Man Cons Entire Airline After He Was Told His Cat Was Too Heavy To Fly

The airport is a hub of stress, even without toting around a big grouchy cat. Options for traveling with pets are ever changing and complex. Yet, the number of pets flying in style continues to rise. People will try anything to get their fur babies out of the cargo hold and into their arms, even if it means breaking a few rules.

A Russian frequent flyer encountered new guidelines while traveling with his rather chubby cat. Stuck in an unfamiliar airport, he wouldn’t accept the rules, so he attempted to trick the system with cats, a disguise, and an outpouring of help from the community…

Mikhail Gail was a frequent flyer. Having banked over 300 flights in his time, he felt confident in his understanding of airline rules and regulations. So it was without concern that he planned his next round of travel with his beloved cat Viktor.

Mikhail Galin / Facebook

Their journey was from Riga, Latvia, to Vladivostok, Russia, with a layover in Moscow — a nearly cross-continent journey. He was glad to have Viktor along, through flights and airport hangs, for comfort and company.

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Things went smoothly at the Riga airport. They checked the appropriate baggage and received the thumbs up: Viktor was cleared as a feline passenger. The next stop was security, and all seemed to go without a hitch. 

For the duration of the flight to Moscow, Viktor was right where he was supposed to be — curled up on his Dad’s lap. In the window seat, Mikhail positioned his pet to look out onto the glimmering pinpricks of light from the cities below.

Mikhail Galin / Facebook

Still, Viktor was an animal and flying felt scary. Mikhail tried to soothe his visibly agitated cat during the air pressure changes of take-off and landing. He massaged his ears and wiped away his drool, a further symptom of his inflight distress.

La Repubblica

Back on the ground, Viktor returned to his normal self. Mikhail navigated through the airport, slightly worried about how his cat would fair for their 8-hour connecting flight to Moscow. As they checked in with a different airline, he was slapped with a bigger concern.

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When Viktor stepped onto the scale, the big boy stared innocently as the number ticked up to 10 kg. Now, normally, that number would mean nothing more than a loving scratch on the chin and maybe a few more minutes chasing a feather toy after dinner. 

NY Daily News

In this circumstance, which Mikhail quickly realized, a 10 kg weigh-in number meant his cat best friend went from being considered a harmless cabin dweller, to nothing more than under-the-plane pet cargo.

Daily Mail

Aeroflot rules state that pets weighing over 8 kg are placed in carriers within the cargo hold. So, unless Mikhail had an emergency cardio plan to help his cat shed 2kg in a few minute’s time, Viktor wasn’t going to be sitting pretty in coach.

USA Today

Naturally, this weight discrepancy caught Mikhail off guard. He protested, asking why this 2 kg difference hadn’t mattered on his initial flight. The attendant explained that he’d transferred from one airline to another, and they had differing policies about pet weights.

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However, Mikhail wasn’t a regular cat dad. The thought of his sweet hefty guy curled up in the dark, frightened by the roaring sound of the engines, without a person to offer any kind of comfort, well, that was too awful to consider.

The Fiscal Times

So, Mikhail re-booked their flight for the next day. With the rest of his night, he hatched a plan to get around that bogus weight rule. If things went according to plan, Viktor would be enjoying the window seat by the same time tomorrow.

Mikhail Galin / Facebook

The first part of the plan involved social media. He reached out to his online community on Facebook, explaining the situation and hoping for suggestions. This led to the clever scheme of fooling the airline with a tale of two kitties.

Funny and Fail Videos / YouTube

With the help of a friend, they scoured their contacts in Moscow looking for a cat that could pass as Viktor. Luckily, they tracked down a friend of a friend, whose pet was nearly his doppelganger, only a few pounds slimmer. 

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Mikhail and Viktor arrived at the airport the next day to meet their volunteer savior, Veronia Buka, and the understudy, a clueless cat named Phoebe. Ignoring their nerves, they approached the check-in counter to have the actor cat weighed.

