University of Wisconsin-Madison

Whistleblower/PETA Investigation: University of Wisconsin-Madison, cat brain experiments (2009) 


Update: In January 2015, the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that it was ending the cat hearing experiments in the Yin laboratory.  Five cats remained in the laboratory. Four were adopted out by the university to private homes. One was euthanized, probably as a result of having been maimed by the experiments, though the university did not offer details.

In 2009, PETA submitted the first of several open records requests to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). The subject of the requests was invasive brain experiments on cats being conducted by Professor Tom Yin in the Department of Neuroscience. Yin implants “twisted wire coils on the top of the cats' heads or around one or both eyeballs … to measure minuscule movements that … help determine how well the cats can locate sound.” [1] 

The cats are also outfitted with “head caps” so that, according to Dr. Yin, “electrical connectors to the eye and head coils are embedded in the cement that makes up the head cap." The head caps also contain a post so that researchers can "clamp the head stationary for cleaning purposes or when we want the cat to work with its head fixed." When the research is not in progress, the cats are mobile and the post is not used. [2]

The experiments were brought to the attention of PETA by the attending veterinarian at UW who oversaw the treatment of the cats in the experiments and was disturbed by the condition of the cats.

According to PETA, "The UW cat experiment is one of the most invasive experiments happening anywhere in the country. … The cats in the lab are sometimes intentionally deafened. They implant electrical devices in their inner ear, in their brain, stitch a coil to their eye. Their bodies are being mutilated in a number of different ways. Many of the cats are basically wasting away. They're getting sick, they're having to be euthanized. It's a real travesty."  [3]

The experiments continue to this day, as does PETA’s campaign. Very disturbing photos of the cats in the experiments can be seen at PETA’s website: These photos were provided to PETA by the university following a lawsuit that declared the photos to be public records.

The attending veterinarian who alerted PETA agreed with PETA’s allegations of poor care, and told the Inspector General of the USDA: “I saw this research firsthand. Many of these cats suffered unnecessarily, and I made my concerns known to the principal investigator, colleagues and the UW-School of Medicine and Public Health [animal experimentation oversight committee] at the time.” In 2010, the attending veterinarian resigned after he felt his concerns were not properly addressed. [4]

According to The Isthmus newspaper, he resigned “after months of alleging he has been persecuted for raising concerns about animal care. He called his departure a "coercive termination," meaning he was subjected to an intolerable work environment.” [5] 

View PETA’s video about the investigation here:

[1] Peek, Jenny, “How UW-Madison lab cats became the symbols for PETA's campaign against animal research,” Isthmus, January 9, 2014,

[2] Ibid. 

[3] Ibid.

[4] Kretzer, Michelle, “Former UW Vet Says Lab Violated the Law,”, October 12, 2012, 

[5]  Lueders, Bill, “UW-Madison campus veterinarian quits, faulting animal care,” The Isthmus, December 16, 2010,