Recently, I helped my adult daughter, Katie, fly her two cats, Ace and Bogey, from Atlanta to Seattle. Here’s how that went down.

Per the vet’s instructions, on the morning of the flight, we popped a sliver of a Benadryl down the throat of each cat. It was supposed to make them sleep through the day of travel. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

We checked our large suitcase and entered a very long, crowded security line with two carry-ons, a backpack, two full-sized bed pillows and Ace and Bogey, each in a carrier. For the actual security screening process, we knew we’d have to remove the cats from their carrier, send the carrier through the screener on the belt, and carry the cats through the body scanner.

Katie and Ace went first. Katie held Ace in her arms and I put his carrier on the conveyor belt. I stood with Bogey in his carrier, in a mob of people awaiting their turn in the body scanner. I craned my neck to try to see through the crowd, to keep an eye on Katie as she passed through the body scanner carrying Ace.

Ace was doing a combination of the limbo and the macarena across Katie’s face. The TSA agents were neither amused nor sympathetic. I was cracking up laughing because, why not? Soon, I couldn’t quite tell what was going on with Katie and Ace but I knew it wasn’t good. I knew Katie desperately wanted to return Ace to the carrier but it was still on the conveyor belt.

Just then, I remembered a friend who used to transport her cats in a pillowcase and, the pillows we were traveling with were in pillowcases. I jumped up and down, trying to catch Katie’s eye. I finally succeeded and I frantically tried to convey the word “pillowcase” to her. Eventually, although I could barely see through the crowd, I could tell Ace was inside a pillowcase.

Later Katie explained the slapstick scene that I couldn’t see: The agents needed to swab Katie’s palms but she couldn’t let go of Ace to allow the agents to do so. They suggested she put the cat down. (Obviously none of them had traveled with frantic cats.) They suggested she put Ace in his carrier, but it was still on the conveyor belt. Then Katie begged them to please get her the pillowcase, also on the conveyor belt. Even this simple request proved complicated. At last Katie had Ace in the pillowcase and the agents swabbed her hands while she held what looked more like a writhing python in a pillowcase than a kitty cat. Ace’s carrier finally cleared the scanner and Katie was able to pop him back in it.

I was still laughing my you-know-what off. But now it was my turn. I motioned to Katie that I needed the pillowcase. She handed it to me with help from the crowd, passing it person-to-person. I got Bogey in the pillowcase and tried to cradle him in my arms as we prepared to step through the body scanner. I now had my own writhing python to contend with, but at least my face was spared, which is more than I can say for Katie. When the TSA agents needed to swab my palms, I carefully showed them one at a time to the agent, while not letting go of Bogey who was still violently flipping and spinning in the pillowcase. The palm-swab was complete. The cat carrier emerged from the conveyor belt. I popped Bogey in. We were reunited with Katie and Ace.

I was still cracking up laughing but now I was also huffing and puffing. Katie just appeared stunned at the whole thing. When Ace peed and Bogey puked on the first leg of our flight, it was truly no big deal after our battle in Atlanta to not let the cats out of the bag.

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