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Feline and feeling (mostly) fine: Cat lost at JFK for 18 days has been found

Ettore, a cat who was lost for 18

Ettore, a cat who was lost for 18 days at Kennedy Airport when he escaped the baggage area, has been rescued. Credit: John DeBacker

This was one reluctant flyer!

Ettore, a black-and-tan cat who lost 3 pounds while he was lost for 18 days at Kennedy Airport when he escaped the baggage area, has been found, said his rescuer John DeBacker, of Bellmore.

Ettore, named for Hector, the Trojan hero who nearly defeated the Greeks, was supposed to fly home to Rome with his owner, Salvatore Fazio, who spends part of the year in Mastic Beach, DeBacker said on Tuesday.

Airport rescues are exceptionally complicated, with a host of security and other safety restrictions to deal with, as well as officials and travelers, explained Bonnie Wagner-Westbrook. She and other volunteers from the nonprofit she helped found, Where is Jack? — which aims to make it safer to travel with pets — worked with the owner, the airline and the Port Authority, arranging everything from posters and permissions to bringing in a trained scent dog from Virginia-based Pure Gold Pet Trackers.

The team from the nonprofit — named in honor of a white, 2-year-old cat named Jack who died after he was lost for 61 days at a New York airport in 2011 — tracked Ettore to a cluster of disused construction trailers, she said.

"There was a ton of scent from the cat in there," Wagner-Westbrook said, so the team withdrew after setting a humane trap equipped with a camera.

"What we discovered was there was another cat living there, an unneutered male," she said. "And that cat was a bully cat, and most likely chased Ettore out of that chained-in area."

While Ettore suffered some bruises during his airport escapade, both Wagner-Westbrook and DeBacker stressed how many individuals helped out, from reporting sightings and trying to lure him with food to loaning humane traps.

He was originally 17 pounds, too overweight to fly in the cabin. So he was being flown in the cargo hold, said DeBacker, who was arranging for Ettore, temporarily staying with a friend of the owner, to be flown to Rome.

DeBacker and Teddy Henn, a volunteer from his nonprofit, Long Island Cat/Kitten Solution, had been handing out flyers and putting up posters with Ettore's picture at the airport ever since he ran off.

"It wasn't until the past week that we got a break," he said.

An alert Port Authority worker spotted the cat's collar on a runway, by the water's edge, recognizing it from those pictures.

"It was really a group effort, honestly," DeBacker said.

Finding the lost collar allowed the owner to persuade the Port Authority to give DeBacker permission to place a humane trap where it was found.

"Only about 10 hours after that, he came up to the trap and walked right in," DeBacker said.

A motion sensor detector alerted his rescuer via his cellphone and he arrived an hour later, about 2 a.m., to find a nervous Ettore in the trap.

"When I got him back to my place, on my lap, he was purring; he's (been) one of the sweetest cats, ever since we rescued him."

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