Muji the cat can’t express how happy she is to be home safe and sound after a harrowing misadventure during her move from the East Coast to the West.
For 11 days, Muji was running scared in the LaGuardia Airport ceiling after getting separated from her mom at a TSA checkpoint.
As they prepared to fly from New York City to California on Christmas Eve, cat mom Ashley Le had to remove Muji from her carrier at the insistence of TSA agents. Ashley knew the idea to be a risky one, and as she told The New York Post, “I said, ‘She’s gonna run. Do I have to take her out?’”
Muji indeed had to come out.
“We walked through the metal detector and she got spooked, bit me, freaked out and ran off.”
A Terrifying Ordeal for Cat and Mom
A frantic chase followed and almost ended when Muji laid down in the checkpoint area. But in her distress, as Ashley arrived, the tuxedo cat took flight again, heading for the Southwest ticket desk. From there, Muji hopped the luggage scale, and Ashley “was terrified she was going to jump onto the conveyor belt.”
Muji took a different route, though, dashing into a mechanical room where workers tried to grab the panicked cat, but “It only aggravated her more.”
Using her cat wiles, Muji bounded up a bank of platforms and into the ceiling, completely disappearing from view.
Beside herself, Ashley skipped her flight and remained to look for Muji. But a day later, with no cat to be found, the distraught cat mom “had no place to stay. I had nothing.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so I boarded my flight the next day.”
Moms Don’t Give Up
But she didn’t stop searching for her cat, even if she had to do it from afar. Posting a plea to Facebook, Ashley was connected with Where is Jack?, Inc., a group founded in memory of Jack the cat, whose carrier was dropped before a flight, resulting in his escape into the JFK airport in 2011. Missing for two months, Jack eventually fell from the airport ceiling and succumbed to the trauma of his ordeal. His family started the group to ensure the safety of animals before, during, and after flights.
Mary Beth Melchior, Ph.D., co-founder of Where Is Jack?, explained, “The Queens Lost & Found got notified about [Muji] being lost. Our people monitor that on Facebook.”
From there, the animal lovers “went into action.”
The group contacted the airport and received permission to bring in a special member of their team for the search. With her nose built for sniffing, Abby the tracking dog, “confirmed Muji was still in the ceiling.”
At this news, Ashley hopped a plane back to New York to join the hunt and even tried the crack-the-cat-food-can trick, but even that didn’t work. The familiar sound of dinner must have helped rouse her appetite for a reunion, though. Muji was caught by trap just a couple of days later, rescuing the brave cat from her ordeal!
Ashely said, “I started crying. It was a miracle.”
Lessons for the Future
As for their flight home, Ashley already has a more secure idea of how to handle flying with a cat.
“This time, I have a TSA harness for her, and I’m going to insist on having a private screening.”
Like many of us, Ashley had no idea of TSA protocols for handing animals during security checks. Logic assumes cats would remain in their carriers. But, as a TSA representative told The Post, policy dictates animals are to be removed from their carriers during screening as not to be “exposed to the X-rays.”
The TSA website also states, “Please remove your pet from the carrying case and place the case through the X-ray machine. You should maintain control of your pet with a leash and remember to remove the leash when carrying your pet through the metal detector. Animal carriers will undergo a visual and/or physical inspection.”
While the incident was terrifying, Muji is now safe and sound with Ashley once more! From this experience, Ashley and other concerned cat parents have learned one more lesson in keeping our felines happy and healthy.