(CNN) — People take strange things on planes – this is nothing new. And the suitcase checked in for a trip from New York JFK to Orlando, Florida on Nov. 16 certainly contained a few oddities. As he walked through the X-ray machine, TSA officials could see what appeared to be bottles, wine glasses, a pair of flip flops — and the life-size figure of a cat.
It turned out that the outline was life-size because the cat was a real cat: ginger, alive and, apparently, unscathed from the last few hours when it was stuffed into a suitcase and thrown on the plane. A plane where, of course, he could easily have died in the hold during the flight.
Officers who saw the image and then opened the case to find the cat were “shocked,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told CNN.
Staff found the cat alive.
Although they deal with everything from unauthorized firearms to illicit cranberry sauce on a daily basis, “it’s rare to find a live animal in a checked bag,” she said. Luckily, the cat didn’t try to run away when they opened the case.
The passenger, who was traveling on Delta Air Lines, was called to explain his luggage and told the TSA that “it wasn’t his cat – it belonged to someone else in the house,” said Farbstein. They suggested the cat – which was on top of the luggage, and even had its fur sticking out of the suitcase between the zippers – entered the suitcase unseen.
The TSA did not involve animal welfare, Farbstein said.
Are you traveling (voluntarily) with your cat? Farbstein advises putting him in a crate and requesting that he be screened in a private room, so that when he is taken out for screening, he cannot run away. A search of the cat’s hand luggage can then take place.
And if you’re not traveling with your cat, make sure he hasn’t joined you for the ride.