If you want one, get ready for an adventure. You can only be eligible to buy a Cat – which will cost 0.1 BTC – by fulfilling what the project calls the “Fourth Quest.” It’s a multi-step process, and if you’ve not started yet, that’s okay — you’ve got until noon EST on Jan. 23 to go through the steps.
You’ll need to learn about the nuts and bolts of how Bitcoin works, choose your team, and become a bit of an evangelist for a bit of Bitcoin’s technical history.
We spoke to Taproot Wizards founder Udi Wertheimer to learn more about what the heck the Quantum Cats are, their ambitious mission to transform Bitcoin’s blockchain, and how to compete for an allowlist spot — or even a Cat, airdropped for free.
The Quantum Cats come from the team that brought us Taproot Wizards. Led by Udi Wertheimer, the Wizards’ story derives from a famous artwork posted in a Bitcoin forum.
The team, which raised $7.5 million in a VC-led seed funding round in Nov. 2023, aims to “bring magic back to Bitcoin.” There’s a deep technological flavor to everything they do. Notably, they inscribed the genesis Taproot Wizard onto Bitcoin, fully on-chain, using the Ordinals protocol. This brought about the mining of the biggest block in Bitcoin history.
The team loudly calls for bringing magic back to Bitcoin and has continued to champion the Ordinals protocol. Quantum Cats is the team’s first proper drop and plays a key role in this mission.
For more information on Taproot Wizards, check out our guide to the project.
The aim of the Quantum Cats is not to rake in enormous amounts of money, kickstart a video game project, or any other numerous reasons people create digital collectibles.
To get onto the allowlist for a Quantum Cat, you must take part in a campaign to make a fundamental change in how Bitcoin works: to revive a powerful functionality that once existed in Bitcoin called OP_CAT.
For your chance at a Cat, you need to learn about this powerful function, once part of Bitcoin but removed by creator Satoshi Nakamoto — and spread the word, calling for its re-adoption.
Wertheimer laid out the tool’s nature and history for us. “OP_CAT is a very simple opcode (Bitcoin scripting function) that was part of the original release of Bitcoin and later disabled. While simple, over time, it was discovered that it allows some powerful and unintended cryptographic tricks that can allow for safely bridging BTC across chains, building and improving L2 networks, and more. Over the years, Bitcoin devs figured out how to use that power safely, and that’s why many of them think now is the time to bring it back,” he said.
Why drag a bunch of people competing to buy a valuable Ordinals drop into an arcane Bitcoin improvement proposal? nft now asked Wertheimer about the project’s mission.
“Our main goal is to make the conversation around OP_CAT more approachable to more people. So far, conversations around potential Bitcoin upgrades have been limited to a small circle of technical experts. We think it’s healthier to involve as many people as possible, and we think people can have valuable input even if they’re not engineers,” he told us in an interview.
The contest steps will require you to get up to speed with OP_CAT and use this information to educate the public.
If you’re a bit lost as to where to start, you’re not alone — but there’s plenty of material to learn from. Since the Quantum Cats contest, there’s been plenty of information about OP_CAT appearing on X. A thread by 0xBlackeye explains its functionality a bit more fully.
“The opcode OP_CAT was available in the early version of Bitcoin. OP_CAT is about ‘concatenation’— it was introduced in 2009. OP_CAT was part of Bitcoin’s set of opcodes. ‘CAT’ stands for ‘concatenate,’ referring to its function of joining/merging two strings of data end-to-end,” he wrote.
Consisting of 13 lines of code, OP_CAT was a powerful tool — but Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin, removed OP_CAT from Bitcoin’s code. “OP_CAT was disabled by Satoshi due to concerns about the memory usage issue. The scripts utilizing OP_CAT in loops could exponentially increase data sizes, leading to potential denial-of-service attacks against nodes. The presence of oversized scripts can lead to complications in transaction processing and block validation, which can ultimately impact the stability and performance of the network,” Blackeye explained in his thread.
With the advent of Bitcoin’s Taproot upgrade, which allows for the creation of Ordinals, came many other innovations to improve the efficiency and security of Bitcoin’s code.
These upgrades mean that it is now safe to switch OP_CAT back on without the risk that it could bring the chain to a screeching halt. “Early on in Bitcoin’s history, there were concerns that OP_CAT might be too powerful and create security issues. But in the years since it was disabled, Bitcoin devs have mitigated all these issues, and it should now be safe to bring it back,” Wertheimer told us.
