Traveling with your cat? Finding the best cat carrier is important when you’re a cat parent. I’ll share our top 5 choices for the best cat carriers that will keep your kitty safe and comfortable.
The best cat carriers are:
- Petmate Two Door Top Load
- AmazonBasics Two-Door Hard-Sided Pet Carrier
- Pet Magasin Hard Cover Collapsible Cat Carrier
- Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Cat Carrier
- Henkelion Cat Carrier Backpack
Why you need the best cat carrier
Anyone who owns a cat needs a carrier. Even if you’re not planning on traveling with your cat, a vet-trip is inevitable (1).
Driving with a loose cat in the car can compromise your safety and that of your kitty. Plus, car rides can be scary for some cats.
A nervous cat may climb around to find a hiding spot. No place is out of the question, under the accelerator, on the steering wheel or on the dashboard. There’s also a risk once you open the door—your cat may jump from your arms and run into the street.
A carrier for cat is the best way of transporting your kitty. It keeps your cat in a confined space and makes traveling less stressful for you and your kitty.
Types of cat carriers
You generally have three types of cat carriers to choose from. These include:
Soft-sided cat carriers are like a carrying bag for cats. They’re typically made of either nylon or ballistic nylon.
But they aren’t perfect. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Although they’re relatively sturdy, a soft-sided cat carrier is best for calm travelers. A frightened cat can potentially tear the nylon sides or dig through the zipper.
- Don’t go too big—the coziness of soft-sided cat carriers is often what helps keep your cat calm.
- Don’t go too small, either! Your cat must have enough room to stand up, lie down, and turn around with ease.
- A soft-sided cat carrier with a light frame is best. Otherwise, it can sag once your pet is inside, which may make them uncomfortable or scared.
Hard-sided carriers are typically made of plastic, making them quite robust. They’re the most common type we see and use.
I’ve listed a few considerations below:
- Plastic cat carriers are easy to clean. The plastic is easy to wipe down or rinse with running water.
- This type is best for nervous travelers who may put up a fight.
- They can be cumbersome to travel with, especially airline travel.
- Plastic carriers protect the cat inside should something heavy fall on top. They may also guard them should an accident occur while on the road.
- Opt for steel mesh doors as opposed to plastic, as the latter can quickly break.
- The handle should also be metal and ensure that it can hold the weight without breaking.
- With various sizes available, be sure you find one that lets your cat move around inside. As with soft-sided carriers, room for snacks and drinks is good.
Backpack for carrying cat
A backpack for carrying cats is just like it sounds. They’re like ordinary backpacks, but with a cat-friendly interior and window. These are growing in popularity, they’re even used by celebs like Taylor Swift.
Here are some things to consider:
- A backpack cat carrier lets you bring your cat while traveling on foot or bicycle.
- They’re stylish—you can find them in various sleek materials, from nylon to leather.
- Your cat may feel safer being closer to you.
- They can be heavy—your shoulders and back can get tired quickly.
- A smart cat may be able to escape. You must close it properly so your kitty can’t pry open the zippers.
- These carriers can be pricey.
- Backpacks can be challenging to clean.
You may see some cat owners using a homemade cat carrier. Some may use laundry baskets, old cardboard boxes, and even pillowcases.
This isn’t recommended (2). These methods are not safe for your cat.
What to look for in a cat carrier
Cat carriers are available in various shapes and sizes. Because of this, I’ve gathered some points for you below to make your search a little easier:
Before getting a cat carrier anything else, it’s best to settle on which kind you want. Consult our section above to see which might suit your cat the best.
Consider how you’re traveling. If you’re going on a car ride, a soft-sided cat carrier will do. But if you’re going cross country by plane, a hard-sided cat carrier is best. This is particularly true if your cat is flying as cargo.
Don’t squeeze a large cat into a small carrier. There has to be enough room for your kitty to turn around, lie down or stand up without feeling confined.
To find out what is the best size carrier for a cat, measure your kitty from head to tail. Then use your measurements to find a cat carrier that can accommodate this. Avoid going for a super large cat carrier, as kitties like it snug.
A carrier can get hot, especially in a car or airplane. Look for a carrier with ventilation options. This could include mesh windows, ventilation slots, or small holes where air can enter.
