One pet owner found himself removed from a flight after staff became aware of his unusual animal companion.
Gerald Tautenhahn has a pet opossum named Zatara, who he describes on the Instagram page he created for the critter as a “fancified trash cat.”
It was on Zatara’s Instagram page that Tautenhahn documented his troublesome traveling experience from earlier this month.
In one post, he claims JetBlue employees removed him from a flight back from Austin to Long Beach, California, because of the opossum, even though he says staffers were aware what kind of animal it was.
“We boarded the plane to go home and after a 30 minute delay, a JetBlue employee had me get off the plane and said I couldn’t fly,” read a caption on Instagram, written from Zatara’s point of view. “After 3 hours on the phone with JetBlue they told me to rent a car and drive back to CA.”
The caption continued: “The crew at #longbeach and #austin all took pictures with me and loved me but now they’re trying to act like they didn’t know I was an #Opossum! There’s pics of them holding me!!!”
In a statement to PEOPLE, the airline said it “gladly accepts” small dogs and cats in approved animal carriers.
“On the customer’s return trip, our crewmembers in Austin witnessed the opossum come out of its carrier and saw that it was not a cat or dog,” read the statement, according to the outlet. “The crewmembers informed the customer that the opossum would not be able to travel on the flight and worked to assist the customer with his options.”
In the end, Tautenhahn stealthily brought the opossum on a United Airlines flight and flew back home to California with Zatara.
“Made it to my seat! The last checking tickets was looking the other way when I scanned my pass,” read a caption updating followers on the opossum’s return flight. “So far so good…..”
Ahead of the initial trip to Texas, which went off without a hitch, the proud owner shared his excitement for Zatara’s first flight, showing a picture of the animal inside its carrier with JetBlue pet tags visible.
Tautenhahn, desperate to get home, told the New York Post that he “didn’t want to lie to United about Zatara,” however, flight staffers “didn’t even ask” what kind of animal was stowed inside the carrier.
Representatives from United Airlines did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
When the whole ordeal was said and done, Tautenhahn was set back four days before he finally made it home.
“The feeling was insane, it was frustrating beyond belief because they let me come here with her but now I can’t return with her,” he told KTBC, saying he researched pet travel rules beforehand and thought the trip would go smoothly.
RELATED VIDEO: Girl Reportedly Bit by Emotional Support Dog Boarding Southwest Flight
With the rise of emotional support animals, airlines have been rolling out new rules and restrictions about what animals are allowed in the cabin on a flight. Currently, most airlines allow dogs and cats to travel in the cabin in an approved carrier that fits under the seat in front of you, but each airline has their own rules on pet weight limits, pet age limits, accepted breeds and the cost of traveling with a pet on a plane. Airlines have a different set of rules for emotional support animals, which have been in constant flux over the past few years, and another set for service animals.
If you are traveling with an animal, regardless of whether it is a pet, emotional support animal or service animal, it is wise to check an airline’s current rules on animal travel before booking your ticket and checking once more a few days before heading to the airport.