PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The last time cat-owner Kelly Levy saw her tiger-striped feline was before she took her husband to the airport. The 24-year-old came back to her house late Friday to find the bottom step, where Gracie Mae would usually be waiting, empty.
Levy tore the house apart looking for the 10-month-old tabby who had been spayed just days before. She and her dad took out bathroom tiles and part of a cabinet to check a crawl space and papered the neighborhood with "lost cat" signs.
Then she got a phone call.
"Hi, you're not going to believe this, but I am calling from Fort Worth, Texas, and I accidentally picked up your husband's luggage. And when I opened the luggage, a cat jumped out," Levy recalled the caller saying, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
Rob Carter, of Fort Worth, told The Dallas Morning News for its online edition Tuesday that he made it home with the suitcase.
"I went to unpack and saw some of the clothes and saw it wasn't my suitcase," Carter said. "I was going to close it, and a kitten jumped out and ran under the bed. I screamed like a little girl."
Carter said that he eventually was able to get the cat to come out from under the bed.
"In the morning, I got close enough to see its collar and the phone number on it," he said. "So I called the number and got a hold of the crying wife of the traveler."
Gracie Mae had crawled into Seth Levy's black suitcase undetected, been put through an X-ray machine, loaded onto an airplane, thrown onto a baggage claim conveyor belt and picked up by a stranger.
Carter delivered Gracie Mae to Seth Levy and the tabby made the 1,300-mile trip home on an $80 plane ticket Sunday night.
Carter said that he considered keeping the cat before he knew she had a home.
"If I couldn't have found a good home, I would have kept it," he said. "We were going to name it Suitcase."