Portability is the whole point of a cat carrier. Sadly, some manufacturers have missed the mark, making fragile handles, or heavy containers.
The best cat carriers have sturdy handles, making them easy to transport. For soft-sided carriers, aim for strong carry handles and adjustable shoulder straps.
If you’re planning on traveling by plane, you need an airline-approved carrier. Remember that although a carrier is airline-approved, regulations and requirements vary between airlines. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check with the airline you’re flying with.
Tips for traveling with your cat
Traveling with your cat might sound intimidating. But by preparing and following a few tips, you’ll be fine. I’ve put together a small guide to help you and your cat arrive safely at your next destination:
How to prepare for cat traveling
Preparing your cat for traveling is the first step toward a safe, stress-free journey. If you were to pressure them into a carrier and slam the door, you’d create bad experiences for them. This is something they may carry for the rest of their life, making trips to the vet stressful and complicated (3).
Instead, by taking a few steps to prepare, your cat will happily enter the carrier, making your life a lot easier.
For starters, it’s essential to choose the best cat carrier for your cat. Your kitty may feel hesitant or reluctant about you locking them in, but most will quickly feel at ease.
The best way to get your cat accustomed to the carrier is by leaving it out well before traveling. Leave it open in a place where your cat tends to spend time. Soon they’ll get curious and go inside.
Cats love hiding places, so they’ll feel at home in a carrier, and may even use it for sleeping and napping (4).
If your cat has an unpleasant history with carriers, try positive reinforcements. This includes treats and praise.
Once they’re inside, close the door gently behind them so you avoid any loud sounds. Let them go in and out freely until they feel confident and comfortable.
Besides treats, you can also try special catnip blankets that may keep them calm. This is especially useful if you’re going on a long trip.
Once they’re comfortable with the carrier, try short test rides first. This will help them get used to the feeling of being in a moving vehicle.
They might meow a lot at first but as long as you go slow and easy, they should soon feel safe.
How to calm a nervous cat
Unlike dogs who’ll jump in a car, cats aren’t good travelers. Cats prefer routines and the safety of their home.
To help your cat feel at ease on your trip, give them plenty of attention. If you can, pet them through the carrier. Otherwise, talk to them in a calming soothing voice.
Whatever you do, don’t let them out of the cat carrier to hold them or partially unzip your backpack. If you’ve ever driven with a crying baby in the backseat, you know the feeling of wanting to comfort them. But, just like a baby, the best place for your cat is in their carrier.
If you’re not driving you can place the cat carrier on your lap or the seat next to you. This will reassure your cat that you are close by and help calm them.
Sometimes the only thing that helps is a cat-calming solution (5). Make sure that it’s natural, and avoid drugs and chemicals. Talk to your vet ahead of time—they can recommend something for you.
Traveling by car
If you’re traveling by car, it’s best to fasten the carrier with a seatbelt. If an accident happens, this will prevent the carrier from flying around.
On short trips—less than 6 hours—your kitty will be fine inside the carrier. For longer trips, it’s best to let them out of the carrier periodically to drink and use the litter box. Bring a secure harness so they can’t go far. Avoid fastening a leash to their collar, as they’re easy to escape from.
Make sure your cat is wearing an ID. The ID can be on their harness or their collar. Make sure it includes your name, address, phone number, and email.
If you’re traveling a lot, get your cat microchipped (6). If your cat gets lost and someone finds them, a vet or animal shelter can help identify you as the owner.
Bring a disposable litter box with you on longer trips. This is the easiest solution to keeping the carrier clean.
When you feel your cat needs to go, pull over and put on their harness and leash. Then place the litter box on the car floor and let them do their business. If your cat is comfortable and not a likely escape artist, you can also do this outside. Once they’re finished, dispose of the litter box in a trash can.
Food and water
There’s nothing like snacks on the road—unless you’re a cat.
Kitties are prone to vomiting while riding in a moving vehicle. One way to reduce this is to not feed them the morning of your trip. They’ll be fine with not eating until you arrive (7).
Bring lots of water with you. Every time you park, offer some to your cat to prevent dehydration.
A good tip is to bring a jug of the water they usually drink. Cats can be hesitant to drink something that smells and tastes different.
