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This Elusive Cat Led Cops on a Weeklong Airport Search-and-Rescue Mission

After police set up traps, scoured the rafters, and called in some civilian backup, Pepper the cat was finally captured.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Photo via the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association/Twitter

Airports are a terrifying place to be an animal. They can be barred from flying right before boarding—a hangup that, for hamsters, can be fatal—and even if they manage to clear security, there's a risk that they won't make it through the flight alive. Perhaps sensing that leaving the ground on a large metal tube wasn't worth the risk, a cat traveling through New York's JFK Airport decided to bail on her trip last-minute, escaping from her crate, leaping into the rafters, and sending the cops on a week-long rescue mission to hunt her down.


According to CBS New York, Pepper the cat was about to get dragged onto a flight to China when her owner dropped her crate, and the door to her small prison popped open. The Tabby made a break for it—sprinting out into the hellscape that is JFK, jumping onto a checkout counter, and scrambling up into the rafters, far out of reach of her human pursuers below. Port Authority police scoured the airport, and Pepper's owner ditched her flight to search for the cat—but the cunning beast refused to show herself.

Eventually, Pepper's owner had to give up her hunt for the cat, and—"devastated," according to local ABC affiliate WABC—she caught a flight to China, leaving Pepper behind. Meanwhile, the Port Authority's pursuit escalated into a full blown search-and-rescue operation. Hoping to lure the cat to them, the cops put food in humane traps, scattered in strategic locations all across Terminal 4. But try as they might, even after a few close calls and sightings, the cops couldn't catch Pepper.

Officer Kameel Juman—who once rescued a German Shepard from the edge of the George Washington Bridge—was put in charge of the investigation, the New York Daily News reports, but was close to giving up hope.

"I really thought nothing was working," Juman told CBS New York. "We had one other option."

Juman tracked down Nuan Tang, a former roommate of Pepper's owner, and asked her to come down to the airport for a last-ditch rescue effort. Armed with a bowl of Pepper's favorite food and a clutch piece of tactical knowledge—the cat's Mandarin name, which roughly translates to "little dork"—Tang started calling for her, the Daily News reports. The cat finally crept out of the bowels of JFK, ate a little food, and found herself swept into Tang's arms. Within seconds, she was locked back in her crate.


"I grabbed some duct tape and sealed up the cat carrier," Juman told the Daily News."We were not losing this cat again."

After climbing all over what was presumably the Disneyland of cat towers, Pepper is now living at Tang's place until her owner can fly back from China and bring her home, CBS New York reports. Meanwhile, Gotham's finest can get back to doing some real police work, like trying to teach New Yorkers the difference between a tiger and a raccoon.

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