Choosing the best cat carriers for your felines is an important investment, since the right type of carrier can provide cats with a feeling of security and can make taking your pet to the vet or on a trip, less stressful. Transporting your cat in a vehicle, even for a short trip to grandma’s house can put your pet in danger.
If you’ve never purchased a cat carrier for your feline before, then you may not know what types and sizes are available, what types of carriers cats prefer, or even how much space they need.
This epic buyer’s guide is loaded with important information that will help you choose the perfect fit for your pet and a carrier that’s almost indestructible.
As a reviewer, I’ve also tried out the top-selling pet carriers currently on the market, narrowing it down to the best six carriers that all cats will love. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart, which includes each model that made it onto my list, their rating and what their best features are.
Cat Carriers Comparison Chart
Best Cat Carrier Overall-Pawfect Pets Travel Carrier
This model is my top pick. It’s one of the best carriers from Pawfect for a variety of reasons. If you’re looking for an airline approved, comfortable carrier for your small to medium-sized cat, then the Pawfect Pets travel carrier is the perfect choice. Comfortable, spacious, and durable, the soft-sided carrier is approved by most airlines and is designed to easily fit under your seat or in a car seat in your vehicle. It’s made out of reinforced polyester, with mesh panels made out of claw-defense mesh that provides top of the line ventilation. It’s also equipped with small buckles that secure the entryways, preventing even the most aggressive pet from making an escape.
- Excellent airflow
- Approved by most major airlines
- Claw-defense mesh
- Buckles are difficult to open
This model allows your pet to travel in total comfort, thanks to its two fleece padded mats. As you may already know, fleece works by pulling moisture away from the skin, so even if your pet has an accident during transit, they’ll remain comfortable and dry. Additionally, these mats are machine washable, making this model very easy to clean and maintain. Despite its soft-sided design, your cat will remain secure and comfortable during their trip, providing you with much-needed peace of mind when you travel.
Best Cat Carrier for Air Travel-Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier
If you’re looking for the best cat carrier, this model by Sherpa delivers. The Sherpa Deluxe pet carrier is another top pick and it’s versatile design is one of the reasons it’s one of the best products on the market. This is an airline approved soft sided model that’s both durable and comfortable. This soft cat carrier comes with a soft faux lambskin liner that is machine washable. The interior panels provide excellent airflow, featuring side and top entryways that make it easy to unload and load your pet. The patented spring frame makes storing this model under an airline seat a cinch, since it allows it to be compressed several inches in order to conform to airline seat flight requirements. You’ll also notice it has a highly adjustable padded shoulder strap, so pet parents will find this model easy to carry, haul, and transport.
- Folds flat for easy storage
- Padded shoulder strap
- Mesh windows
- Easy storage
- Pet bed
This is a model that provides your feline with a lush, comfortable way to travel. Thanks to the top load and side load design, you’ll find that placing your pet inside or unloading them is fast and simple, which is a huge plus for any pet owner. The carrier is also very secure, equipped with locking zippers that prevent even the most nervous cats from escaping.
Top Heavy Duty Cat Travel Carrier-Petmate 21793 Ruffmaxx Travel Carrier
When you’re shopping for a heavy duty carrier, you’ll come across many types of plastic carriers that all claim they offer the most durable design. But this model by petmate actually delivers.
This carrier features a max weight of twenty-five pounds and comes loaded with airflow panels throughout, so your pet will remain cool and comfortable, whether you’re traveling across the country in your car, or flying. It also features a carry handle on top, for easier transport and an easy open front latch. Unfortunately, you won’t find a top loading option, which can be a drawback for some pet parents. Overall, this model is well-built and comes with a simple nut and bolt setup that allows for fast assembly, or you can collapse the carrier for storage.
- Simple assembly
- Carry handle
- Ventilated panels throughout
- Airline approved
- Only one entry
- Does not come with a pet bed
This model is built tough and is airline approved. In terms of extra features or accessories, this model is fairly basic. It lacks more than one entry option, which can make it more difficult to get your pet in and out of the carrier, but this model really shines when it comes to durability. This carrier can be used for car trips, rides to the vet, air travel, and it’s sturdy enough to set it up permanently in the home, if your pet needs a quiet, secure spot to nap during the day.
Best Soft Sided Pet Carrier-Pet Magasin Cat Carrier
This model by Pet Magasin is a great choice if you’re looking for a comfortable, soft-sided model you can use when traveling with your cat. This carrier is designed for car rides, in-cabin air travel and features a lightweight design, weighing in at just 2.2 pounds. The interior is heavily padded, with mesh windows for improved airflow, and an adjustable shoulder strap and carry handle. The exterior is made out of waterproof material, while the material in the interior is bite and tear resistant, so the carrier is a good choice for cats who may try to claw their way out. The foldable design will also allow you to easily stash and store this model when not in use. In terms of entryways, you’ll find one located on the front, which is secured with a heavy duty zipper.
