Cats with jetpacks seem like the invention of some fevered internet meme factory, but recently compiled illustrations from the 16th century show that our obsession with putting kittens into bizarre scenarios has existed for hundreds of years.

After discovering what appeared to be an illustration of a cat with a bottle of flames strapped to its back, UPenn scholar Mitch Fraas took to the Twittersphere to find some answers about the rocket-powered cat. Shockingly, other instances of these fiery feline illustrations began to come out of the woodwork and the grim truth behind the etchings became clear.

The illustrations all stemmed from military documents which put forth the idea of strapping crude firebombs to the backs of cats (and birds as well) and setting them loose to infiltrate otherwise impenetrable enemy fortresses. It is unknown whether these cartoonish tactics were ever put into use, but whatever medieval DARPA thought this idea up should be commended for sheer insanity.

See the original article here.

To read more on the cat bombs and other military animals, check out Atlas Obscura!


Images via The Folger Shakespeare Library and The University of Heidelberg Library