Don’t put a water bowl in their carrier. Bumps on the road or your cat may tip it over, spilling water inside. And a wet cat is an unhappy one.
Frequently asked questions
Do cats prefer hard or soft carriers?
It depends on your cat. Cats, in general, like cozy spaces that aren’t too open, which both types of carriers provide.
Many owners tend to prefer hard-sided carriers because of the added safety. They’re also a lot harder to escape from and better for nervous travelers.
Cats may like soft-sided carriers due to their flexibility. They aren’t sitting in a plastic carrier. Instead, the nylon breathes, and many include mesh windows they can see out of.
You can always make a hard-sided carrier softer. Do this by adding padding, toys, and other items your cat knows and loves.
What is the safest cat carrier?
The safest cat carrier is one that holds your cat securely and doesn’t allow them to escape.
Technically speaking, hard-sided cat carriers are generally safer than soft-sided. This is because it won’t crush its occupant during an accident or if someone placed a heavy item on top.
Regardless of the carrier, be mindful. Always strap the seatbelt around your cat carrier and place a blanket or other cushioning inside.
When carrying it, hold a hand underneath to support the handle. This is particularly important if you have a large feline that weighs more than average housecat, like a Maine Coon cat.
Are soft-sided cat carriers safe?
Soft-sided carriers aren’t as supportive and sturdy as hard-sided cat carriers. Because of this, you have to be careful when carrying it and where you place it.
That said, they are safe and quite handy when traveling, especially by plane. You can generally bring them inside the cabin with you, keeping your cat close the whole trip. But check with the airline beforehand to see if they will allow this.
Reviews of the best cat carriers
After extensive research, I found five of the best cat carriers for you to see. These are:
This specially designed cat carrier from Petmate works for either a cat or a small puppy. It features two entrances—one from the front, and the other through the top.
It provides a very cat-friendly environment. There are no sharp metal edges or bumpy protrusions inside. You can always place a padded blanket for extra comfort. The carrier is the ideal cozy travel accommodation for your furry friend.
Some excellent features are the easy-squeeze door latches and ergonomic handle. The doors are effortless to open, even if you have decreased mobility in your hands. Then the ergonomic handle makes it comfortable to carry.
At the front, there’s a steel wire door and vented sides. These let your cat observe their surroundings. It also keeps the inside well ventilates and helps avoid overheating.
If it’s very hot and you don’t have AC, try using ice and cold water bottles underneath the carrier to help keep the carrier cool.
The Petmate carrier is available in two sizes: 19 inches and 24 inches. It works for a range of kitties. Choose between four color combinations, including grey and hot pink.
You can also bring it with you during air travel. Petmate states that it meets most air travel requirements. But you should check with the specific airline beforehand.
One drawback is that the ergonomic handle is plastic. You have to be careful if your cat is heavy that it doesn’t break.
- Top-loaded design with an extra front door.
- No sharp corners or edges inside.
- Easy-squeeze door latches.
- Ergonomic handle.
- Air vents.
- Suitable for air travel.
- The handle is plastic, which may compromise its durability.
- Not strong enough for heavy cats.
The AmazonBasics cat carrier is another option for both felines and canines. It’s designed to provide secure accommodation for your kitty while on the road.
The carrier measures 19 by 12 by 10 inches and includes a two-door design for easy loading. There’s also a larger 23-inch version available.
At the front, you have one entrance, made of steel-wire and spring-loaded latches. Then at the top, you have the second entrance that’s plastic.
The dual-entry cat crate is the best solution if your cat is nervous. You have two ways of getting them into the carrier. This helps reduce frustration and stress.
What’s great about the top is that you can open it to the left or right. You simply pull one of the black handles—there’s one on each side—to release the door. Then lift and swing to the side. For the front door, all you do is pinch the latches together, pulling them forward.
The manufacturer designed it to be sturdy. The top and bottom snap together using four durable latches. For extra security, you’ll also get screws to secure the two ends further.
The structure is heavy-duty, consisting of durable plastic. All around, it features ventilation points that also increase your cat’s visibility.
One thing to be aware of is that the handle sitting at the top may open the door. This could be an issue if your cat is bigger, so when carrying, we recommend holding a hand underneath.
- Two-door design.
- Durable materials.
