TSA found a stowaway cat in checked baggage at JFK airport


For once, it’s a good thing the cat is out of the bag.

When a traveler from New York unknowingly packed a cat in his checked luggage earlier this month, the feline would have arrived on a flight to Florida if not for the X-ray machine and the security agents of the New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

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.

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.

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.”

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