WTF Weds: First Class Cat

Posted on
Sep 12, 2012

I couldn’t find any photos of my old cat, so here’s one of Anton, my dad’s pug. One little fuzzy bugger is the same as the next, right?

Growing up, we had a cat.

You know what? That statement isn’t quite accurate. We actually had several cats. But there was one cat that sort of stood out from the rest. A spry little calico with markings that I still remember by heart: one eye was rimmed in black, the other in orange, like a little harlequin. She was brilliant and affectionate and in the 17 years that we spent together, I can only remember her scratching me once, unintentionally.

When we finally had to put her down, after a miserable tumor in her face made it impossible for her to eat, I cried. My brother cried. My grandmother cried. And my mother cried, as she pulled the cat into her arms, looked down into her face and said, “Honey, I really hope you have a soul.”

The point is, we loved that cat. As much as was sanely possible for someone to love a cat, we did.

“Sanely” being the operative word here.

Several weeks ago, when Rand and I were flying back from Denver to Seattle, we found ourselves seated next to a very pleasant dark-haired woman. She noticed that there was an empty seat in first class, and she asked the flight attendant if she could move into it.

Bold move, no? I kind of had to respect her for it. I wasn’t too surprised, though, when she was told no. We were flying Alaska, and I knew that there was a long line of folks who were waiting to be bumped up to first class (hell, we were among them). Unless the woman was the next name on the list, she wasn’t going to get the seat. But her request did bring the empty seat to the attention of the flight attendant, who went to see if anyone was sitting there.

She returned to us, her eyes wide.

“The woman in the window seat bought both seats,” she explained. “The second seat is for her cat.”

We all stared blankly at each other, letting the news sink in. The woman had bought a first class plane ticket for her cat.

She bought a first class plane ticket FOR HER CAT.

Federal regulations are such that animals can’t come out of their cages during flight, even if they are registered therapy animals (of course, this rule is occasionally overlooked, and I’ve known people who have flown with little dogs on their laps or next to them on the seat). This woman had bought a spare seat for her pet with the understanding that it might have to stay in its carrier the entire time. Which, from what we could see, it did. That cat sat in its carrier, which was resting on the seat adjacent to her for the entire duration of the flight.

Now, I’m a firm believer that you can’t judge people on how they choose to spend their income. I mean, I probably spend at least the cost of a first class plane ticket on cupcakes every other month, and heads would roll if someone told me that was wrong.

If we start criticizing others on how they spend their own money, our own finances come under scrutiny, too. And it becomes sort of infinitely regressive. Run up to the woman with the first class cat and scream, “You could have donated that money to charity!” and she could just as easily say the same thing to you about any number of purchases you’ve made.

Plus, how do I know she didn’t donate a great deal of her income to charity already? Maybe she had no children, and had bequeathed everything she owned to the Humane Society. Maybe this cat was all she had in the world and they were taking one final trip together.

And they were flying first class, damn it.

So I can’t judge her for it … but still, I won’t lie: it boggled my mind. Because while I have had a cat, and loved it dearly, there was no way she was ever going to fly first class with me. Not unless she was buying.

Leave a Comment

  • If I had the money … I would do it. Don’t judge me!! I SO would. Convenience. Having a pet in the carrier under the seat in front of you takes up your leg room. On a long flight this can be really tough – even on a short trip it can be annoying. If I could ensure a place for my dog in his carrier on the seat next to me (that has occurred when flights are not full and it was DELIGHTFUL!) I would. Perhaps not first class … but yes, I am that “boggles your mind” person and you know what … I am OK with that. 🙂 think of the time you could place your carry on – on the seat next to you versus taking up your leg room. Space on a flight is golden. I can also see him in his carrier better and judge how things are going better. Yep … worth it.

  • Lizzie

    Under the right circumstances, I would do that, too. Not if I were just on a short trip, since cats don’t like to leave their home territory. But if I were moving permanently from, say, Sitka (on an island) to Seattle, then my options would be limited to the ferry and the airlines. The ferries require that pets stay in carriers on the car deck, and it’s a multi-day trip, so that doesn’t seem humane. If I had the money, I’d absolutely fly my cat first class to our new digs.

  • I try to look at it like this: that lady might have so much money that flying her cat first class was like me buying a pair of Toms or my ridiculous Morrissey sweater.

    Not that I wouldn’t have talked about it were I on that flight. I’m weird, but not weird enough to fly my cats first class, no matter how rich I was.

