The stowaway was discovered when an alarm went off at JFK’s checked baggage checkpoint on Nov. 16, according to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. The agents looked at the X-ray 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 when it comes to a historical find. This CATch had our baggage control officers @JFKairport say, “Come on, meow”! Cats like you have travel questions and turn to our friends @AskTSA. They are available daily from 8am to 6pm ET. pic.twitter.com/LpIkLbAgzC
— TSA (@TSA) November 22, 2022
TSA agents contacted Delta, the passenger’s airline, which then paged the passenger bound for Orlando, Farbstein said. The passenger said the cat was not his but belonged to someone else in his household.
The cat was safely returned home, but as a result of the cat fiasco, the passenger missed his flight. He was able to rebook to the following day “without a cat”! Color stone added.
Everything you need to know about flying with pets from the people who do it most
On Tuesday, Colorstone tweeted a photo from 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 in a checked bag @JFKairport after going through the x-ray machine. Traveler said the cat belonged to someone else in his household. On the plus side, the cat is out of the bag and home safely. 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 found its way onto a plane without its owners knowing. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking in their bags at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when the Southwest Airlines ticket agent told them the bags were too heavy.
When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid a fee, they were shocked to discover Icky, their 5-pound chihuahua, tucked into one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
The couple finds their luggage is overweight because of a blind dog
“It was just surreal,” Kristi told The Washington Post at the time. “Are we really seeing our dog in our suitcase right now? Does that happen?”
With the help of Southwest employees, the Owenses called a relative to pick up Icky and made their way to Las Vegas.
Both Icky and the Orlando-bound cat are fortunate to have been found before they were put on a plane with the rest of the checked luggage, which could have been fatal. Luggage storage on passenger flights is under pressure but can drop to cold temperatures, according to Air Canada.
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On Delta, small dogs, cats and pet birds can travel in a carrier in the cabin, but special arrangements must be made through Delta Cargo for larger pets that must travel in the cargo hold.
At security checkpoints, pets should be removed from their carriers and carried through the screening machine, according to the TSA tip page “Take Your Human On a Plane: What Every Pet Needs to Know.”
“Don’t push me into the X-ray tunnel. Seriously, that’s not fun for me,” says the agency. “Take me outside, put my EMPTY holdall on my belt and leave my x-rays to the vet.”