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Flying with your cat? TSA warns "do not send your pet through the X-ray unit"

TSA officer discovers cat inside checked luggage
TSA officer discovers cat inside checked luggage 00:24

The Transportation Security Administration is issuing a renewed set of warnings to pet owners who are flying with their animal companions: "Stop sending your pets through x-ray." The reminder comes days after someone left their pet cat in a carrying case at a security checkpoint and officials didn't know until it was already getting scanned. 

TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted about the traveling mishap on March 3, saying the incident occurred at Virginia's Norfolk International Airport. 

"Just when you thought it was safe to bring your pet cat on a trip," Farbstein said, along with an orange X-ray image of the feline crouched down in a bag. "...Attention pet owners: Please do not send your pet through the X-ray unit. Cat-astrophic mistake!" 

X-ray machines use a form of radiation to produce images of the inside of objects, and when living things go through such scans, they are exposed to that radiation, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that X-rays "usually use the least amount of radiation." The body scanners that people walk through at airports use millimeter-wave technology that uses "non-ionizing radiation in the form of low-level radio waves to scan a person's body," according to the CDC.

Farbstein said that the animal is OK. 

"The traveler and cat had to go through screening the proper way once the TSA officers saw the X-ray image," Farbstein said, adding that the correct method for getting the animal through security is taking it out of the bag. 

This isn't the first time someone left their cat inside luggage at the airport. In November, an orange cat was found in someone's checked luggage as it went through an X-ray unit, one of several odd things detected in airport luggage scans last year.

Just to make sure people are aware of the right way to take their pets through security, officials released a video showing exactly how to do it. 

"It's a PSA from TSA to stop sending your pets through x-ray. You need to let the cat out of the bag during security screening," the agency said. 

The accompanying video shows a pet owner taking their small dog out of its carrying case and walking with it through the body scanner. And if pet owners are "worried you have an escape artist on your hands," the agency said there are other options available. 

"Speak with our officers about alternative screening options, which could include private screening," they said.

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