The Answers Sarasota

While he waited for an alarm blast, followed by a swarm of airport security, ready to drag him off to TSA jail, none of that happened. In reality, Mikhail placed Phoebe on the scale, and the flight attendant recorded the number that was well within regulation.

NY Daily News

The flight attendant gave them the all-clear and wished them a good flight. Scurrying away with a sly grin, Mikhail couldn’t believe they’d pulled it off. Veronica was waiting out of sight of the check-in desk to swap back the cats.

Travel Nuity

Mikhail reflected on his cleverness from the comfort of the only available seat in business class. Viktor purred lazily on his lap. It felt like a victory for the everyman against the corporate giants of the airline industry — until his Facebook post took off.

Mikhail Galin / Facebook

His story had all the key elements for virality: animals, injustice, and a bold yet hilarious action. Throughout the planning of the great cat swap, Mikhail posted a flurry of updates on social media, asking for advice and explaining his entertaining ruse. 

Mikhail Galin / Facebook

Thousands shared Mikhail and his chunky cat Viktor’s story, which eventually reached the attention of Aeroflot. They were not laughing. When Mikhail reached for his phone the next morning, intermingled with all the notifications was a message from the airline.

Stamford Advocate

The grin from his widely circulated post wiped off his face as he read that Aeroflot had revoked all of his air miles. As an avid traveler, Mikhail had accumulated over 370,000 miles, and, thanks to his cat antics, they were all gone.

Mikhail Galin / Facebook

It was a high price to pay, but Mikhail would do it all over again. He said, “I think it was my fault because I should follow the rules but I really care about my cat.” As a cat dad, he wouldn’t allow poor treatment for Viktor’s extra poundage. 

Mikhail Galin

Overweight cats, like seniors, are overlooked at the shelter as too costly and too much of a headache. In reality, like Viktor, they make one of a kind companions. After sitting patiently in the shelter, ignored for his looks, one big boy became an internet sensation.


If you’ve ever visited Philly’s famed Lombard Street, chances are you’ve come across the Morris Animal Refuge. Hailed as “America’s first animal shelter,” the Morris Refuge has housed and cared for animals since 1874.

NACE Philly

Over its 145-year history, the Morris Refuge has seen all kinds of four-legged creatures scamper through its door, including an enormous number of cats. But even so, these felines paled in comparison to one especially large bundle of fluff.

Los Angeles Daily News

Meet BeeJay, otherwise known as Mr. B. A domestic shorthair tabby with a brown-chocolate coat, Mr. B is just two years old — oh, and he also weighs 26 pounds.

6 ABC Philadelphia

Given his unusual size, it’s not hard to wonder if Mr. B is even a cat at all. Some have suggested that the enormous feline is actually a lynx or wildcat, though according to the Morris Refuge, Mr. B is just big boned.

Morris Animal Refuge / Twitter

Yet even on the heavier side of the spectrum, most tabbies only grow to be about 16 pounds. This makes Mr B. quite unique, a fact that the Morris Refuge was eager showcase when putting the big guy up for adoption.

chonkymrb / Instagram

“OMG, big boi Mr. B is a CHONK. He’s a chonk of a chonk. He redefines the term,” the shelter tweeted along with this photo of the lovable cat. “Can you guess how much he weighs? More importantly, can you give him a home?”

Morris Animal Refuge

Evidently, there were more than a few pet lovers willing to make room in their hearts for Mr. B, as shortly after the post went up, Morris Refuge’s website crashed from so many adoption requests. Overnight, the hefty cat had become an internet sensation.

“Website down due to excessive traffic. Would expect nothing less from the popularity of my President,” tweeted one admirer. “If I lived in the US he would be mine,” responded another.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

Even the Philadelphia Police Department chimed in, offering to make Mr. B an officer of the law: “Um, if he doesn’t get adopted (highly unlikely) he’s welcome to join our K9 Unit as its first Feline (he IS a cat, right?!) member.”

