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‘Chicken’ will fly the coop back to Midwest

Pet travel firm, airline to pay for return trip of a cat that hitched a ride out West

Dan McIntosh holds Chicken, his sister's cat, who traveled from Iowa to Tucson as a stowaway in a moving van.

Dan McIntosh holds Chicken, his sister's cat, who traveled from Iowa to Tucson as a stowaway in a moving van.

A cat named Chicken may feel like he’s been to hell and back, but he’s only been to Tucson.

Chicken, whose owner, Sarah Sutton, was thinking he was dead, accidentally spent two days and 1,490 miles in the back of a moving van from St. Louis to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Even when Sutton found out her cat ended up in her brother’s rented moving van, the family had no way to get Chicken home.

Thanks to some big-hearted folks, he’ll be flying back this week for free.

Especially delighted is Sutton’s 3-year-old daughter, Heather.

“She can’t believe that cats can go on airplanes,” Sutton said. “She says ‘Chicken can’t ride on an airplane all by himself.’ ”

The saga of the 9-year-old black cat caught the eyes, and hearts, of All Pet Travel’s owner Vickie Reason and pet travel specialist Debbie Hannon.

“We really wanted to be a part of this,” Hannon said of helping the stow-away cat. While she was booking the flight, she found Northwest Airlines felt the same way, with the carrier offering to cover the cost. She said flying a cat across the country would normally run about $650.

Chicken’s journey began Sunday in Missouri, where Sutton and her brother, Dan McIntosh, were preparing for separate moves.

Sutton, 30, was relocating to Iowa for her husband’s new job. McIntosh, 27, was heading to Davis-Monthan to begin his career in the U.S. Air Force.

Chicken was staying with their mother, who noticed the cat missing sometime after McIntosh left Sunday.

Sutton said Chicken, so named because he hides from everything, must have been concealed in a pile of blankets during the packing ruckus, a pile that ended up in the moving van.

“We heard meowing coming from the van once we passed the Arizona state sign,” McIntosh said. His brother was with him, helping him move.

“We just started laughing because we knew what was going on,” he said.

Coaxing the scaredy-cat out of the van was another project altogether.

“He was hidden down under a desk that was pushed up in the very front of the truck,” he said. “It was the absolutely worst position he could have been in.”

They left him a pan of water until they could unload the van, but later learned the back had leaked in the rain and Chicken was in no danger of dehydrating. Once unpacked at D-M, Chicken immediately went to stay with one of McIntosh’s friends because animals are not allowed on base.

“The poor thing,” Reason of All Pet Travel said of the cat. “Now he’s going to be in another new place (in Iowa). But he’ll be with his mother.”

Sutton is a mother in the truest sense as she bottle-fed Chicken as a kitten after he was found, nearly dead, in the bottom of a well. She adopted the all-black feline nine years ago on Halloween.

Both Sutton and McIntosh could not stop thanking All Pet Travel for its generosity.

“Chicken’s got a guardian angel out in Arizona looking after him,” Sutton said.

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