It is thought he crawled into the bag while its owner was packing to travel to Florida, a two-and-a-half hour flight away.
The feline - reportedly named Smells - was spotted curled up inside the case as it passed through an x-ray machine at the major airport on Tuesday morning.
US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents then noticed a tuft of orange fur sticking out from the bag’s zip, and opened it to discover the stowaway ginger tabby.
TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said staff were “shocked” by the discovery, adding: “[The] traveler said the cat belonged to someone else in his household.”
“The passenger said ‘I didn’t know it was in there’,” said the TSA, posting about the bizarre find on Instagram.
The New Pork Post tracked down the cat’s owner, named Alix, who said she believes Smells snuck into her house guest’s bag without his knowledge.
She was reportedly told about the incident by an airport official, who telephoned and asked if she wanted to press charges against the bag’s owner.
“He wanted to know if there was any reason he was trying to steal my cat and go to Florida,” she told the Post.
“Our cats really like to check out bags and boxes and apparently one of them climbed into his suitcase. It was just an accident.”
Alix’s fiance rushed to the airport to rescue Smells and take him home.
But far from being traumatised by the ordeal, the cat reportedly “acted like nothing had happened”.
The TSA regularly makes unusual finds when scanning baggage at US airports. Earlier this month, a passenger was caught trying to board a flight in Florida with a handgun smuggled inside a raw chicken.