The stowaway was discovered when an alarm went off at the JFK checked baggage checkpoint on Nov. 16, according to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. Officers looked at the X-ray image and saw the sharp outline of an animal.
“The bag was opened by a TSA officer, who was shocked to see a live orange cat inside,” Farbstein wrote in an email.
We’re letting the cat out of the bag for a historic discovery. This CATch had our own baggage checkers @JFKairport saying: “Come on meow”! Feline like you has travel questions that reach our friends @AskTSA. They are available every day, from 8:00 to 18:00 (ET). pic.twitter.com/LpIkLbAgzC
—TSA (@TSA) November 22, 2022
TSA agents contacted Delta, the passenger’s airline, which then called the Orlando-bound passenger, Farbstein said. The passenger said the cat was not his, but belonged to another member of his family.
The cat returned home safely, but due to the feline fiasco, the passenger missed the flight. He was able to rebook for the next day, “without the cat!” Farbstein added.
Everything to know about flying with pets, from the people who do it the most
Tuesday, Colorstone tweeted a photo of the incident, showing a black suitcase, slightly open, with orange fur clearly visible inside.
A @TSA The officer was shocked to find an orange cat inside a checked bag @JFKairport after it went through the x-ray unit. The traveler said the cat belonged to someone else in his family. On the bright side, the cat came out of the sack and made it home safely. pic.twitter.com/5XZVJLaZNm
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) November 22, 2022
It wasn’t the first time in recent years that a pet has nearly gotten on a flight, unbeknownst to its owners. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking in their baggage at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when the Southwest Airlines ticket agent informed them that their baggage was overweight.
When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid a fee, they were shocked to discover Icky, their 5-pound chihuahua, hidden in one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
The couple discover their luggage is overweight due to the stowaway dog
“It was just surreal,” Kristi told the Washington Post at the time. “Are we really seeing our dog in our suitcase right now? Is happening?”
With help from Southwest employees, the Owenses called a relative to pick up Icky and hurried to catch a flight to Las Vegas.
Both Icky and the Orlando-bound cat were lucky to have been found before being loaded onto a plane with the rest of their checked baggage, which could have been fatal. Baggage on passenger flights is pressurized, but can go down in cold temperatures, according to Air Canada.
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On Delta, small dogs, cats and pet birds can travel in a pet carrier in the cabin, but for larger pets that need to travel in the hold, special arrangements must be made through Delta Cargo.
At security checkpoints, pets should be taken out of their carriers and taken through the screening machine, according to the TSA’s tips page, “Taking Your Human on a Plane: What Every Pet Needs to Know.”
“Don’t put me in the X-ray tunnel. Seriously, this is no fun for me,” the agency says. “Take me outside, put my EMPTY pouch on my belt, and leave my X-rays at the vet.”