What Are the Best Cat Carriers? - Cat Info Detective

What Are the Best Cat Carriers?

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

Greetings cat lovers! Skye Blake here, with what I’ve discovered about a popular question… “What Are the Best Cat Carriers?”

Most people don’t think about picking the right carrier for their cat’s comfort and security.

They only think about how easy it is for them to carry and the price.

cat carrying luggage on back

The smart thing is to find what’s best for both of you, with your cat’s comfort and safety being the first consideration.

Having the wrong carrier can be both unsafe and uncomfortable for your buddy.

paw prints coming in from a distance

Size, style, and what type of transportation you’re using are also considerations when buying a carrier.

There are many options available so you should be able to find something you both like.

Choose the Right Size Carrier For Each Cat

Size matters when finding a carrier. I recommend using the Goldilocks approach…

Too Big

kittens in a carrier

Many cats don’t like carriers that are too big.

You might think having a big carrier to handle more than one cat at a time is a good idea.

A cat likes having his back against something solid so he knows he won’t be attacked from behind.

backpack cat carrier open, cat peeking out

A frightened cat will back up away from you until they hit a wall or door.

Cats also don’t like sliding around in a carrier so it’s important to have a towel or fleece blanket in the bottom.

This depends on your ability to handle a bigger size and the temperaments of your cats.

Putting multiple cats in the same carrier might be a problem for a few reasons…

kitten emerging from front of hard cat carrier
  • It’s hard to carry and balance a big carrier with cats moving around in it.
  • You’ll probably have times when you’ll need to take only one cat and a large carrier will be too big.
  • Even if they’re best buds at home, the stress of travel might upset them.

Their stress and fear could become redirected to the other cat and start a fight, especially with vet visits.

cat yawning, angry or in pain

They don’t recognize one another’s scent afterwards. Their best buddy might smell like an alien intruder!

Generally it’s better to have one carrier for each cat that fits them comfortably, but you’re the best judge of your situation.

Too Small

cat in wire carrier

There are carriers made kitten-sized which is nice for those first months, but they grow quickly.

Once your kitten is grown, unless it’s a very small cat it’ll feel cramped and uncomfortable in a tiny carrier. Cats like be able to stand up and turn around.

You might want to get a kitten sized carrier for the first few months (especially if you might use it again with another kitten), then buy an adult size later.

oriental cat in carrier

Make sure you know about what size your kitten will become based on the breed. A Maine Coon will be a lot bigger than a Siamese.

Males also tend to be bigger than females. Many cat carriers are too small for larger breeds like Main Coons.

You may want to use a small dog carrier for a very large cat.

If you prefer to buy only one carrier, get the one you think will fit her as an adult and put a thick towel in the bottom to keep your kitten from sliding around.

This is probably fine for short trips to the vet but not for long trips.

Juuuust Right

cat in carrier with door closed

Getting the right size carrier is actually quite simple.

The rule of thumb for sizing a carrier is that it should be 1-1/2 times the size of the cat (not including the tail).

She should have enough room to stand up and turn around while still being able to touch the sides for security.

person petting a tabby cat's head

The inside must be comfortable for your cat. Be sure to check the carrier for any rough or sharp edges inside.

File them down or find another carrier.

A nice padded bottom will make a comfy trip for your buddy.

If it doesn’t come with one, you can add a soft towel or blanket.

Find the Best Type of Cat Carrier

cat sitting near picnic table

There are many different types of carriers.

Once you’ve determined the size you want, think about where you’ll be going with it and what mode of transportation you’ll be using.

Your intended use will affect the style and material of your carrier.

Find out more at “What Is Your Travel Destination?” and “What Mode of Transportation Are You Using?

Hard Plastic Carriers

hard cat carrier

These carriers are the most popular and most recommended by cat experts.

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

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.

kitten emerging from front of hard cat carrier

The top and bottom of the carrier are attached by special screws that make it easy to 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.

(Large cats may need a small dog size carrier.)

tabby cat in open hard carrier

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

These carriers are great for helping a nervous cat be calm at vet visits.

If you put a towel in the bottom it gives him something comfortable and makes him feel more 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.

Some examples* are…

*These examples are for your information only. I make no money from them.

