Cat Carriers... Take Your Cat in Style! - Cat Info Detective

Cat Carriers… Take Your Cat in Style!

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings feline travelers! Skye Blake here to help you sort out what styles of cat carriers are available for your travelin’ kitty…

Gone are the days of just a basic hard plastic carrier… Now you have a bewildering array of choices!

Let’s discover more about them…

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides and explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

Where to Start

tabby cat in open hard carrier

If you don’t know what will work best for you, your cat, and the kind of traveling you’re doing, go to “What Are the Best Cat Carriers?“.

Then check here for more info on the different styles that are available.

Hard Plastic Cat Carriers

hard cat carrier

Many cats feel safest in a carrier with sides they can’t see through and feels secure… think “cat cave”.

Hard plastic (traditional) carriers have historically been the most common and are safe and practical.

They’re made from tough plastic that can handle scratches, bites, and accidents.

kitten emerging from front of hard cat carrier

They’re practically indestructible, easy to clean and usually have a metal or plastic grill type door that latches so a cat can’t jiggle it open.

The door is usually only on the front of the carrier, but some have top entry as well, which makes it easier for some cats to get in and out.

Plastic carriers come in different sizes, which helps when you need a small one for a kitten and bigger one for an adult.

tabby cat in open hard carrier

Large cats may need a small or medium size dog carrier.

Covers are available that allow air circulation but give warmth in cold weather or help calm a scared cat.

Good for Vet Visits

vet listening to cat's heart with stethoscope

The top and bottom of the carrier are attached by special screws that make it easy to open, which makes them good for vet visits.

If you put a towel in the bottom, it gives him something comfortable and secure since he’s not sliding around trying to hold onto the plastic.

Then instead of trying to pull your uncooperative, terrified cat out of the carrier (or dumping him out), you can unscrew the top and remove it, leaving the cat huddled in the bottom.

vet and grey tabby, carrier

Your vet can do most or all of the exam without taking him out.

The vet or tech can also cover or wrap the cat in a towel if further calming is needed.

This method makes everybody calmer, and vets appreciate the thoughtfulness.

Plastic carriers are available at pet stores, superstores like Walmart and online at suppliers like Amazon, Chewy and PetSmart.

Bubble Style Carriers

carrier - bubble backpack by luggage

Bubble style hard-sided carriers are definitely different.

One or both sides are clear so your pet can see the world while still being contained and protected.

You’re the best judge of whether your cat will like this or feel too exposed.

Most bubble carriers come with wheels and a handle for wheeling through an airport.

Soft-sided Cat Carriers

tabby cat in orange soft sided carrier

Soft-sided carriers have become popular because they’re lightweight, stylish and easy to carry.

Many are also approved by airlines as carry-on luggage.

They come in different sizes and colors, are made from tough polyester, and have mesh panels for air circulation.

soft sided cat carrier

The best soft-sided carriers are sturdy with a firm, strong floor and sides that won’t fall in on your cat.

Some open at the side and some from the top, with the best having locking zippers to prevent accidental escapes.

Just be careful when zipping and unzipping the carrier that you don’t catch her fur or skin in it.

Sherpa® Travel Original Deluxe™ Airline Approved Pet Carrier, Black
Sherpa® Travel Original Deluxe™ Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Your cat might be happy in a soft-sided carrier, but they’re not as protective as hard carriers if something falls on them.

Soft-sided carriers are washable if your cat has an accident, but not as easy to clean as plastic.

Brands and products mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

Soft-sided carriers are available at pet stores and online suppliers like Amazon and Chewy, as well as manufacturer websites.

Purse Style Carriers

tan leather purse, pocketbook

Purse carriers are exactly what they sound like… cat carriers that look or are carried like a purse, either in your hand or over your shoulder.

They’re stylish and preferred by women who don’t want to handle a separate carrier.

As always, your cat has to be comfortable in it! If not, you’ll have to find a happy compromise.