To bring OP_CAT back to life, Bitcoin would undergo what’s called a soft fork. This process means OP_CAT advocates would need to shepherd a proposal through a series of administrative hoops and votes, convincing the people who govern Bitcoin’s code to approve the change.
Evolving, On-Chain Art
Now that you’ve got a start with OP_CAT, let’s explore the Ordinals collection itself.
The Quantum Cat that started it all is “Genesis Cat,” a 1/1 created by artist Francisco Alarcon for Taproot Wizards. It headlined the latest Natively Digital auction at Sotheby’s, with a final bid of $254,000 as the auction ended on Monday, Jan. 22. “Genesis Cat” is built out of a mass of transparent bubbles, many of which offer a glimpse of other cats within. It’s finished off with a neon set of crossed-out eyes and glowing whiskers.
The rest of the Quantum Cats feature a wild collection of styles, ranging from the programmer-art style of Taproot Wizards to more refined-looking cats displaying a wild array of patterns, shapes, and motifs.
“The artwork is made by our creative director @0xfar, who was also behind the Taproot Wizards collection,” Wertheimer told us. “It was a lot of fun to watch him come up with a style that feels familiar for Taproot Wizards fans while also staying unique and forward-thinking. We couldn’t be happier with the results. We like the cats,” he said.
The Cats’ artwork will also evolve over time. While the exact mechanics of the promised evolution haven’t been revealed, the mechanic is based on Taproot Wizards’ favorite topics: blockchains and cryptography.
Wertheimer offered us a hint. “The a-ha moment with this collection is when you realize that all of its future evolutions are pre-committed on-chain. The artwork for future evolutions has already been made and inscribed. It’s encrypted, so no one can see it yet, but when they’ll see it, they’ll know it was always there, and we can’t change it anymore,” he said.
Wertheimer described the logistical and artistic challenges that staging the evolution has posed. “To generate the 3,333 collection with its many evolutions, we had to carefully curate the way the cats would look: both in each evolution state, but also progressively, in a way that tells a unique story. I think that, artistically, it’s one of the most ambitious projects in the space. The work that went into the art is beyond what people usually expect, and we’re excited for people to discover their Quantum Cat’s path over time,” he explained.
As you explore the collection, you’ll notice that some Cats’ eyes have Xes over them, like Genesis Cat, while other Cats’ eyes lack the X. The X-eyed cats are “dead,” and the ones without Xes are “alive,” in a call-back to Schrödinger’s famous experiment about a cat in a box. This distinction is crucial to notice if you’re hoping to win.
The Cats will mint on Jan. 24, which means you have a little under two days to get a chance to win them. Participants in the contest must complete a series of tasks, all of which involve making creative and educational content and posting it on X.
All three steps of the competition challenge you to help drum up support for the reinstatement of OP_CAT.
On Jan. 12, instructions for how to get a Quantum Cat were revealed on the Taproot Wizards Discord server. They ask: is OP_CAT dead or alive?
To officially enter, join the Taproot Wizards Discord server and go to a channel called Sorting Cat.
Here, you must choose whether you vibe more strongly with the Alive or Dead factions. This is a question of what you vibe with. Picking sides here is not like choosing your side in a debate: both teams are supporting the reinstatement of OP_CAT! Press the Alive or Dead button to make your choice with the Sorting Cat.
Choosing your team will assign you a role that gives you access to your team’s channels in the server. These include channels with detailed instructions for each of the quest’s three steps and a headquarters channel staffed with your faction’s team captains, who are available to help with questions about how the contest works–but can’t help you with your entries.
A note — you can work on your own or form subteams, either with some of your existing Web3 friends or by joining up with strangers: fellow members of Alive or Dead. You can meet them in your side’s dedicated HQ channel in the server. All of your subteam members need to be on the same side as you, whether Alive or Dead.
In order for your whole team’s work to count for all the members, you’ll need to tag everyone in the posts for all three steps. Be sure to follow the instructions and refer to the frequently asked questions channel.
Step One: Choose Your Champion
The first step is choosing your champion: any of the cats from the collection. If you’re on the Alive side, you’ll want to pick a cat without Xes over its eyes. If you’re on team Dead, choose a cat with Xes over its eyes.
Next, you’ll right-click and save your champion — “like a true Taproot Wizard,” as per the instructions — and make a tweet with the image, accompanied by text prescribed by the instructions on your side. (You get extra credit for changing your profile picture to your champion on X, but this isn’t required.)
Be sure to post a link to your tweet on the Taproot Wizards server in the special channel shown in your side’s instructions for the first step so it can be counted officially.