- Adaptable top entrance—can open to either side.
- Easy-to-open latches.
- Top and bottom secured with latches and screws.
- Several ventilation points.
- Carrying it by the handle may cause the top to open.
- Not be the best carrier for a larger cat.
If you’re searching for a small cat transporter that you can quickly bring to the vet, we suggest the Pet Magasin carrier. This sized carrier measures 17 by 13 by 14 inches and is suitable for cats, puppies, and other pets.
This is a hard-cover collapsible pet carrier. It includes a hardtop and base, providing a firm foundation for your cat. The sides are soft, and it folds flat when not in use, allowing for easy storage.
Holding the carrier together are zippers that open up all around. This lets you get your cat out quickly.
At the bottom, Pet Magasin includes a padded mat with a non-slip surface for your cat. It’s ultra-comfy, and your cat will feel secure.
Another great feature is the see-through mesh door. Your furry friend can watch the world go by while you tote them around.
It’s safe and breathable, made from premium materials. This includes YKK zippers and panels of sturdy mesh windows.
That said, be careful that the zippers don’t come undone when you hold the cat carrier. This carrier isn’t good for nervous travelers. A frightened cat can scratch through the mesh.
- Small and convenient size.
- Collapsible design.
- Includes padded mat with a non-slip surface.
- See-through mesh door.
- Breathable materials.
- Zippers can come undone when carrying.
- Not for a nervous cat.
If you’re going by plane, we recommend looking at these soft carriers for cats from Sherpa Travel. This is an airline-approved soft-sided cat carrier. It works for big and small kitties.
The cat carrier includes Sherpa Travel’s patented spring wireframe. This clever design lets you push the rear down several inches. It should then meet under-seat requirements.
For entries, you have both a top and side door. These come with locking zippers, securing your furry friend inside. There are mesh windows, providing ventilation and viewing points for the passenger.
A great feature is the included faux lambskin liner—it makes the bottom of the cat carrier cozy and comfy. What’s more, it’s machine-washable, so accidents and spills are no biggie.
The padded shoulder strap on this cat travel crate is also worth a mention. It includes non-slip materials and is comfortable to use. To secure the cat carrier, there’s a seat belt/luggage strap.
At the rear, you have a convenient pocket for treats, a leash, a harness, and waste bags, among other things you need.
You can choose between three sizes: small, medium, and large. The small carrier can hold up to 8 pounds and measures 15 by 10 by 8.5 inches. The medium cat carrier measures 17 by 11 by 10.5 inches and can hold pets up to 16 pounds. The large carrier can hold up to 22 pounds and measures 19 by 11.75 by 11.5 inches.
One drawback is that it seems to be difficult to remove odors. Although the liner is machine-washable, the other parts are tricky to clean.
- Airline approved.
- Includes a unique wireframe, enabling it to fit under seats.
- Large mesh windows.
- Convenient back pocket.
- Padded shoulder strap.
- Tricky to clean.
- Quite heavy with a pet inside.
If you want a backpack carrier for cats, take a look at this carrier from Henkelion. This backpack provides a fantastic solution for those wishing to bring their cat along on adventures.
There’s a large window at the front, providing your furry friend with a full view of what’s behind you. The backpack consists of sturdy ABS material and oxford cloth. It includes nine holes and air mesh, allowing air to enter and ventilate the interior.
You can wear the backpack as you like—Henkelion states that it works fine resting on your stomach.
A great feature is the ergonomic design. The straps can absorb sweat and moisture. They’re also designed to relieve some of the weight.
It’s available in different colors and can carry up to 10 pounds. It measures 12.2 by 11.4 by 16.5 inches.
- Large window.
- Vents and mesh covering.
- Durable oxford fabric carrier.
- Ergonomic straps.
- Not a suitable carrier for large cats.
- The carrier might be a little flimsy.
Cats aren’t usually fond of traveling, but trips to the vet are inevitable. Because of this, finding the best carrier for cats is essential.
There are several types of cat carriers. Look for one that’s large enough to accommodate your cat and suits your needs.
All the cat carriers on our list are worth a look. But the winner of the best cat carrier is the Petmate Two Door Top Load Carrier. It’s convenient and lightweight, plus the top entry makes it easy for timid cats to enter.