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Batman, the escape artist cat, sparks search at Sea-Tac

Batman the cat escaped from her carrier in the security line at Sea-Tac Airport. She was found in the ceiling March 7.
Batman the cat escaped from her carrier in the security line at Sea-Tac Airport. She was found in the ceiling March 7. Courtesy

Like anyone stuck in the security line at Sea-Tac Airport early in the morning, Batman, a female calico cat, was a little annoyed and a little resentful.

She was zipped into a cat carrier, being hauled along by her owner, Jessica Brown, who was moving herself, all of her possessions and her two cats to Washington, D.C.

At the security checkpoint, a TSA officer told Brown she would have to take the cat out of the carrier. TSA inspects all animal carriers like any other piece of luggage, and pet owners are instructed to hold their pet and, when possible, keep them on a leash, Sea-Tac spokesman Brian DeRoy said.

Brown asked for a private room, knowing Batman occasionally, and for no apparent reason, runs around her basement room in Seattle as if spooked by ghosts.

The security officer said they were short-staffed and would have to search the carrier right there. Brown unzipped it. Batman sprang up a temporary wall and into a ceiling, whose tiles had been removed for construction.

“They’re not like dogs,” Brown said. “If they want to get away, they can turn themselves into water.”

She missed her flight to D.C. The next one was in several hours. Port officials summoned one of their two full-time wildlife biologists — they usually work to keep birds and other animals away from the runways but occasionally get called for escaped pets.

“He told me that they always catch them, but that it can take some time,” Brown recalled.

She said TSA decided they could provide a private room to inspect the second cat carrier with the second cat, Lily. Lily is the good cat, Batman the troublemaker. Lily did not bolt.

Brown caught a later flight to D.C.

“It was a rough day. I didn’t think I’d see Batman again,” she said.

Sea-Tac spokesman DeRoy described the extent of possible hiding places for a cat: four concourses, two satellite terminals, three train lines and 3 million square feet.

The next morning, port officials got a call about meowing and scratching in the ceiling above the security checkpoint.

Wildlife biologist Steve Osmek crawled around the ceiling ducts, baited a trap with Little Friskies and waited. The food disappeared, but there was no sign of the cat.

The biologists asked Brown to make a recording of her voice calling, “kitty, kitty, kitty,” which they played from multiple ceiling-access doors.

On March 7, five days after the cat disappeared, she was caught in the trap in the ceiling.

After an exam and a brief stay with a friend of Brown’s in Seattle, Batman flew out of Sea-Tac on Thursday with a Port of Seattle employee, Lisa Rousseau, who had a previously scheduled business trip to D.C.

Brown met Rousseau at Reagan National Airport on Thursday to take Batman to her new home. There was no joyful reunion. This is a cat.

“She was very angry,” Brown said. And she’s still exploring the new house, hissing, spitting at her sister Lily, and generally asking, ‘What just happened?’ 

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