X-ray leaves customs officers stunned as live cat found stashed inside suitcase

Security staff at a New York City airport discovered an unusual item packed away inside some hold luggage that had been checked in for a flight.

Before the baggage was due to be loaded onto the aircraft at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a security guard discovered that a live cat was inside the case after it had passed through an airport X-ray machine.

The orange tabby had somehow managed to get inside the bag before arriving at the airport. It had passed through the airport, before it eventually got flagged up at security after an alarm was triggered at JFK’s checked baggage screening point.

After seeing the shape of a live animal on the X-ray screen, a TSA agent took the bag away to one side for investigation, where the cat was retrieved from inside the case. If the baggage had gone through security, the cat would have been loaded into the pressurised cargo hold of the plane, where it would be unlikely that it would have survived the flight.

The incident occurred on November 16, when the bag was checked in at JFK airport for a Delta flight to Atlanta. It would then have then been loaded onto a flight destined for Melbourne Orlando International Airport in Florida, officials said.

Luckily, the cat was returned home, however, the owner of the suitcase ended up missing his flight. They were able to rebook a flight for the following day.

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told NBC News: “The cat did not belong to the individual with the suitcase, it belonged someone else in the household.”

As for why the cat had been packed into the luggage, it “was implied” that it had spotted the open suitcase and jumped in without the case’s owner noticing, said Farbstein.

Most cat owners would agree that an open suitcase is an inviting target for felines. Cornell University professor emeritus and animal behavioural expert Katherine Houpt said: “I think one reason is that it’s like a cat bed. Cats like spaces with barriers around it.

“And presumably it smells like the owner and I think they associate it with an impending loss. They might not necessarily want to prevent that owner from going, but perhaps at least they want to signal stress.”

While “none of my current cats are suitcase jumpers”, Houpt said she packs her bags on an elevated rack to avoid accidentally packing her cat.