October, 1963, at 8:09 am, Felicette was launched into space from a Space Centre site in Algeria. The mission was a sub-orbital flight, going 157 kilometers high and lasting around 13 minutes. It was wildly successful, bringing France into the space race. Thanks to Felicette’s success, scientists knew that a living being could survive a trip into space, even for a short while. Sadly, Felicette was so successful that scientists wanted to study her brain and the effects of space travel on the body. Despite completing her mission of advancing the scientific society of France and surviving a trip out of Earth’s atmosphere, scientists euthanized her less than two months later. 

Felicette made history, helped make discoveries, and fulfilled her duties to the fullest, but she was not allowed to receive the praise she deserved. Her story reminds us how poorly we are willing to treat animals for personal gain. She was a prime example of scientists exploiting animals sent to space missions. While it’s true that sending animals to these programs saved numerous human lives, does that justify euthanasia? Felicette did everything she was supposed to do, she was not given a choice or an opinion on the matter, and scientists euthanized her as soon as she completed her purpose. 

She probably thought she was doing everything her owners taught her to do, so why would they punish her for it?

— Lynx Allen (11)

As a cat owner, I’m brought to tears anytime I hear poor Felicette’s story. Lynx Allen (11), a fellow cat enthusiast, states, “I feel like she must have been so confused” upon hearing Felicette’s story. “She probably thought she was doing everything her owners taught her to do, so why would they punish her for it?” Felicette was one of many without a fair chance at everyday life. I believe every living thing deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, and I feel the way Felicette was cared for was far from humane. Thanks to her story, animals who aid in research are awarded a happy retirement once their scientific duties have been completed. Although Felicette had to suffer, she brought about change in the world for the better of all animals. We should never forget her story alongside Laika, Albert II, and many others sacrificed in the name of spaceflight.