Yet as with most online sensations, the commotion surrounding Mr. B seemed to be the product of hysteria as opposed to genuine interest in the charmingly chubby cat. Despite crashing Morris Refuge’s site on several occasions, very few visitors actually donated to Mr. B’s care.

FOX 29 News Philadelphia

But what of the adoption requests? While the shelter did receive an enormous response to their post, it was nearly impossible to tell who was serious about adopting Mr. B and who had just submitted a request for kicks.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

Yet Morris Refuge wasn’t about to let a little paperwork get in the way of finding Mr. B his forever home. The perfect owner for this adorable chonk was out there somewhere, and the folks at Morris weren’t going to stop until this owner was found.

Morris Animal Refuge / Twitter

And so, after sifting through more than 3,000 applications, Morris Refuge settled on placing Mr. B with one of their foster families. While the cuddly chub would’ve been any cat lover’s dream, those at Morris felt that this family was best equipped to handle Mr. B’s unique needs.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

“Mr. B has some underlying health and behavioral issues that will need exceptional care and attention,” the shelter explained. “Because of this, we have placed Mr. B with one of our dedicated foster families who has experience working with cats that have behavioral and medical issues.”

@chonkymrb / Instagram

Initially, Morris Refuge wanted to see if Mr. B could acclimate to a home environment before adopting him out to a more permanent family. But just like all the others who came across the adorable cat, the foster family just couldn’t let him go.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

Even with four cats of their own, the family decided to adopt Mr. B permanently and give him the forever home he’d been searching for. Thankfully, however, the story of this famously fat cat didn’t end there.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

Eager to continue sharing Mr. B’s adventures with the world, the cat’s new owners started an Instagram page dedicated to the adorable feline. Over the course of a single month, @chonkymrb had already amassed over 11k followers!

@chonkymrb / Instagram

Just as quickly as his page had accrued a following, Mr. B adjusted to his new home in no time at all. In nearly every post, Mr. B can be found lounging in a state of pure bliss, finally at peace knowing that he’s found a family who loves him.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

To spread even more love for Mr. B, his owners even began selling t-shirts with the chubby cat’s face on them. Like Mr. B himself the shirts were a hit, and the profits from the over 800 t-shirts sold were donated directly to where it all began: the Morris Animal Refuge.

@chonkymrb / Instagram

By giving back to the Morris Refuge, Mr. B’s owners hope to fund future adoption programs so that cats like BeeJay can find loving homes. Yet while animal shelters seem like a given, they aren’t the only places where feline social-media stars can be found.

Robb Report

Nestled along the California coast, UC Santa Barbara is one of few universities to actually have a curriculum to match its beautiful campus. Considered one of America’s Public Ivy universities, UCSB is regularly ranked among the top public colleges in the world.

UC Santa Barbara

Additionally, the Santa Barbara area also has one of the most diverse collections of wildlife in the state. Big cats, great birds, and even sea lions call the area home, some of which can even be found in the areas surrounding UCSB.

But despite its beachfront views, academic pedigree, and local wildlife, there’s one main reason that the UCSB campus is constantly buzzing with activity — and that reason’s name is Big Boy.

The UCSB Current

For 15 years this orange-black cat has called UCSB home, though his origin remains a mystery. He simply just showed up outside of the campus biology labs back in 2005, perhaps left behind by a staff member who could no longer keep him.

The UCSB Current

Regardless, Big Boy has become a celebrity among those at UCSB, his courtyard home drawing dozens of visitors each day. Katie Title, an animal lover and academic advisor for the school’s College of Engineering, is one such visitor, though her relationship with the cat goes beyond mere admiration.

Katie Title / Facebook

After first visiting Big Boy on her lunch breaks, Title opted to become his official caregiver when a group of concerned students brought the famous feline to a local vet. As he wasn’t deemed a stray, Title volunteered to watch after him so he could remain on the UCSB campus.

The UCSB Current

But caring for Big Boy isn’t a one person job: the adorable cat has a whole team of volunteers dedicated to his wellbeing. A feeding log posted in his courtyard ensures that Big Boy always has a full belly, and when his nails get too long, someone is always there to clip them.