- Shoulder strap
- Airline approved
- Low price
- Can easily fit in a car seat
- Only one entryway
- No seatbelt loops
This model earned plenty of positive customer reviews and it’s one of the most popular soft carriers on the market, due to it’s durable, waterproof, lightweight design and it will keep your cat safe, secure, and comfortable. It’s one of Pet Magasin’s best models for a reason. While it lacks a top and side entry, this product still delivers if you’re looking for a model that’s waterproof, approved for in-cabin use, comes equipped with windows, and features a design that folds flat for easy storage.
Best Pet Carrier Backpack-Lollimeow Pet Rolling Carrier
This is hands down, the best cat carrier backpack on the market and one that earned plenty of positive reviews. It can be used as both a rolling carrier, or worn as a backpack, so you can keep your furry friend securely by your side when you’re out and about. The design features three mesh sides for improved ventilation, complete with rolling window shades located on the front that provide privacy for an anxious cat, or they can be used when the temperature drops, to improve warmth. The telescoping handle is highly adjustable, so it will suit pet owners of different heights. The material used is waterproof and scratch resistant, and easy to clean. You’ll also find a couple of side pouches that you can use to store treats, extra water, or any pet accessories.
- Rolling shades
- Plush interior
- Can be used as a rolling carrier or backpack
- Easy to clean
- Not airline approved
Offering a unique design that allows you to take your pet with you, wherever you go, this durable, fun, lightweight rolling carrier and backpack in one is perfect for pets and owners on the go and nervous cats who want to stick close to their pet parent. The mesh panels, combined with the rolling shades also makes it suitable for a variety of weather conditions, and will be a good choice for cats who need a comfortable dark and secure model that will make them feel snug and safe when they travel.
Best Compact Travel Cat Carrier-Petmate Two Door Top Load Carrier
Offering a unique top and side entry design, this crate can be used for both cats and small dogs. It features a front and top entry door, which will make loading and unloading your pet incredibly easy. It’s also airline approved and features dimensions that will meet most airline requirements. It will also make a great pet house, if you’re looking for a sturdy, durable model that you can set up permanently in the home. The doors are made out of steel and latch securely in place. On the sides, you’ll find vents that help improve air circulation, so your pet will remain cool and comfortable during their journey.
- Top loading design
- Steel grate door
- Vents for improved air flow
- Front door can be difficult to open
This top rated model comes with a front and top-loading door, which is designed to make it easy to load and unload your furry friend, vents throughout the design, and a sturdy steel door that will keep your pet secure and safe. This model is a great choice if you’re looking for a carrier you can use for air travel, car rides, trips to the vet, or if you need a carrier you can use as a permanent den for your cat at home.
Cat Carriers Buyer’s Guide
Whenever you’re in your vehicle and traveling with your furry friend, you should never allow them to move freely throughout the vehicle. This can be dangerous to both you and your pet since a cat can easily slide under the pedals, climb onto the steering wheel, or try to escape out of one of the windows. Some cats may be totally relaxed when you drive, until you pull up next to a vehicle with dogs. Using top rated cat carriers at all times when you travel is the best way to protect your cat, while helping them to feel safe and secure.
So, what features make a good cat carrier? How can you determine a good cat carrier from a bad one? Will you even need to use a carrier all that often?
Before I discuss what features to look for in a new cat carrier, let’s learn more about the benefits of using one and how it can keep your feline safe.
Benefits of Cat Carriers
- There are so many different types and styles of cat carriers to choose from, that finding the best model can feel a little overwhelming, especially when it comes time to choose the right size.
- Cats have very different needs compared to dogs, in terms of space. But like dogs, cats are also den animals, so you may find that setting up a cat carrier at home is a big deal for your cat, since you’re providing them with a space of their very own.
- Carriers can be set up at home permanently, if you’re looking for a solution to your cats fighting over territory in the home. Bringing home a carrier for each feline is a great idea.
- The best cat carriers can also be used for car trips, whether you’re running errands and you want your cat by your side, or you’re planning on spending the weekend with family or friends.
- If your cat is sick or in need of their annual exam, then taking them to the vet in a carrier is a much better, and safer alternative to taking them wrapped in a blanket. A vet’s waiting room can quickly become crowded with other animals, which can easily stress out your pet.
- A cat carrier can be used for air travel, so you and your feline can spend your vacation together. Smaller cat carriers can even be stowed in the cabin with you, directly under your seat.
- The best pet carrier backpacks allow you to wear your cat on your back when you’re on the go, keeping them secure, happy, and comfortable.
- If you plan on adopting a new cat, then bringing him or her home in a carrier can make them feel safe and secure and can give them a place to sleep, away from the noise in the home, until they feel safe enough to venture out and do a little exploring.
