The stowaway was discovered when an alarm went off at JFK’s checked baggage checkpoint on Nov. 16, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said. Officers looked at the X-ray image and saw the clear 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 let the cat out of the bag on a historical find. This CATch had our baggage checkers @JFKairport saying, “Come on meow”! Felines like you have travel questions, contact our furiends @AskTSA. They are available every day, from 8am to 6pm (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 someone else’s in his household.
The cat was returned home safely, but as a result of the feline fiasco, the passenger missed his flight. He was able to rebook for the next day, “without the cat!” added Farbstein.
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Tuesday Farbstein tweeted a photo of the incident, which shows a black suitcase, unzipped slightly, with orange fur clearly visible inside.
A @TSA officer was shocked to find an orange cat in a checked bag @JFKairport after it passed through the x-ray unit. Traveler said someone else’s cat was in his household. On the bright side, the cat is out of the bag and home safe. pic.twitter.com/5XZVJLaZNm
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) November 22, 2022
This wasn’t the first time in recent years that a pet almost ended up on a flight, unbeknownst to the owners. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking their luggage at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when the Southwest Airlines ticket agent told them the bag was too heavy.
When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid a fee, they were shocked to discover Icky, their 5-pound chihuahua, in one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
Couple discovers their luggage is too heavy due to stowaway dog
“It was just surreal,” Kristi told The Washington Post at the time. “Do we really see our dog in our suitcase? Is this happening?”
With the help of Southwest employees, the Owenses called a family member to pick up Icky and hurried to make their flight to Las Vegas.
Both Icky and the Orlando-bound cat are lucky to have been found before they were placed on a plane with the rest of the checked luggage, which could have been fatal. Baggage holds on passenger flights are pressurized but can drop to frigid temperatures, according to Air Canada.
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On Delta, small dogs, cats and birds can be transported in an in-cabin carrier, but larger pets that must be transported in the hold require special arrangements through Delta Cargo.
At security, pets must be removed from their carriers and carried through the screening machine, according to the TSA’s tips page, “Bringing Your Human on a Plane: What Every Pet Should Know.”
“Don’t put me in the X-ray tunnel. Seriously, that’s not fun for me,” the agency says. “Take me outside, put my EMPTY travel bag on the belt and leave my x-rays to the vet.”