In fact, there are those that keep an eye on Big Boy even during the holidays. Title once returned to campus on Thanksgiving to make sure he was fed for the long weekend only to find him stocked with food and still getting regular visitors.

The House Where The Black Cat Lives

Strangely enough, Title usually has no idea who these volunteers are or how many of them are out there. All she knows is that whenever she’s worried about Big Boy, she can always find him with a fresh bag of food and a smile on his face.

Dman0323 / Reddit

Yet caring for this beloved feline takes more than just a bowl of cat chow and a pair of nail clippers. Big Boy also requires regular visits to the vet, and his routine teeth cleanings (which require anesthesia) can get pricey.

Title has been generous enough to pay for most of Big Boy’s procedures out of pocket, though she did start a GoFundMe page to collect donations for his care. Fortunately, fans of the lovable cat have been more than willing to help out to keep Big Boy in tip-top shape.

Katie Title / GoFundMe

When the rainy season comes around, Big Boy’s care falls into the hands of groundskeeper Carl Anderson. A UCSB employee for 25 years, Anderson sets up a homemade wooden shelter for Big Boy each winter and makes sure it’s stocked with straw to keep the cold at bay.

According to Anderson, there was a time at UCSB when five or six strays lived on campus, though they were all spayed or neutered shortly after being found. He believes Big Boy and a fellow campus stray named Solo are the last of these cats, making their care a top priority.

El Camino College Union

But looking after Big Boy and Solo is almost like caring for family, which is why Anderson has stuck around all this time despite being eligible for retirement. “Interesting enough, they kept me here,” Anderson said. “The cats have been my compass.”

The UCSB Current

Like with Anderson, Big Boy also serves to bring comfort to many of the UCSB students. Those homesick for their own pets will often visit his courtyard with a handful of treats, guaranteeing a whole lot of affection from this fluffy little guy.

The UCSB Current

In a similar way, students also use Big Boy as a therapy animal, visiting him when the stress of higher education is just a little too much. Some visitors even leave notes behind, with one such message reading, “Thanks for the much-needed kitty therapy… finals suck.”

The UCSB Current

But while Big Boy has been a regular sight at UCSB for well over a decade, Title and the cat’s other caregivers acknowledge that he won’t be around forever. Even now, the 16-year-old feline has started napping around his courtyard more than he used to.

WantCookie / Reddit

“I hope that when it’s time, he gets to retire from campus and live comfortably,” Title said of the aging cat. “[But] as long as he is moving around and eating, he is living a good life and has no reason not to be here.”

Katie Title / GoFundMe

Until his retirement comes, however, Big Boy will continue to bring joy to all those at UCSB — and Title will be right there with him. “I’m in it until he retires or I retire,” the caregiver said. “He gave me a lot of lunchtime companionship, and this is my way to pay him back.”

Animal Shelter Assistance Program

The UC Santa Barbara campus isn’t the only unusual place you’ll find an adorable feline. In the neighboring state of Nevada, one cat is making people skirt the Silver Strip entirely for an experience far more memorable than any sit-down at the slots.

When people think of Nevada, they often think of one thing: Las Vegas. The bright lights and allure of Sin City are known far and wide, yet the great state of Nevada has plenty more to offer than cocktails and poker tables.

Just north of Vegas lies the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, a railyard dedicated to the preservation of the state’s rich mining and locomotive history. Set along a section of Route 50 known as the “loneliest road in America,” the museum became a major point of interest, though not for reasons you might think.

Nevada Northern Railway Museum

While plenty of train enthusiasts and history buffs visit the museum for the mid-century locomotives and machinery on display, the majority of visitors come for something else entirely…

Blackbaud Knowhow

Meet Dirt, the resident railway cat and official mascot of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. An 11-year-old stray, the Ely train yard is the only home this adorable feline has ever known.

