A recent JetBlue flight had some unscheduled inflight entertainment of the feline variety last week when a curious cat escaped its carrier and was found wandering the aisles, making new friends in the cabin and becoming a viral sensation on social media.
Software engineer Alexis Woodbury and her fiancé Chris Forney, a PhD candidate, were returning home on a red eye flight from Ontario to New York after a visit with family in California. With them was Brian, a 15-year-old domestic shorthair who had been rescued from a shelter by Forney seven years earlier. Woodbury was hoping to catch some sleep on a quiet flight, but she tells Out Traveler one of her traveling companions had other ideas.
“We travel with Brian in a cat backpack, one of those carriers with a window,” Woodbury tells Out Traveler via email. “We put him under the seat and draped a jacket over him so that he could fall asleep. Then we fell asleep. About halfway into the overnight flight, the lights turned on and a flight attendant, Golden, announced ‘Is anyone missing a cat? We have a LARGE grey and white cat here. A cat.’”
Woodbury said there was never any doubt in her mind as to the identity of the roaming feline.
“I immediately knew it was Brian,” she says. “There could’ve been 10 other cats on that flight and I still would’ve guessed it was him right away.”
She says she and Forney were “mortified” at having awakened their fellow passengers, but it turns out most found the incident amusing. After all, how often does a cat go wandering the aisles on your red eye flight?
“During the announcement, people were mostly chuckling and a few even clapped when Brian was safely reunited with us,” a relieved Woodbury recalls.
While Brian is strictly an indoor cat, Woodbury, who identifies as bisexual, says that doesn’t stop him from getting into trouble exploring his surroundings.
“In scary situations like vet appointments, he’s a definite flight risk, but he's also just very curious. And he HATES closed doors. He wants to have access to everywhere. If there's a new space to explore-- he will explore it.”
Woodbury describes Brian as “sassy and talkative but sweet,” who enjoys being the center of attention.
“If he's not getting enough [attention] he might start some mischief just to get you to focus on him. He's a total ham, too. When we have company, he loves to walk into the middle of the group and then dramatically roll onto his back with his big fluffy belly in the air and then squirm away from people when they try to pet him.”
Life wasn’t always this good for Brian, also affectionately known as Squirmo and Mr. Big Buddy. He had been returned twice to the New Haven Animal Shelter before Forney found him and introduced him into his forever home.
The initial tweet with Brian’s picture and story currently has over 16 million likes and 14 million retweets. Woodbury says she is happy to see the positivity resulting from Brian’s escape.
“The world is on fire in so many different ways,” Woodbury reflects. “So I think people were happy to see a light-hearted story about a very large cat doing very cat things and not being scared or angry about the crazy situation he'd gotten himself into.”