During the Cold War, the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used animals such as ravens, pigeons and cats to perform tasks, including carrying small pieces of equipment or listening in on covert conversations. The CIA spent a goodly sum in the 1960s retrofitting felines surgically in order to spy on foreign officials. The program was called Operation Acoustic Kitty and it was classified as top secret.
Acoustic Kitty was a project that was intended to turn cats into living, walking surveillance equipment through the surgical implantation of recording equipment and broadcast antennae into a cat's body. However, this project eventually failed, and some apocryphal stories about the project's failure remain difficult to verify or dispute thanks to the relative lack of information about these projects, which the CIA is willing to release little to no information.
While the militaryÕs use of animals for intelligence gathering seems to have reached its peak during the Cold War, the United States Navy still trains marine mammals such as dolphins, sea lions and beluga whales to assist in military and intelligence gathering operations. In these projects, animal trainers use psychological principles based on the work of researchers such as B.F. Skinner and Pavlov in order to condition animals to perform certain behaviors and respond to certain cues. Using these techniques, trainers were able to get ravens to open file cabinets and even deposit small listening devices in desired locations.