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TSA found a stowaway cat in checked bag at JFK Airport


For once, it’s a good thing the cat’s out of the bag.

When a New York traveler unknowingly packed a cat into his checked luggage earlier this month, the feline would have made it onto a flight to Florida if not for the X-ray machine and security agents at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The stowaway was discovered when an alarm went off at JFK’s checked baggage screening point on Nov. 16, according to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. 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 see a live orange cat inside,” Farbstein wrote in an email.

TSA agents contacted Delta, the passenger’s airline, who then paged the Orlando-bound passenger, Farbstein said. The passenger said the cat was not his, but belonged to another person in his household.

The cat was safely returned home, but as a result of the feline fiasco, the passenger missed his flight. He was able to rebook for the following day, “without the cat!” Farbstein added.

Everything to know about flying with pets, from people who do it most

On Tuesday, Farbstein tweeted a photo from the incident, which shows a black suitcase, slightly unzipped, with orange fur clearly visible inside.

This was not the first time in recent years that a pet nearly found its way onto a flight, unknown to its owners. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking their baggage at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when the Southwest Airlines ticket agent informed them the bag was overweight.

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.

Couple finds their luggage is overweight because of 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 this happening?”

With the help of Southwest employees, the Owenses called a relative to pick up Icky and scrambled to make their flight to Las Vegas.

Both Icky and the Orlando-bound cat are lucky to have been found before being placed on a plane with the rest of the checked baggage, which could have been fatal. Baggage holds on passenger flights are pressurized, but they can drop to cold temperatures, according to Air Canada.

How to help the street cats and dogs you meet while traveling

On Delta, small dogs, cats and household birds can travel in a carrier in the cabin, but for larger pets that need to travel in the hold, special arrangements must be made through Delta Cargo.

At the security checkpoint, pets should be taken out of their carriers and carried through the 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 into the X-ray tunnel. Seriously, that’s not fun for me,” the agency says. “Take me out, place my EMPTY travel carrier on the belt, and leave my X-rays to the vet.”

Read More: TSA found a stowaway cat in checked bag at JFK Airport

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