A cat who escaped his carrier before boarding an Air Canada flight in Winnipeg last Saturday was spotted early Thursday and was captured with the help of missing cat specialist Claudia Allen.
News outlets in Winnipeg reported the story after Pat Torlen’s cat Lightning went missing and again after he was safely recovered less than a week later, but didn’t feature Claudia Allen’s role in the search and rescue, other than to mention that complete strangers were offering to help in the search.
Pat Torlen’s original plan was to send Lightning and his sister Cricket to Vancouver flying cargo on September 21, and the rest of the family was to follow a week later.
Even though Lightning’s carrier was well secured with strap fasteners, it somehow opened up, allowing him to get loose and run off. The airline called Pat before the flight’s departure, telling her of the cat’s escape. “They told me the last time they had seen Lightning was when he was in his carrier on the baggage cart,” Pat is quoted saying at CTV.
Pat let it be known that she was not going to leave Winnipeg until her missing cat was found.
By all accounts, Air Canada was helpful and accommodating, assisting with the search and allowing access to restricted areas.
Claudia Allen, of Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert, is well experienced with missing cat searches, including cat-lost-at-airport cases like that of George, who went missing from an Air Canada flight at Edmonton International Airport in 2011 and was eventually recovered.
Claudia lent her expertise to a professionally deployed search effort for Lightning.
After five days, an airline employee named Paul was on night shift duty in cargo in the wee hours Thursday when he spotted Lightning and immediately called Pat. Pat headed right over to the airport and called Claudia to join her.
A well mounted rescue operation successfully captured the frightened cat that day. Lightning had lost a bit of weight but was given a good report by the vet. The family will fly out this weekend. Lightning will not fly cargo.
Claudia Allen told the story in detail at the Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert page at Facebook Thursday, Saying:
Lightning, missing from Air Canada Cargo, IS HOME!! Yaaahhh!!
Pat got a call at 3:15 this morning from Paul, who was on the night shift at AC Cargo. He had spotted Lightning running from the front of the building to the back, trying to get out.
She put Lightning’s sister, Cricket, in a carrier, grabbed a trap and was on her way. I got a phone call at 4:30 this morning, because I hadn’t heard her text to me at 3:15, and although I was asleep, I was coherent enough to know the phone was ringing. I checked to see who called and saw her original text about Lightning. I grabbed some fresh catnip and headed down to AC Cargo.
During my drive there, Pat and Paul had managed to corral Lightning in one area of the building and he wound up hiding under a large and very long tank sitting on the ground. They blocked both ends off and put the trap at one end. I arrived and figured it was going to be a waiting game, but because Cricket was there, I thought Lightning would come to see her. No such luck. Lightning curled up mid-way under that tank and he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Seeing how the day shift would be arriving shortly and the area would be much noisier, we had to come up with something to get him out of there. I had wished for a garden hose to spray him with water, but we were able to obtain the next best thing from the maintenance shop – compressed air. They provided us with a gun that had a fairly long extension pipe on the end of it. So, at one end, we had the trap and I was blowing the air in and making noise at the other end so he would move in the direction of the trap. He became quite uncomfortable with the noise and air coming his way but rather than going into the trap, he crawled under the belly of the tank ,to the side where we did not have a trap set up. We then moved a box that was blocking that area and replaced it with another trap. We put both traps in garbage bags and covered them well so no light was coming in, as he had been moving from light areas to dark area under there.
I then, was able to see where he was and relentlessly blasted him with air while banging on the metal tank. He finally got close enough to Pat’s side of the tank where she was able to reach in and nudge his butt into the trap. And we high-fived and cheered! We covered him up more and let him settle. He was then taken to Anderson Animal Hospital where he got the royal treatment. His bloodwork came out all normal and he was taken to have a shampoo and blow-dry, as he was filthy.
He said hello to his sister, went to the litterbox and will likely not eat until he gets home later on, but by all accounts, he’s being his usual shy self, with no sign of extra trauma from the ordeal.
We will continue to keep you posted on his journey and let you know when he arrives at his final destination safely. He will be flying in the cabin with Pat this time.
HUGE thanks go to Air Canada Cargo for being so understanding and helpful. Eagle-eyes Paul at AC Cargo, Elizabeth Oliver for coming out and bringing Reatha and Taz to help narrow down his path of travel! Anderson Animal Hospital for taking such good care of him, and everyone who came out to help with flyers, those who searched for him and kept an eye out. He would not be home without you!
Air Canada routinely zip-ties the sides and doors of pet carriers. This was a freak occurrence which has prompted them to add extra checks for pets before cargo travel. We appreciate everything they have done and will be doing from here on in.
I can’t believe he’s home. Yaayyyy!!
CTV News has a short video report accompanying a story on Lightning’s recovery HERE.