A Chinese airliner returned to an airport shortly after takeoff because a rat was discovered in the cabin.

The rodent was found shortly after the Loong Air flight from the eastern city of Hangzhou left early Friday for the southwestern resort city of Xishuangbanna.

It wasn't clear how the rat gained access to the plane, although the official Xinhua News Agency said it wasn't brought on board as a pet and may have arrived with the meal service.

Xinhua said the plane was fumigated and disinfected after landing, but gave no word on the fate of the rat.

Along with worrying passengers, rats can damage a plane's electrical and other systems by chewing through wires.