Purse carriers are available online at suppliers like Chewy and Amazon, although any large purse can be used as one as long as your kitty’s comfy in it.

Expandable Cat Carriers

camping tent set up at site

Expandable cat carriers are soft-sided and unfold to give your cat room to stretch out, have good air circulation, see the sights… and still be contained.

Think of it as a mini tent for your cat!

They’re useful for long distance car travel and some even have room for a litter box.

motel sign

You can bring these straight from the car into a hotel room and your cat can be secure in a comfortable place while still being contained.

Expandable carriers are available at pet stores and online at suppliers like Chewy and Amazon.

Backpacks

Sherpa backpack carrier

Backpacks made specifically to carry animals are a good option for many kinds of travel, like biking, hiking, or airplanes.

Don’t use regular backpacks… there’s not enough air circulation!

They should have plenty of mesh or other air holes to keep your cat cool and able to breath easily.

carrier - bubble backpack by luggage

Backpack carriers come in regular and bubble styles, with or without wheels and handle. Some have expandable versions.

Bubble backpacks have a hard plastic dome bubble that gives your cat a way to see the outside world clearly.

You can’t see your cat while it’s on your back, which is a drawback, but may be fine for your situation.

backpack cat carrier open, cat peeking out

There are also pet slings that can be worn in front or back. They’re good for calming a cat on vet visits or for short walks.

Your cat should always be in a leash/harness and clipped to the sling.

Here’s a good site for more info on backpacks for cat-ventures… “Cat Backpacks for Adventuring with Your Cat“.

Backpacks for cats are available at pet stores and online suppliers like Chewy, Amazon and Jackson Galaxy’s website, as well as some manufacturer sites.

“Cat Backpack Review!”, Adventures with Squirrel, September 13, 2019
“What you should look for in a Cat Backpack: OUR CAT BACKPACK REVIEW”, Bad Cat Family, May 17, 2021

Foldable Cat Carriers

cardboard cat carrier

You’ve probably seen these cardboard fold-up carriers with breathing holes.

They’re used often in pet stores, shelters, veterinarian offices and other places when you need a temporary carrier for your cat.

They’re fine for kittens but the weight of an adult cat can make it come crashing through the bottom, most likely when you’re in a parking lot on your way to the car.

cat outside watching something

So now you’re watching a panicked cat take off down the road or around a building!

You’ll be spending harrowing minutes or hours trying to find it and lure it into another carrier, terrified it’ll get lost or hit by a car!

If you get to your car with no problem and the cat pees on the way home, the bottom is now soaked and will even more likely fall apart when you pick it up.

Ginger tabby cat in cardboard box

If the cat tries to bite and claw his way out of it, there won’t be much to stop him either.

A terrified or angry cat can get through one of these in a heartbeat!

Safe to say, these carriers are really only useful for lighter weight cats and kittens in emergency situations where you don’t need to carry them far (such as from a house on fire to a car).

angry cat face

If you have six cats and can’t afford or don’t have storage for six regular carriers, you could have one or two regular and the rest as fold-up cardboard ones for emergencies.

Wicker Carriers

kitten in wicker carrier

Wicker carriers may be fine as a bed at home but aren’t the best for traveling.

If your cat gets afraid and pees (or poops), you won’t be able to clean it very well and will probably have to throw it away.

A panicked cat may also be able to claw his way out of it or at least damage and weaken the carrier.

These temporary carriers are available at pet stores, vet offices, and online at suppliers like Chewy and Amazon.

Wire Crate/Cage

cat in wire carrier

Wire cages are not recommended for carrying cats, especially when traveling.

They’re frightening for the cat because he’s trapped in a cage while feeling very exposed, although covering it with a towel or blanket can help.

Since cats are prey as well as predators in the wild, your cat will feel very insecure and more likely panic in a wire cage, hurting himself and possibly others in the process.

cat scared, afraid, angry

You don’t want to deal with a panicky, angry cat while traveling or when you get where you’re going.

