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I will soon be flying two cats domestically in the US as cabin luggage. I just googled the TSA procedure for this and found this TSA missive which states (in part) during the screening process

  • All pets should be brought to the security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier. Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.

  • Do not put the pet into the x-ray tunnel, which is used to screen a passenger's personal property and carry-on luggage. Place the empty travel carrier on the belt to be x-rayed.

  • The pet should be carried during the screening process; alternately, a pet can walk thru the process if the owner has the pet on a leash.

  • A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the hands.

  • Once the screening process is completed, owners should return the pet to the travel carrier at the re-composure area, away from the security checkpoint for the safety of the pet as well as other passengers.

Cats have sharp teeth and sharp claws and are prepared to use them when scared and don't want to be held. Pulling a cat out of its carrier in a noisy, confusing and unknown place is apt to scare cats (and hence prime their teeth and claws for action). So to me this screening process seems to be a recipe for disaster.

So is this TSA procedure the current standard that they work to? Or is there an alternative process that would keep my cats inside their carriers during the screening?


After posting this question I realized that I could email the TSA directly and ask them. I am now waiting on a reply.


The TSA responded with additional information that I have posted as an answer below

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    You seem to have answered your own question. You have to remove the pet from its container. You can request a private room if you think this will be a problem. – DJClayworth Apr 1 at 0:17
  • You may want to reconsider taking the cats in the cabin, and have them travel as accompanied cargo instead. Screening is particularly strict for anything going n the cabin. Remember you can only take one cat per passenger, and there will be a limit on the total number of pets on a flight. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 1 at 1:11
  • @PatriciaShanahan Traveling as accompanied cargo doubles the pet cost for the airline. And I am well aware of the restrictions of per carriage by the airline – Peter M Apr 1 at 1:33
  • There is nothing unclear about this question, even though it contains most of an answer. The question is "Here's the most information I could find out. There is a big problem with this. Is there some other point that I wasn't able to find?" In particular, the question doesn't contain the key part of the answer (private screenings). – David Richerby Apr 1 at 8:05
  • @DavidRicherby I'm mystified too. Could someone who VTC please explain why they VTC? – Peter M Apr 1 at 10:57
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The TSA replied with a stock answer that I initially discounted, however this reply contained additional information that I had not seen when initially researching the issue. Their answer (with the important, additional information highlighted by me) was:

Thank you for contacting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Contact Center.

When you arrive at the screening checkpoint, please notify the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) that you are traveling with a pet. You will need to remove your pet from the carrier and carry them through the walk-through metal detector or walk them through on a leash. Any alarms associated with the pet will be resolved by visual observation and a patdown. All items associated with the pet, such as their kennel, must be screened using the x-ray machine. These procedures apply to standard and TSA Pre?® screening lanes.

The TSO may ask you to assist by controlling your pet during the screening process, but you may require additional screening. You may request a private screening if you believe that the removal of your pet in the open checkpoint area could result in escape.

We recommend that you contact your airline about restrictions and requirements for traveling with a pet in the aircraft cabin.

So assuming that there is an actual room available and the TSA grants my request, then it is a better approach to the screening process.


Update on my answer.

I emailed the customer service account at my local airport and enquired about private screening rooms for my cats. They forwarded my request to the TSA customer service person for the airport, who replied with:

I received your message regarding traveling with your cat and I would like to provide some peace of mind if I may. The good news is that we do have closed private areas to conduct private screening. Please let me know a few days prior to your travel date and I will notify the checkpoint that you will need “private” screening for your cat. This is not a problem at all. Just let us know. I look forward to assisting you.

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    While I understand your concerns over a beloved pet, never, never, never ever go into a private room with TSA. Unless, of course, you also manage to arrange the actual airport police to be your witness ahead of the time (this won't be easy). Otherwise, anything up to sexual assault can and did happen and unlike checkpoints which drip with security cameras (and you can always FOIA the footage) the private rooms have no cameras. You can sue the TSA but it's their words against yours and you won't win. W/o a prior arrangement, if you are not allowed to fly w/o a private room then don't fly. – chx Apr 2 at 0:56
  • @chx Your comment seems to be dripping in fear based language and is suspiciously similar to a 2017 blog (which I have previously read). In addition you are conflating the TSA offering me the use of a private room as a "waiting room" while my pet's carriers are scanned as opposed to me being directed into such a room for secondary screening of myself. But perhaps I have not made this process clear in my answer - I get screened normally, then the cat gets taken to the screening room by the TSA and they supervise in that room while I remove my cat from its carrier. – Peter M Apr 2 at 11:25

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