In fact, Dirt was actually born in the depot, his mother having wandered in and delivered her litter beneath one of the trains. But when she and her babies eventually made their way from the railyard, one frightened kitten was left behind.

The yard workers attempted to coax the young orange-white cat from his hiding place, but no matter what they tried, the kitten just wouldn’t budge. They knew they couldn’t just leave him there to wither away, however, so the workers left a can of tuna for him every night before closing up shop.

Eventually, the kitten began warming up to the men, and before they knew it, he was a regular member of their crew. The little cat’s fur began to turn a dusty grey as he rolled around on the dirt floor and climbed over the trains, and so the workers called him “Dirt.”

“At a young age, Dirt learned not to lick himself clean, like normal cats,” said Eric Mencis, the museum’s social media director. “Being part stray, he likes to stay oily and dirty because it helps keep him tough looking and also in a sense keeps him clean because things don’t stick to his fur and bugs don’t go near him.”

Along with his dashingly dirty good looks, the workers also felt that Dirt’s personality was one of the reason’s why he fit in so well at the depot. To Mencis, it was almost like he was a rail worker stuck in a cat’s body.

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

“Dirt is pretty much one of those old-time railroaders living now as a cat,” he said. “Dirt walks around the shop like he’s the boss, making sure everything is working right… He walks with a sense of pride around his engine house like these are his trains, and he is proud of the men to keep them going.”

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

Yet Dirt wasn’t always the well-known and beloved mascot that he is today. For a time, only those who worked and frequented the train yard and museum knew about him, and even then, he was just plain old Dirt.

Travel Nevada

But with the addition of Mencis and his social media efforts, word of the adorably filthy feline began spreading like wildfire. Surprisingly, however, Mencis initially made no conscious effort to make Dirt a star: instead, it happened totally by accident.

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

“I first posted Dirt about 2 years ago, and he got some attention from people who have already met him,” recalled Mencis. “Then one day I posted Dirt on a quiet day and said Dirt wants to travel the world, share him and tell us where you are from. It took off and his fans started building.”

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

From there, it was only a matter of time before cat lovers the world over began flocking to the museum for a chance to catch Dirt in action. However, according to Mencis, getting the dirty little furball to make an appearance is no easy task.

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

A curious little guy, Dirt is often attracted to the sound of people talking, so the museum encourages guests to make plenty of noise if they’re looking to see him. Visitors are also told to let Dirt approach first, as he’s apt to feel you out before curling up against you.

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

“[He’s an] old tough railroader on the outside but still a sweetheart on the inside,” Mencis remarked. “Our guided tours can last about an hour long [and] it is common for Dirt to follow the entire group for the tour.”

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

Dirt’s popularity has grown so much over the years that the museum started offering Dirt-themed souvenirs. With t-shirts, keychains, and even his own brand of coffee available for fans to purchase, it’s almost like taking a little piece of Dirt home with you.

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

But for Mencis, it’s not just about getting people to visit the museum or order a few cat-shaped refrigerator magnets online: he’s just glad that Dirt is finally getting all the love and affection he can handle. And with a face like that, he definitely deserves it!

Nevada Northern Railway / Facebook

“I do love when Dirt gets shared other places without the museum’s name attached,” said Mencis. “The biggest thrill of Dirt’s fame is just knowing how much joy he brings to people around the world.”

Steve Crise

Seeing the kind of attention that Dirt gets so regularly, the life of a museum cat sure seems like an enviable one. Yet for one beloved pet at a small Russian gallery, his worldwide celebrity nearly cost him his life.

Master & Margarita

For the most part, the guests that visit Moscow’s Mikhail Bulgakov House Museum want to see a showcase of literature — a memorial to the influential author of the Soviet Union. Others visit the museum for another reason.

Travel Notes

It’s not that the 200 or so daily visitors don’t want to see items including postcards, books, and photos that belonged to the once-banned, Kiev-born author. There’s just another attraction that steals their eyes — and hearts.

