As It Happens

Rowdy the cat lives up to her name and evades airport staff for more than 2 weeks

A cat with a reputation for being both sneaky and resourceful is finally heading home after two-and-a-half weeks of deftly evading capture at a Boston airport.

The pet, who slipped from her carrier on a Boston tarmac, will soon be reunited with her family

A black cat with short fur and yellow eyes lies on the bed, staring into the camera with a sneer, its eyes pushed back and its claws visible.
Rowdy, a four-year-old cat, was on the lam for more than two weeks at a Boston airport after escaping from her cage on the tarmac. (Submitted by Patty Sahli)

Story Transcript

A cat with a reputation for being both sneaky and resourceful is finally heading home after two-and-a-half weeks of deftly evading capture at a Boston airport.

Rowdy, a four-year-old black feline, is now en route to her new home in Florida after a lengthy search operation that involved airport staff, animal welfare volunteers and construction workers.

"The whole family's thrilled that we'll have her back," her owner, Patty Sahli, told As It Happens guest host Robyn Bresnahan. 

"We are so thankful for everybody who just pulled together to get her."

'She's pretty sneaky'

Sahli's husband Rich was travelling home to the U.S. from Germany with Rowdy on June 24 after a 15-year deployment with the army. Sahli had already made the move a month earlier to set up their new home near Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Her husband had originally planned to bring the cat in the cabin with him, she said, but on his way to the airport he realized the carrier was defective and Rowdy was able to squeeze her entire head out through the zipper. So at the last minute, he decided to put her in a hard plastic cage and send her with the cargo.

But when they landed at Boston's Logan International Airport, the cage door somehow fell open on the tarmac and the aptly-named Rowdy took off in a flash.

"She saw that moment and she just ran as fast as she could," Sahli said.

Sahli suspects something in the lock mechanism got jostled during the flight or the deplaning.

A black cat with short fur and big, bright yellow eyes pictured in profile.
Rowdy's owner describes her as 'sneaky,' resourceful and 'so good at hiding.' (Massport/The Associated Press)

Asked if it's possible Rowdy managed to unlock the door herself, she said: "I don't think so. But she's pretty sneaky because she gets into the cupboards and will get out her treats if she can smell them and she'll chew through the plastic paper."

When her husband called her with the news, Sahli says she didn't know what to do.

"I was like, we're never going to get her," she said. "I felt lost."

Takes a village

The airport staff invited her to come look around the cargo area where they suspected Rowdy was hiding. 

"It was very loud and noisy and there was, you know, wire cages everywhere storing things. Plus, it was just a million places that she could hide — and she is so good at hiding," Sahli said.

"And since she's black, if she's in the corner, she just blends into things. So I thought that the task of finding her was going to be monumental, if impossible, because there was just too many places for her to go."

But when it comes to finding a cat on the lam, apparently it takes a village.

Sahli says the airport alerted its staff to be on the lookout for the cat, both in person and on the security cameras, and worked with local animal rescue organizations to set up safe-release traps using tuna, sardines and pieces of Sahli and her husband's clothing as bait.

A middle-aged couple smiling in front of a field of tulips.
Patty Sahli, left, and her husband Rich Sahli will soon be reunited with their cat. (Summitted by Patty Sahli )

Despite numerous sightings, Rowdy kept eluding her pursuers. 

Their luck finally took a turn about a week-and-a-half ago, when a construction worker saw a post about Rowdy on social media and called Sahli to tell her he'd seen the runaway kitty on the airport's third floor.

Once they'd narrowed down her location, airport staff finally managed to lure her in.

"Whether out of fatigue or hunger we'll never know, but this morning she finally let herself be caught," an airport spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

The kitty is now on its way home. Sahli is hoping for a heartwarming reunion — but she admits cats can be a bit emotionally withholding in such situations. 

"Hopefully, she'll jump into my arms,"  Sahli said. "Dogs have such a more active reunion, but my cats do come running.

"Every time we go home, they'd come running … and hopefully when she sees me come in, she'll jump right down to me and I'll know that she did miss me."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Patty Sahli produced by Kate McGillivray.

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