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Cat lost by American Airlines gains fame as search continues

October 22, 2011 |  6:00 am

Animal lovers plan to rev up a nearly 2-month-old search at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday for Jack the cat, a fluffy orange feline whose disappearance at the hands of American Airlines has spawned a Facebook page and a PR headache for the airline.

The date has been declared Jack the Cat Awareness Day by organizers of the afternoon search at the cargo area of JFK where Jack was last seen Aug. 25. That's when Jack's owner, Karen Pascoe, checked the 18-pound cat in for their flight to California, where Pascoe was to begin a new job.

That's where the mystery begins. About a half-hour later, a baggage supervisor called Pascoe and told her that Jack's crate was empty. Searches so far have turned up nothing, and nobody has explained how the cat crate fell open as Jack waited for cargo handlers to load him onto the jet. A second pet carrier holding Pascoe's other cat, Barry, remained closed, and Barry and Pascoe eventually flew to California, without Jack.

But Jack's fame has grown steadily. A Facebook page dedicated to the search for him has more than 15,500 followers. The cat also has figured prominently on the Facebook page of American Airlines, which has been hammered by critics who say it didn't act quickly enough in the hours after Jack's disappearance to find him.

The airline notes that its efforts since the end of August have included hiring a pet detective, flying Pascoe back from California to help search, and placing food, water and humane traps in the cargo area -- all to no avail.

"We are all concerned with Jack’s well-being and our employees have been doing everything they can to locate him," American said in its most recent statement on Facebook on the situation.

But that was on Sept. 9, leading many of Jack's supporters to conclude that the airline has lost interest in the cat.

American denies this.

"We haven't given up," a spokesman, Ned Reynolds, said earlier this month, according to the New York Observer, which in this story also looked at the possible public relations ramifications of Jack's loss.

While Jack has been missing a long time, searchers might be heartened by the tale of Willow the cat, who made headlines in New York recently when she was picked up on a Manhattan street and taken to an animal shelter. It turns out Willow had vanished from her home in Colorado five years earlier but was reunited with her family thanks to a microchip inserted beneath her skin, which allowed officials in New York to contact her elated owners.

-- Tina Susman

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