- If you have an older cat at home and you’ve recently adopted a kitten, placing the carrier in a room the kitten doesn’t have access to will give your older cat a place to relax and nap in peace.
- As you can see, there are many benefits to using a cat carrier that many people aren’t aware of. These carriers can be used for more than just air travel and they can make the perfect space for your cat to get away from the kids, family dog, or other cats in the home.
Now, let’s take a look at the different types of carriers available and the features they have to offer.
What A Cat Needs
A cat likes to spend their time dozing on and off throughout their day, in a dark, quiet, and enclosed space. This is the reason why you often find them sleeping in the hamper, in baskets, cardboard boxes, or even a dresser drawer.
When a cat is frightened or stressed, they like to make themselves invisible, finding the safest, darkest spot possible. This is a place they can relax and let their guard down. Choosing a carrier that can provide this safe space for them will help your cat to feel safe and secure, especially when you’re traveling.
But a cat’s needs, in terms of a carrier, can also be dependent on why you need the carrier in the first place. The model you choose should be small enough to make a cat feel safe and secure, but if it’s for travel purposes, then you’ll need to ensure the carrier you buy meets a specific airline’s safety standards. This choice can also be impacted based on whether you want your cat to fly with you in the cabin, or if your cat will be stored in another part of the plane during transport.
Is a cat carrier airline approved? This is a common question many cat owners have, especially those who plan on taking their feline with them on their next vacation. Most often, hard-sided cat carriers are the carrier style of choice. However, you’ll need to check the spec sheet for the hard-sided carrier you’re interested in, and note whether the manufacturer states the carrier is air travel approved. If you want your cat to travel with you in the cabin, then you’ll need to measure the carrier to determine if it will fit under your seat in the cabin. Your cat may be too large to ride with you in the cabin if they require a carrier that’s too tall to slide under the seat. Most airlines will clearly list the clearance space for their seats, so be sure to check with the specific airline you plan to use, before you purchase a carrier. Additionally, inside a cabin, you may be allowed to use a soft-sided carrier.
The best cat carrier for your pet should be large enough for a cat to stand up in and turn around. It should be about one and a half times larger than your cat. If a carrier is too large it can make a cat feel less secure, especially if they end up sliding around from end to end when you’re driving.
When you’re shopping for a carrier for a kitten or juvenile, choose a regular sized carrier, one that you think will be the right size for your cat once they reach adulthood. You can line the bottom of the carrier with thick blankets to prevent your cat from sliding and to help make them feel more secure.
Many cat owners that own more than one cat make the mistake of purchasing a larger carrier that they can use for two to three cats. However, even if your cats get along very well at home, housing them together when you’re flying or during a car ride is a very dangerous idea. Cats are stressed and on edge when they travel. Stressed animals are more prone to fighting. When you’re shopping for carriers for your cats, make sure you choose one per animal and choose the appropriate size.
Many of the best cat carriers will come loaded with mesh windows that can provide superior airflow. These mesh windows can also allow cold air inside, so make sure the cat carrier you choose comes with zippered panels or another type of window cover to help keep your animal warm in colder temperatures.
Food and Water Dishes
If you’re using your cat carrier for travel, or you want a model that you can use for your cat during mealtime, to prevent your cats from fighting over food, then make sure the model you choose is designed to accommodate water and food bowls. Some will come with a food and water dish built right in. Additionally, built-in food and water dishes are great travel accessories to have for longer trips.
The carrier best suited for your animal will keep them safe and secure. The reason you need a cat carrier in the first place is to keep your pet safe while in transit. Some cats are impressively good at escaping. If you have an escape artist on your hands, then check out a cat carrier’s security features. Some models will come with a secure lock system, double zippers, locking zippers, and strong clasps or latches.
Weight capacity will determine whether or not a pet carrier is tough enough to keep your pet secure. Most manufacturers will clearly list the weight capacity on the spec sheet. If you have a smaller breed, then weight capacity may not be a major concern when you’re shopping for a travel cat carrier.
If you have a hard time putting your cat in a carrier, then you’ll want a pet carrier that’s secure and will keep your cat comfortable. A long car trip can be stressful and exhausting, even for a younger cat who loves being outdoors. However, if your cat is very anxious during travel, then you’ll want to make his or her comfort a priority.
Choose a cat carrier that has a warm interior for winter travel. Some models are designed to accommodate a cat bed or pad, which will keep your pet snug and comfortable.
For summer travel, make sure the carrier offers excellent ventilation on the tops, sides, and back and provides easy access to shade.
High quality cat carriers are made out of the following materials:
- Stainless steel
Each type of material has its pros and cons. Durability should be your main concern. A cat carrier that’s made out of thick plastics or steel will offer the type of durability that’s required for air travel in the cargo section of the plane and can keep your cat safe on long car trips.
