If one is to live life as a street cat, there is arguably no finer city in which to live in Paris, where you feast on the scraps of one of the world's great cuisines. But imagine if one day as you prowled along the Seine or down some idyllic rue, a stranger scooped you up, chucked you into an automobile and drove you to a lab. Upon your arrival you found yourself in some strange pageant with other felines from across the City of Lights, and stranger still, you win! But did you really?
Such was the fate of C 341, a Parisian alley cat who was chosen for her weight (5.5 pounds) and je ne sais quoi to become, on October 18, 1963, the first cat to have a bunch of electrodes strapped to her and be launched into outer-space. The whole trip lasted about fifteen minutes, with the cat pulling almost 10 g's, reaching an altitude of about 100 miles and experiencing five minutes of zero gravity.
The press, to their eternal credit, gave C 341 a proper name, one that befit her status a national hero: Felix, as in Felix the Cat. The Centre d'Enseignement et de Recherches de Médecine Aéronautique (the Aeronautical Medicine Education and Research Center) in turn changed it to the feminine Félicette and made it official. And then in a show of gratitude, the French government killed Félicette so they could study the effects of space travel.