According to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, the stowaway was discovered on Nov. 16 when an alarm went off at JFK’s checked baggage screening area. Agents 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 find a live orange cat inside,” Farbstein wrote in an email.
We let the cat out of the bag. Our baggage screening officers were present at this catch @JFKairport “Come on meow”! Cats are our go-to friends when you have travel questions @AskTSA. They are available daily from 8am to 6pm (ET). pic.twitter.com/LpIkLbAgzC
— TSA (@TSA) November 22, 2022
TSA agents contacted the passenger’s airline, Delta, who then paged the passenger to Orlando, Farbstein said. The passenger said the cat was not his and belonged to another person in his household.
The cat returned home safely, but as a result of the cat’s failure, the passenger missed his flight. “Without the cat!” He was able to reschedule that for the next day. Farbstein added.
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Tuesday, Colorstone Tweeted A photo of the incident shows a black suitcase, slightly unzipped, with orange fur clearly visible inside.
A @TSA The officer was shocked to find an orange cat in the checked bag @JFKairport After passing through the X-ray unit. The passenger said the cat belonged to someone else in her household. On the bright side, the cat got out of the bag and returned home safely. pic.twitter.com/5XZVJLaZNm
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) November 22, 2022
It’s not the first time in recent years that pets have boarded a plane without their owners knowing. In October 2021, Christy and Jared Owens were checking their luggage at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when a Southwest Airlines ticket agent reported that the bag was overweight.
When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid the fee, they were shocked to find a 5-pound Chihuahua resting in one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
The couple found their luggage overweight because of the stowaway dog
“It’s surreal,” Christie told The Washington Post at the time. “Do we see our dog in our suitcase now? Is this happening?”
With the help of Southwest employees, the Owenses called a relative to pick up Iggy and scrambled to get their flight to Las Vegas.
Both Iggy and the Orlando-bound cat were luckily found before being put on the plane with checked luggage, which was fatal. According to Air Canada, luggage on passenger planes is pressurized, but it can shrink to cold temperatures.
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On Delta, small dogs, cats and pet birds can travel in an in-cabin carrier, but larger pets must make special arrangements with Delta Cargo.
At the security checkpoint, pets must be taken out of their carriers and put through a 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, it’s not fun for me,” the company says. “Take me outside, put my empty travel carrier on the belt, and leave my X-rays with the vet.”