Félicette: World’s first CATstronaut

The international space race was a competitive event that took the world by storm! A simple but daunting task between two rival countries: The Soviet Union and The United States, to see who would be the first to conquer space exploration!. 

A Russian street dog named Laika was actually the first animal to explore the vast space in 1957, followed by an American chimp named Ham who went into the empty wilderness in 1961. Although less commonly known, the French also launched a feline friend into space in the name of science. 🐱‍🚀

Photo credits: All That’s Interesting 🙌

History and Background 

Félicette, a street cat found roaming the streets of Paris was the first chosen feline to tackle an unthinkable task. Along with 13 other street cats, French scientists put these kitties to the test. Through several months of research, screening tests, and training, the cats had electrodes connected to their brains and went through confinement, loud noises, and even centrifuge sessions to prepare them for the big leap! 🙀

Why did France do it?

The reason why Félicette was chosen is because of her calm personality. Unlike the rest, she did not panic during the trials. This was extremely important because the researchers’ aim was to examine the effects of space travel on human physiology. 

At the time, cats were commonly used in the field of neurophysiology because they actually share many cellular functions with us, which also means we can study them to get a better understanding of our own biology! 

On a breezy autumn day in 1963, Félicette spent 15 minutes on a voyage to the stars before coming back down to earth.

Photo credits: All That’s Interesting 🙌

Common misconceptions and the forgotten feline

As the main competitors were the Soviet Union and the United States, France fell behind and was forgotten. At the time, they never launched a human into space, so their accomplishments were forgotten, as well as Félicette’s contributions. But that’s just history – now, France has one of the biggest space agencies in the world!

Actually, there were a series of stamps that appeared to honor her contributions – but they made a mistake with her name and sex! She appeared as a male cat named Félix.


After the mix-up, a man named Matthew Serge Guy actually organized a kickstarter campaign. He stated that

“Although other animals in space — such as Laika the dog and Ham the chimpanzee — are well-known within popular culture and have lasting memorials, very few people are aware that a cat went to space at all. Now, it’s time for ‘The Astrocat’ to get the memorial she rightly deserves.”

Guy’s campaign gained over $57,000 to create a statue for Félicette, which now stands proudly at the International Space University in France.

Photo credits: All That’s Interesting 🙌

Ethical concerns and considerations 

Of course, we have to address the elephant in the room. Despite the great contribution that Félicette has given the scientific community, the ethical aspect of using animals in experiments remains controversial. Animals can’t speak for themselves, so there’s a pretty good chance Félicette didn’t consent to any of this. But back in 1963, we still weren’t too sure about the effects of space travel on human neurological impacts. 

As a society, we’ve learned from our mistakes, and according to an article on NASA’s own website from 2004, 

“Animal housing rules are more extensive than the requirements for human children daycare centers. NASA facilities that house animals for research are accredited by an organization that requires proof that animals are cared for in a facility that meets those standards.” 

📰 MyFriend’s Paw Report is a segment for all news and upcoming trends that are spicy, trending, and sometimes controversial! Our reports are factual and unbiased so all pawrents can stay in the know.

🐶🐱 MyFriend, your pet’s app. Where pet parents can find all services and content to take better care of their best friends!



Enjoyed the article? Share with a Friend!