Felicia, the Fermilab Ferret

In 1971, this ferret played a key role in the construction of particle accelerators at Fermilab's Meson Laboratory. As sections of vacuum chamber were connected together, Felicia would run through them, dragging a string. After she had carried the string all the way through, researchers would use the line to run a rag doused in cleaning solution through the long, narrow tubes.

Particle physics is seldom this adorable, and Felicia became a media star — until her retirement in December of 1971 (scientists replaced her with a vacuum-chamber-cleaning robot). She died the next year of an intestinal abscess. But her memory lives on.

Read about Felicia in the Fermilab archives

Felicia's obituary

Thanks, Jennifer Ouellette!



  1. When I was a kid my Dad used the family cat to run some wires in our house. I think he got the idea after we found the cat running around inside the infrastructure after a large hole had been made in a soffit.

  2. Supposedly Boeing used ferrets to run wires through aircraft that were under construction as well.

  3. This must be one of the few cases where a robot was less awesome than the alternative.

    1. It is planned that Felicia’s body will be stuffed and mounted, to be displayed permanently as a symbol of early NAL development problems and solutions.

      Why don’t we do this with US Presidents?

    2. I like how the robot that replaced her is referred to as “a mechanical ferret” in Felicias obituary.

  4. Ferrets are known for taking straight paths through obstructions while trailing string.  They were used to wire Buckingham Palace for electricity in the same manner. :-)  In fact, they’re being used to run broadband cables in the UK (or were as recently as 2010:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7541455/Ferrets-key-to-bridging-the-digital-divide-between-cities-and-rural-areas.html )

  5. Is this just me, or is Felicia making a near-perfect “I found you a boson; but I eated it.” face?

  6. Typical government bloat… They could have simplified the process by giving her steroids.  They could have completely eliminated dragging the rag through the tube.

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