The stowaway was discovered when an alarm went off at JFK’s checked baggage checkpoint on November 1. 16, according to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. Officers looked at the x-ray image and saw the clear outline of an animal.
“The bag was opened by a TSA agent, who was shocked to see a living orange cat inside,” Farbstein wrote in an email.
We let the cat out of the bag on a historic find. This CATch had our baggage screening officers @JFAirport saying “Come on meow”! Feline as you have questions about travel, contact our friends @AskTSA. They are available every day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET). pic.twitter.com/LpIkLbAgzC
—TSA (@TSA) November 22, 2022
TSA agents contacted Delta, the passenger’s airline, which then called the passenger to Orlando, Farbstein said. The passenger said the cat was not his, but belonged to someone else in his household.
The cat was brought home safely, but following the feline fiasco, the passenger missed his flight. He was able to book for the next day, “without the cat!” Farbstein added.
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Tuesday, Farbstein tweeted a photo of the incident, which shows a black, slightly unzipped suitcase with conspicuous orange fur inside.
A @TSA officer was shocked to find an orange cat in a bag checked in to @JFAirport after going through the x-ray unit. Travelers said the cat belonged to someone else in their home. On the bright side, the cat is out of the bag and safely home. pic.twitter.com/5XZVJLaZNm
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) November 22, 2022
It wasn’t the first time in years that a pet nearly ended up on a flight, unbeknownst to its owners. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking their bags at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when the Southwest Airlines ticket agent informed them that the bag was overweight.
When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid a fee, they were shocked to find Icky, their 5-pound chihuahua, tucked into one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
Couple discover their luggage is overweight due to 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 that happening?”
With the help of Southwest employees, the Owens called a relative to pick up Icky and rushed to catch their flight to Las Vegas.
Icky and the cat bound for Orlando are lucky to have been found before being put on a plane with the rest of the checked luggage, which could have been fatal. Checked baggage on passenger flights is under pressure, but it can drop in 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 for larger pets that must travel in the hold, special arrangements must be made by Delta Cargo.
At the security checkpoint, pets must be removed from their cages and carried through the screening machine, according to the TSA’s advice page, “Taking Your Human on a Plane: What Every Pet Should Know.” .
“Don’t put me in the x-ray tunnel. Seriously, it’s not fun for me,” the agency said. “Get me out, put my EMPTY travel bag on the belt and leave my x-rays with the vet.”