A huge, 13-year-old, fluffy black cat named Begemot — Russian for Behemoth — wanders the museum. And somehow, in a typical, nonchalant cat fashion, he weaved himself into the very fabric of the museum. His conquest started in 2005.

Saba Ayres / Los Angeles Times

It was then that a Russian couple — and the original owners of Begemot — discovered terrible news: their newborn baby was allergic to the then-kitten. The two, regrettably, couldn’t coexist.

Sent packing with nothing but the fur on his back, the then-unnamed cat moved into the Mikhail Bulgakov House, where the museum director promptly gave him a tough job.

Bulgakov House / Facebook

The job was to lay around. Be cute. Act as the living embodiment of a character from Bulgakov’s, right, famous 1930’s magical-realism novel, The Master and Margarita. That was no easy task.

The character in The Master — a black cat named Begemot, depicted below — walked on two feet, played chess with the best of ’em, slammed vodka like a seasoned sailor, and tended to mouth off. Back in the museum, Begemot didn’t exactly excel at the role.

Instead of drinking and cursing, Begemot lays in the sunshine and goes for regular walks at about 11 a.m. Despite not meeting his job description, the museum rewards him handsomely.

Free room and board await him every night, a “chef” specially prepares his meals, and personal veterinarians and stylists respond to his beck and meow. And he repays the museum in a big way.

Begemot attracts visitors who want to pet him, pose with him, and purchase the Begemot-themed merchandise that pepper every shelf, cabinet, and wall. In just a few years, the museum became about the cat as much as it was about Bulgakov.

Sabra Ayres / Los Angeles times

But notoriety brought danger. On August 1, 2018, the museum received a rare message on its website: “Why have you let your cat out?” it read. The museum director, Nikolai Golubev, panicked.

Nikolai took the message as “a veiled threat.” Still, no museum employee thought twice when Begemot walked lazily past the front desk and outside at about 11 a.m. And two hours later, he never showed back up. Uh oh.

Then, a woman working in a nearby office visited the museum and confirmed their worst fears: a strange woman picked up the cat while he was napping and took off down the road — towards the crowded Mayakovsky metro station. Was she fleeing?

Museum employees sounded the alarm. Rushing to Facebook, they sent out a message: “An employee of Bulgakov’s House has been abducted!” Because of the cat’s enormous fan base, the news spread like wildfire.

Within minutes, social media users shared the museum’s declaration nearly 3,000 times. Moscow-based newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets blared the headline: “The most famous cat of Moscow…was kidnapped right in the center of the capital.”

Museum employees, social media users, and museum visitors wondered if the cat had been smuggled onto a train out of town. Had the heart and soul of the museum truly been snatched while taking a sunny snooze? Had Begemot been catnapped?

Relief came five hours later. Local police called the museum and informed employees that the catnapper left the “harsh-tempered” grump on the steps of the Mossovet State Academic Theater just up the road. He wasn’t exactly dancing with glee at his rescue.

Still, police officer Vyacheslav Bulavin scooped up the cat, certifying that, on the surface, he looked unharmed. Finally, Moscow released its collective breath when a photo of the officer with Begemot turned up online. But questions remained.

Who had taken the poor cat? Why? And where had the catnapper fled to? Russian authorities and leaders (okay, not really) had no answers. Begemot demanded attention, and he got it — good and bad! So how’d the cat fair from this whole debacle?

Just 24-hours later, Begemot’s personal veterinarian stopped by the museum, where guests and employees no doubt celebrated his return, to give the cat a look over. After all, catnapping can take a tole on a grouchy cat. The expert’s conclusion?

Begemot “is healthy and feels great,” the museum said, noting, however, that he was a bit “discontent.” Begemot was back to his old self. Talk about a tough-minded cat. And so…

With the ordeal behind him, Begemot went back to work, snoozing in the afternoon and sticking his belly up when he very clearly did not want it rubbed. In other words? He gave the people who came to see him exactly what they wanted—and they gave him attention!

Mikhail Bulgakov House Museum / Facebook

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