Step Two: Dead Or Alive
For the next step, it’s time to learn about OP_CAT and the process of getting that proposal through to the finish line and adopted on Bitcoin’s blockchain.
It’s a lot of reading, but the quest designers — anticipating the groaning degens — have furnished us with an explanation. “OP_CAT must make it through the trials of BIP Land in order to get activated. This treacherous journey will require the support of the Bitcoin community. Thus, your second challenge is to understand the inner workings of OP_CAT,” they explain in the instructions.
“BIP-Land” is how the project has taken the dry steps of getting the real-world OP_CAT proposal and transformed it into Quantum Cats lore.
To bring OP_CAT back, the Cats must pass through dangerous places like the Shadowy Supercoder Lair and the Testnet Graveyard. An adorable flowchart on the Quantum Cats website shows the way.
The Alive and Dead communities in Discord have been compiling loads of information, and the server announcements also offer places to gather what you need. You can also take a look at tweets from both teams by following hashtags: #ImDed and #OP_CAT_Is_Ded for the Dead side, and #StayinAlive and #OP_CAT_Is_Alive to find Alive members’ tweets.
When you’ve created your masterpiece, post a link to your tweet in your side’s step two channel on Discord so that the captains of your side — and the competition judges — can find them.
Just like in step one, step two’s instructions offer bonus opportunities, including drafting content against the resurrection of OP_CAT or sharing some software or a demo that uses the opcode.
Step Three: Have You Seen My OP_CAT?
The premise of this step really pushes the idea that OP_CAT is an actual feline. “OP_CAT has gone missing from Bitcoin, and it’s up to you to find it,” the instructions begin.
In this step, contestants make a flyer about their missing OP_CAT and “educate the masses on the joys of Bitcoin, OP_CAT, and Quantum Cats,” turning these deeds into videos.
Both quality and volume count, so pick your strategy with your subteam and proceed accordingly.
As in the other steps, post your videos on X and add links to the tweets in your side’s dedicated channel for them.
Judging, Prizes And Strategy
Each side’s entries will be evaluated first by their captains — special moderators who answer questions about the contest and are available if you need to raise concerns. They also compile shortlists of quality entries, which the contest judges select from to choose winners.
All winners are eligible for a first-come, first-served shortlist, and a handful of excellent entrants from each team will be airdropped a Quantum Cat for free. 400 winners will also receive a Quantum Cats print signed by 0xfar, whether they choose to mint a Cat or not. Here’s an official thread with the prize info.
What’s the best way to win? A subteam helps. Not everyone has to participate in your subteam’s every step—divide the work and be sure to tag your team members (and hashtag your team name if you have one) in your tweets. You can also do the job of exploring other entries much faster as a group.
Grabbing trusted friends with the right skills for your subteam is helpful. That way, you can be confident you’ll get steps done quickly! Also, remember that steps don’t need to be done in order.
Finally, with such a short time left, it might be worth focusing on the step you can hit out of the park, committing less time to the other steps.
The Contest’s Impact
What will happen with OP_CAT remains to be seen. Still, the contest itself breaks new ground, harnessing the Web3 community’s creativity and desire to send a focused message advocating a revolutionary change on Bitcoin.
On Jan. 21, a week after the contest launched, Udi Wertheimer reported an enthusiastic response to the contest, with thousands of entries singing the praises of OP_CAT.
“We launched @QuantumCatsXYZ 1 week ago. The Quantum Cats community meowed and purred, and in 1 week, they made more impact on upgrading Bitcoin than anyone else did in the last two years 🐱,” he posted on X.
In the tweet, Wertheimer revealed a possible impact of the contest: the proposal has just cleared a bureaucratic hurdle. “The OP_CAT proposal authors were waiting (for weeks-months) to get assigned a ‘BIP number’ by the ‘BIP editors’ so that they can begin testing,” he explained.
Amidst the current spotlight on OP_CAT, the maintainer of a Bitcoin testnet noticed the hold-up on the proposal and has now allowed OP_CAT’s activation for testing.
Whatever the outcome of the proposal’s journey, it will be good for Bitcoin, Wertheimer told us.
“Ultimately, if the community decides it’s not interested in reactivating OP_CAT, that’s totally fine. We think Bitcoin will be a lot stronger either way if these conversations happen more broadly. Our belief is that this is the biggest power of NFT communities: helping people get together and work with each other toward a common goal. Bringing that magic to Bitcoin is what we’re all about,” he said.
Disclosure: At the time of publication, the author is participating in the contest. This article does not form any part of her team’s entry.