If you’re traveling with your pet, a harness or leash is an airport essential.
cat peaking around the corner
Credit: Kirill Busargin / Getty

On Christmas Eve, Taylor Le was scheduled to fly from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Orange County, Calif. She was moving to be with her family, but it's safe to say her moving agenda did not include losing her cat Muji in the airport.

But don't worry: Muji's escape, while days long, has a happy ending thanks to a helpful tracking dog and some tuna. 

When Le arrived at LaGuardia and made it to security, TSA agents required her to take Muji out of her carrier to walk through the metal detector. "I said, 'She's gonna run. Do I have to take her out?'" Le told the New York Post

When they insisted, Le complied and walked Muji through the metal detector. Muji's understandable confusion and anxiety led her to bite Le and run off. Muji, 6, made it back to the checkpoint area before stopping. 

When Le caught up with her, however, Muji took off again. Muji sprinted to the ticket counter and leapt over the luggage scale. "I was terrified she was going to jump onto the conveyor belt," Le said. Instead Muji ran into a mechanical room where two airport operators failed to capture her.

Muji then jumped up a series of platforms, crawled into a ceiling enclosure, and disappeared.

The ordeal caused Le to miss her flight, and having no place to stay she changed her flight to the following day in hopes that Muji would reappear by then. Airport operations staff helped set out tuna traps, but Muji never showed, the Post reports. Le boarded a flight to California the next day.

When days passed and she still had no updates from airport officials, Le shared the situation on Facebook requesting "any help or positivity." Thankfully, the founders of safe pet-flying advocacy group Where Is Jack? Inc. quickly reached out. 

The nonprofit was named in memory of Jack, a cat who escaped from his kennel and ran into the ducts of JFK Airport in 2011. Unfortunately Jack died after spending two months in the airport and suffering injuries from falling through the ceiling. The organization aims to make air travel safe for pets through education and policy changes.

Where Is Jack? Inc. helped Le get the airport's permission to bring in a tracking dog. Abby, a golden retriever with Pure Gold Pet Trackers, was able to confirm that Muji was still in the ceiling. With that verification, Le immediately booked a flight back to New York.

After locating Muji in the same ticket counter mechanical room where she had initially disappeared, Le tried using her voice to draw the cat in. "I tried calling out to her like I do at home and opened a [cat food] can, which usually makes her come running," Le told the Post. Although this rescue attempt wasn't successful, on Monday a member of Muji's rescue team sent Le a video showing that Muji had finally emerged and been trapped.

"I started crying," Le said. "It was a miracle." The duo was reunited at an animal hospital in Long Island the next day. 

"Many people (including myself) do not know we need to take our pets out of their carrier to go through the screening process at airports," Le wrote in a recent Facebook post. According to a TSA spokesperson who spoke with the Post, TSA's protocol is to remove pets so they are not "exposed to the X-rays" while their carriers are screened. "TSA recommends that small pets be leashed so that their owners can maintain the control of the pet," they said.

Le launched a Facebook fundraiser to help pay for Abby's services and Muji's medical bills. She plans to donate any additional funds to Where Is Jack? Inc. "If you are so inclined, please consider a donation to Where Is Jack? and please keep them in mind when you have travel plans with your pet as they have a lot of information and resources to help," she wrote on Facebook

Le and Muji are booked to fly to California together on Saturday, and Le already has a TSA-approved cat harness packed for Muji.