He’ll be hard to handle, you’ll be scratched up and there will probably be pee all over the place.

When a Wire Crate is Useful

cat in wire carrier cage

There are some occasions where a larger wire crate might be useful.

If you’re traveling long distance with your cat in a car, truck, or RV, you can create a cool cat condo from a large dog crate.

Be sure it will fit properly in your vehicle and can be secured so it doesn’t move around.

dog in crate

You can make it yourself or order one online.

Add hammocks, hiding tubes or cardboard box, soft bed, carpeted shelves, hanging toys, litter box… anything your cat enjoys.

Also consider the safety factor… your cat can fall off a shelf or have things fall on her from higher in the cage if you suddenly stop.

Emergency Cat Carriers

cat peeking out from blanket

In an emergency, all bets are off!

Before handling an injured cat, call your vet’s office and ask how best to handle the situation.

You don’t want to make it worse, but in an emergency, you just have to do your best.

This is where training your cat and having a good carrier can save both your cat’s life and you from injury.

tabby cat in open hard carrier

If you don’t have access to a carrier, there are things you can grab and use to get your cat out of the house and, if injured, carefully into your car.

An injured cat is frightened and dangerous so throwing a towel over him will help him calm down.

A pillowcase or large towel is good in a pinch to help a cat be calm… even the sweetest cat can lash out from pain and fear.

folded towels

If you have them, put on a pair of heavy work gloves for extra protection.

You can carry him away from your body to protect you from claws and teeth, always supporting back feet and body to give him more security.

Wrapping him like a burrito is the safest way to carry him but this many not be possible with an injured or panicky cat.

Siberian cat in box

If you don’t have a carrier, a box or storage container gives you a layer of protection.

Bonus points if it has a lid! If you have time to close it securely, that will protect you both better and help calm the cat.

If there’s no time, you’ll just have to scruff him like a mother cat. Support his back legs and hold him close to your body.

angry, hissing tabby cat

If you can tuck him into your shirt, jacket, or sweater, that helps too, but there are no guarantees in an emergency situation.

You could easily be clawed and bitten but it may be your only choice… use your best judgment in the situation.

Video Reviews

Here are some helpful reviews for you…

“Top 5 Best Cat Carriers (We Tested Them All)”, All About Cats, Dec 24, 2020
“DON’T STRESS about what pet carrier to use for your next flight. Use THESE top TSA approved options”, PurplePup LLC, January 24, 2023

Wondering what’s the best cat carrier or harness/leash for your cat? Check out “Supplies for Cats“.

Once you have a carrier, it’s important for your cat to feel safe in it. Discover how at “How to Train a Cat“.

If you’re moving or taking your cat on an adventure, there are things you should know before you go… “Traveling With a Cat


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

So, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

A-L

Car Travel With Cats – Road Trips & Moving“, by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, Preventive Vet, Published: August 4, 2018, Updated: May 10, 2021

Cat Backpacks for Adventuring with Your Cat“, Cat/Explorer.com

“CatWise”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2016, pp. 206, 283-286, 290

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat, by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D., Alpha Books, Penguin Group (USA), Inc., New York, NY, 2005, pp. 46, 171, 207-8

“Decoding Your Cat”, by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, editors: Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Debra F. Horwitz DVM, DACVB, Carlo Siracusa DVM, PhD, DACVB, DECAWBM, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2020, pp. 47

“How to Take Your Cat on a Bike Ride”, Cat Explorer.com

M-Z

Motorcycle Pet Traveling Guide, by Vivien Bullen, How Stuff Works

“Pet Carrier For Motorcycle- 5 Best Dog And Cat Carrier For Motorcycle”, Pet Levin

“Products That Allow You To Bike With Your Cat”, Travel With Kitties.com

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 257-60, 263-4, 266-7, 306-7,

“Top 5 Motorcycle Pet Carrier for The Budget”, by Editor Team, Caring Cat Guide, January 23, 2021

Updated April 14, 2024

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