MILWAUKEE – Emily the cat is back — after flying home in the lap of luxury.
The curious cat who wound up traveling to France in a cargo container touched down at the Milwaukee airport on Thursday, greeted by her family and a horde of reporters.
A Continental cargo agent handed her over to 9-year-old Nick Herndon, son of the cat's owners, Donny and Lesly McElhiney. Emily meowed and pawed at reporters' microphones as the family answered questions.
"She'll be held onto a lot all the way home. And then when we get home, too, she'll be cuddled a lot," Donny McElhiney said.
Her sumptuous return in business class on a Continental Airlines flight was a sharp departure from her trip to France, where she was found thin and thirsty but still alive.
"She seems a little calmer than she was before, just a little quieter, a little, maybe, wiser," said Lesley McElhiney, 32.
Emily vanished from her Appleton home in late September. She apparently wandered into a nearby paper company's distribution center and crawled into a container of paper bales.
The container went by truck to Chicago and by ship to Belgium before the cat was found Oct. 24 at Raflatac, a laminating company in Nancy, France. Workers there used her tags to phone her veterinarian, who called the McElhineys.
Continental offered to fly the cat home from Paris after Emily's tale spread around the world and she cleared a one-month quarantine.
"This was such a marvelous story, that we wanted to add something to it," Continental spokesman Philippe Fleury told AP Television News at Charles de Gaulle airport.
After one Continental employee escorted Emily from Paris to Newark, N.J., cargo agent Gaylia McLeod accompanied the cat aboard a 50-seater from Newark to Milwaukee.
"I know it's close to the holidays," a tearful McLeod said. "I'm happy to be a part of reuniting Emily with her family."
On her flight home, Emily passed up a menu of peppered salmon filet and "opted for her French cat food" and some water, airline spokeswoman Courtney Wilcox said.
Apparently all that French food did Emily some good.
"She's bigger and heavier than before," Nick said.