According to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, the leak was discovered when an alarm went off at JFK’s baggage screening point on Nov. 16. The 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.
We’re letting the cat out of the bag on a hiss-toric find. This CATch had our baggage screening officers @JFAirport he said: “Come on meow”! Feline like you have travel questions contact our furiends @AskTSA. They are available daily, between 8 am and 6 pm (ET). pic.twitter.com/LpIkLbAgzC
— TSA (@TSA) November 22, 2022
Farbstein said TSA agents contacted Delta, the passenger’s airline, which forwarded passengers to Orlando. The passenger said the cat was not his, but belonged to someone else in his household.
The cat returned home safely, but as a result of the feline fiasco, the passenger missed his flight. He could rebook for the following day, “without the cat!” Farbstein added.
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On Tuesday, Farbstein tweeted a photo of the incident, showing a black suitcase, slightly unzipped, with orange fur clearly visible inside.
A @TSA officer was shocked to find an orange cat inside a checked bag @JFAirport after he went to the x-ray unit. Traveler said the cat belonged to someone else in her home. On the bright side, the cat is out of the bag and safely back home. pic.twitter.com/5XZVJLaZNm
— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) November 22, 2022
This was not the first time in recent years that a pet almost found its way onto a flight, unknown to its owner. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking their luggage at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when Southwest Airlines ticket agents informed them the bag was too large.
When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid a brother, they were shocked to discover Icky, their 5-pound chihuahua, tucked into one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
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“It was just surreal,” Kristi told The Washington Post at the time. “Do we really see our dog in our purse now? Is this happening?”
With the help of Southwest employees, the Owens called a family to pick up Icky and flew to Las Vegas.
Both Icky and the Orlando-bound cats are lucky to have been found before they were put on a plane with the rest of checked luggage, which could have been fatal. Baggage is kept on pressurized passenger flights, but can collapse in cold temperatures, according to Air Canada.
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At Delta, small dogs, cats and house 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 with Delta Cargo.
At the security checkpoint, pets should be removed from their carriers and brought to the screening machine, according to the TSA’s advice page, “Taking Your People on a Plane: What All Pets Need to Know.”
“Don’t put me in the x-ray tunnel. Seriously, it’s not fun for me,” the agency said. “Take me outside, put my VIDE travel carrier on the belt, and leave my x-rays to the vet.”