We’ve covered dogs and monkeys being launched into space but I didn’t know that France had launched cats into space.
France launched a black and white stray tomcat of the Paris streets on October 18, 1963, on Veronique AGI sounding rocket No. 47 from the Hammaguir test range in Algeria. Was it a male named Felix. Or a female named Felicette? Whichever, it was the first cat in space as the capsule in the rocket’s nose cone separated at 120 miles altitude and descended by parachute. Electrodes in the cat’s brain transmitted neurological impulses to a ground station. The cat was recovered. Another cat flight on October 24, 1963, failed and was not recovered. Flights were directed by France’s Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherches de Medecine Aeronautique (CERMA).
Wikipedia has a great entry about animals being sent into space.
The first animals intentionally sent into space were fruit flies which were sent along with corn seeds aboard a U.S.-launched V2 rocket in mid July, 1946. The purpose of the experiment was to explore the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes. Some further V2 missions carried biological samples including moss.
Albert II in a U.S. launched V2 became the first monkey in space on June 14, 1949 (after the failure of the original Albert’s mission). Albert II died on impact after a parachute failure
(Thanks to PVC for the cat link)