Peter Spurway, vice-president of communications at the Halifax airport, said a cat named Ripples managed to escape its carry-on pet container during boarding and sprinted through the passenger area into the cockpit.
A chase ensued but the frightened animal wormed its way into an inaccessible area of wiring underneath panels in the cockpit.
Boarding of the aircraft was stopped and passengers left the plane as technicians took apart pieces of the aircraft to safely remove the cat.
The flight left Halifax for Toronto at about 10 a.m. rather than its scheduled time of 5:40 a.m., though Spurway said he wasn't sure if the cat was still on board.
"I've never heard of a pet getting loose in the cabin and causing this kind of extensive delay," said Spurway. "It's a new one for us."
Spurway said it was the only time he knows of that a cat has got loose in a plane's cabin, although dogs sometimes escape from their containers in the luggage cabin and then bolt upon arrival.
He says the chase for dogs is usually easier because they are more obedient when attempts are made to retrieve them.
"You know the old story. Dogs have owners. Cats have staff," he said.
Ripples also drew significant public attention.By the end of the day, Spurway estimated he had carried out 16 media interviews about the cat's antics.