Care and Maintenance
Most types of carriers are easy to clean and maintain, especially hard-sided models. A soft cat carrier that comes with padding or a built-in pet bed should be removable and machine washable. Make sure you read the care instructions before tossing the bedding into the wash. Some may require you to wash by hand and/or air dry.
If you have a kitty who hates being in their carrier, then a two door design is the best choice. Top load cat carriers are great products that are well made and provide the type of easy access needed for trips to the vet. These models will make loading and unloading your cat less stressful for both of you and should be your top pick if you’re looking for an easy access model. It’s also the type of carrier best suited for larger cats who have trouble fitting through standard entryways.
Best Cat Carriers: Types and Styles
The type and style of carrier you choose should depend on the size of your cat and how you plan to use the carrier. For example, your cat can be perfectly comfortable in a soft sided cat carrier, for use during car trips, but they will need something more durable if you want to set up the carrier at home for their bed, or you need a model for air travel. Below, I’ll go over the most common types of carriers and their pros and cons.
These high quality plastic carriers are well made and more durable than a soft cat carrier. This type of pet carrier is usually made out of a thick plastic that’s designed to withstand plenty of wear and tear. The carrier’s thick walls will also make it impossible for a determined cat with sharp claws to claw their way out and attempt to escape.
This type of cat carrier will come with holes to promote airflow and allow your pet to breathe easily. The interior also feels more enclosed and is usually darker compared to soft-sided models. This will give a cat a sense of security and will help them to feel more relaxed.
Some hard-sided cat carriers will have a removable top half, while others will feature a solid design. Some will have both a side and top entryway, in addition to a basic front entryway, while others will have a single front door. Choose the design that will work best for your cat, based on their size and whether or not loading and unloading them is a challenge.
A soft sided cat carrier is highly portable and lightweight. These carriers have walls that are made out of tough nylon material and are usually shaped like a duffel bag with a front and top entryway. They come with heavily padded handles and shoulder straps, so you can sling the strap over your shoulder to carry them around. This style is perfect for people who love to travel around town or on short car trips with their pets. Unfortunately, some models are not designed for air travel. Keep in mind, these carriers are made out of soft materials that can be torn by sharp cat claws. If you have a nervous cat who is terrified during travel, he or she can potentially destroy it. If you’re short on storage, then a model that folds flat will be a great option.
Like a soft sided cat carrier, foldable carriers fold flat, which makes them great products for short trips, when you’re out running errands, or a carrier you can use to and from the vet. Like some soft-sided models, carriers that fold flat may not be approved for air travel, and they’re not recommended for cats who are destructive.
The best backpack cat carrier can be worn on the back, making it a highly portable way to take your nervous cats with you, wherever you go. However, many of these models are not air travel friendly, so if you plan on taking your pet with you on your next vacation, an airline approved soft sided model may be a better choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Cats Prefer Hard or Soft Carriers?
Cats tend to prefer hard carriers, because they offer a higher level of durability, making a cat feel more secure. A soft cat carrier is made out of material and padding, so they’re not the best choice for an anxious or aggressive cat. In most cases, a cat will definitely feel more comfortable and safe in a solid, hard-sided model. If you’re not sure which carrier best suits your animal’s needs, read reviews to learn more and find out which model has a reputation for comfort and durability.
How Do You Keep a Cat Calm in a Carrier?
If your kitty is not used to riding around in a carrier, they may become extremely anxious their first few trips, especially if you use the carrier to take them to the vet. One solution is to use calming pheromones, which can have a positive effect on a cat, instantly calming them. However, in some cases, pheromones will not help to calm an overly anxious or aggressive cat, in which case, you will need to devote some time helping to teach your cat that the carrier is a safe space. You can do this by placing them inside for 5-20 minutes a day. Start off slow and gradually increase the time the cat spends in the carrier. This will be an important step if you plan on traveling cross country with your cat. Also put a few treats inside. This may cause your cat to look forward to being placed in their carrier.
Should I Put a Blanket in My Cat Carrier?
Yes. Place a comfortable, familiar blanket inside the carrier. Keep in mind, if your cat is very anxious, stressed, or aggressive, that the blanket may need to be changed if your cat has an accident or claws up the blanket. For most animals, a blanket will be a nice addition and one that will help to keep them calm and warm.
How Long Can a Cat Stay in a Carrier?
This will depend on each individual cat. Most vets state that an animal can remain in a high quality carrier for up to eight hours. However, if your cat is new to carrier use, they may require a break to stretch their legs, every two to three hours.
The best cat carriers will keep your kitty comfortable and secure, will provide the level of protection you need depending on your cat’s behavior and your travel plans, and will feature a design that makes traveling with your favorite feline safer and more convenient. These product reviews will help you pick a model that’s perfect for your specific pet, and will include all the features you need for safer travels.