(CNN) — People bring weird stuff on planes, that’s nothing new. And the suitcase checked for a trip from JFK airport in New York to Orlando, Florida, on November 16 certainly contained some oddities. While going through the X-ray machine, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials were able to see what appeared to be bottles, wine glasses, a pair of flip-flops, and the silhouette of a cat. life size.
The outline turned out to be life-size because the cat was a real cat: ginger, alive, and apparently unharmed after spending the last few hours in a suitcase and being tossed around on its way to the plane. A plane in which, of course, you could easily have died in flight.
Agents who saw the image and then opened the suitcase to find the cat were “shocked,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told CNN.
Despite dealing with everything from unauthorized firearms to illicit cranberry sauce on a daily basis, “it’s rare to discover a live animal in a checked bag,” he said. Luckily the cat didn’t try to run away when the suitcase was opened.
We’re letting the cat out of the bag on a hiss-toric find. This CATch had our baggage screening officers @JFKairport saying, “Come on meow”! Feline like you have travel questions reach out to our furiends @AskTSA. They’re available every day, from 8 am – 6 pm (ET). pic.twitter.com/LpIkLbAgzC
—TSA (@TSA) November 22, 2022
The passenger, who was traveling on Delta Air Lines, was called to come and explain his luggage, telling TSA that “it wasn’t his cat, it belonged to someone else in his household,” Farbstein said. They suggested that the cat, which was on top of the luggage and even had fur sticking out of the case between the zippers, had slipped into the case without being seen.
TSA did not involve animal protection services, Farbstein said.
The traveler is believed to have missed his flight, but rebooked for the next day, without a cat. Meanwhile, the cat—apparently named Smells—seems unbothered by his escape, according to the New York Post, which appears to have tracked him down.
Do you (intentionally) travel with your cat? Farbstein advises placing him in a pet carrier and having him examined in a private room, so when he is taken out for examination, he cannot escape. A search of the cat’s hand luggage can then be carried out.
And if you’re not traveling with your cat, make sure they haven’t joined you on the trip.