The cat is out of the bag.

When Mary Martell left for St. Johns Airport, she didn’t know her cat had jumped into her suitcase. How did a live animal in a suitcase make it through airport security?
Martell said her bag was scanned at the airport, but she was not stopped.

"They had asked me, when they put … the luggage through the X-ray, whether I had a turkey," Martell said.

"[Security] kept going back and forth with [the suitcase]," Martell said. "I was adamant. 'Look, I have no turkey.'"

The cat was discovered after a two-hour flight to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, when Martell opened her suitcase in her hotel room. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is investigating the incident. -via Metafilter

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Whenever the security guards have a question for me about the contents of a bag, they simply open it and take a look.

I can't imagine why they wouldn't have opened the bag, especially since she insisted she had no turkey.

Her story doesn't jive. The gist of the article is that they didn't stop it from happening, but "they kept going back and forth with it", and she "kept insisting" she had no turkey.

She should have checked her suitcase before she left. I suppose she'd blame the airport if she found bags of heroin in her suitcase - "I didn't put them there."
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The cabin with the luggage is pressurized or else all your packed items such as a can of deodorant would explode. It's also temperature controlled (a little bit) as well but I am sure it's not as warm as the main cabin is. Had she decided to take her cat on board the "right" way they would still put the animals in with the luggage. Here is a quote from the Northwest Airline web page:

"Transportation on all Northwest and Northwest Airlink aircraft equipped with heated and pressurized luggage compartments."

So you can assume that kitty was in no harm from the flight itself but probably from the handling of the bags going in and out of the aircraft.
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According to the story, the cat is fine. I had wondered about the effects of riding in a non-pressurized, cold cargo hold, but since the owner was there during screening, I can assume this suitcase was a carryon.
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