  • Jay


    I can’t afford to fly myself first class let alone a pet.

    But you’re right – each to their own 🙂

  • That’s awesome! I always thought the most crazy thing I saw was a woman in Oz enjoying her afternoon wine with her Maltese sitting opposite having his afternoon snack from the table – in matching red shawls….but this takes the cake!

  • The last flight I was on there was a woman sitting next to her yorkie (or some small dog) all the way in the back. They were both had their tray tables down and were enjoying their pretzel bags. I bet they had wished they were in first class enjoying hot towels. (Do they still do hot towels)?

  • Have had many cats – all adored (wish I could get a cat here in Vietnam, but afraid it might get EATEN!)

    Have never flown first class neither, so can’t imagine springing for TWO first class seats.

    But I especially agree with your stand on presuming to judge how others spend their rubles. Unless it’s on a 9 year old prostitute in Bangkok, it’s surely none of my business (heck, many might well question the bucks I drop regularly on planes to Mongolia, etc.)

    Same goes for judging folks on how they raise their kids – verily NOMB.

    I mean heck, if the lass wants to buy a seat for her *iPad*, who am I to question her sanity? (though I might question her mixture of marbles as to why she bought the iPad in the first place – just kidding). 😉

    Come to think of it, the only judgment of others I might legitimately make might be: Judging the idiots who presume to judge how others do ANYTHING. Spend their money, raise their kids, worship (or not worship) some dubiously existing entity, vote – hell, how they brush their teeth!

    In short, it’s the generic, self-appointed evangelical pontiffs out there that curl my toes – not the stray folks in First Class who share a seat with a furry pal.

  • Madison Vang

    I was on a flight from Orlando to Minneapolis last Spring, and in the middle of our flight, a cat came tearing down the middle aisle from first class. Eventually it was re-caged, but it amused all the passengers for quite a while.

  • The real question is whether the airline let the cat have free drinks and a warm towel.

  • CatCatAttack

    What’s the point in being rich, if you can’t be a little crazy to boot?

  • This is hilarious! I love that woman! Our cat is part of the family and where we go, she goes. That is, however, until she was diagnosed with diabetes six months before we moved to China. Before the diagnosis, we were planning to hire one of those pet movers to fly her safely there rather than risk putting her in the cargo hold of our own plane. But now that she requires twice daily insulin shots, she lives at the beach with my parents. I cried like someone died when I left her. But it was the right thing to do for her.

  • How do you even go about doing that?! Does the cat have a passport? How is that even allowed?! Oh dear god! And I thought pug people were crazy!

    • Come on over Candice! … I can answer all those questions. Oh and in Europe – yes there is a pet passport.

  • Kitty lady

    I don’t know about US airlines but maybe that airline didn’t allow pets in the passenger cabin and only allowed to dispatch them along with the luggage. She might have bought the seat so that the cat could travel along without the dangers of being transported with the cargo stuff. Maybe she was scared to death about the risk of something happening to the cat while being away from her sight.
    I moved overseas from my home country, i had to move out with my cat and I only found business class seats for the date i had to travel so we flew Iberia because it was the only airline that allowed my cat to be on board underneath my seat. I had to pay extra but definitely not a whole seat, and my cat had to travel inside the cage all the time. In case anyone is wondering or need info,the airline only allowed two pets on board inside the cabin, weighing a maximum of 6 kilo aprox. Had I arrived later to the check in counter my cat would have had to travel along with the luggage because there were three more cats waiting to be accepted. One of them couldn’t travel with his owner (i mean, staff member) because it was beyond the weight limit. Too bad he had a connection to make to Berlin,i hope he got there safe and sound! It was a 12 hour flight! I would have been terrified for my cat!

  • Jessica

    I’m with Dyanne — thank you for the paragraphs on not judging others based on what they do with their money.

  • OK I’m new here but I do have to tell you that once I had to buy a ticket (in steerage) for my guitar. On the outbound leg the nice and practical flight attendant found a place for it in the back of the first class closet (lucky guitar). On my return the boarding gate bootjacks refused me entry (this was before the TSA) and forced me to either give up a priceless antique guitar to the baggage gorillas or purchase a ticket…ON AN ALMOST EMPTY FLIGHT. I assume that the subsequent bankruptcy of Eastern Airlines was due to an overwhelming universe full of karma dumping on their corporate office.

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