Cales Extra Large Cat Pet Carrier

Hard Rock Transparent Hard Case Pet Carrier

Nadine Travel Pet Carrier – 3 sizes

Pet Magasin Collapsible Dog & Cat Carrier Bag, Small

Petmate Double Door Top Load Pet Kennel, 19″ or 24″ Long

Travel Cat Carrier

Whisker City® 2-Door Pet Carrier

Soft-sided Carriers

soft sided cat carrier
Sherpa® Travel Original Deluxe™ Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Soft-sided carriers look similar to soft clothes luggage.

They’re lightweight and popular because they’re stylish and easy to carry.

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

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

tabby cat in orange soft sided carrier

Some have locking zippers and top as well as side openings.

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

She’ll never get near it again if you make that mistake.

Your cat might be happy in one but they’re not as protective as hard carriers if something falls on them.

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

They’re washable but not as easy to clean as plastic if your cat has an accident.

There are some larger carriers that can be used for long distance car travel, since they give your cat room to move around and even have room for a litter box.

One example is Necoichi portable cat cage and litter box (info only…I make no money from it). It has seat belt straps that allows you to secure it to the car.

It’s also useful for in a hotel room or when you need to keep your cat contained but in something bigger than a carrier.

grey cat washing while sitting by a guitar - music
Some examples* are…

*These examples are for your information only. I make no money from them.

Sherpa Delta Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier

MuchL Cat Carrier Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier for Cats, Dogs, Small Animals Pet Travel Bag Airline Approved

Backpacks

carrier - bubble backpack by luggage

Backpacks are a good option for many kinds of travel, but one drawback is you can’t see your cat while it’s on your back.

However, some people find them a great way to travel with their kitty.

There’s a new kind that has a clear bubble and air holes for your cat to breath comfortably and see the outside world while being contained inside the backpack.

man holding maine coon cat

There are also slings that are used for cats or small dogs that can be worn in front or back.

For outside use, make sure your cat is in his 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“, Cat/Explorer.com

backpack cat carrier open, cat peeking out
Some examples* are…

*These examples are for your information only. I make no money from them.

Travel Cat – Backpack

Backpack Full View Extended Expansion Space Pet Bike Carrier – Sstuffy.com

Lollimeow Pet Carrier Bubble Backpack Series – Amazon.com

The Jackson Galaxy Convertible Cat Backpack Carrier

Videos
go pro video camera, computer laptop

Cat Backpack Review!, Adventures with Squirrel, September 13, 2019

Our Honest Review of the Jackson Galaxy, Cat Backpack!, Amber Aquart, May 7, 2020

Other Types of Cat Carriers

Cardboard

cardboard cat carrier

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

They’re used often in pet stores, shelters and other places where you need a way to carry your cat home.

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/hours trying to find it and lure it into another carrier, terrified it’ll get lost or hit by a car… not what you want!

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

It can also soak through to your car seat.

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!

angry cat face

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).

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

Wicker

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.

Wire Crate

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.

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.

cat scared, afraid, angry

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

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

cat in wire carrier cage

When a Wire Crate is Useful

If a wire cage is your only choice, cover it with a towel or blanket to make him feel safer and calm.

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.

dog in crate

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

You can make it yourself or order one online (here’s an example for your info only: Large Folding Collapsible Pet Cat Wire Cage Playpen Vacation)

Cat with a mouse toy in its mouth

Add hammocks, hiding tubes or cardboard box, soft bed, carpeted shelves, hanging toys, litter box, etc.

Think about things your cat particularly likes. You can also partially or completely cover it if that helps your cat feel comfortable.

Also consider this 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 Carriers

cat peeking out from blanket

In an emergency, all bets are off! There are some things you can grab and use simply to get your cat out of the house or, if injured, carefully into your car.

A pillow case is good in a pinch to help a cat be calm.

You can carry her away from your body to protect you from claws and teeth.

If you have time to put on a pair of heavy work gloves, especially when dealing with an injured cat, it would give you extra protection.

Siberian cat in box

Any crate or box will do in a pinch, especially if you can put an old towel or blanket in it first.

Bonus points if it has a lid!

If a cat’s injured, you may have to slide him carefully onto a board or something else sturdy before getting him in the carrier, if that’s even possible.

An injured cat is frightened and dangerous so throwing a towel over him first will help him calm down and give you some protection as well.

veterinarian looking at cat's eye

If there’s no time, you’ll just have to scruff her like a mother cat does her kittens, supporting her back legs, and hold her close to your body.

If you can tuck her into your shirt, jacket, or sweater, it might help her be calm. But there are no guarantees in an emergency situation.

By using this method, you could easily be clawed and bitten.

Carrier Safety (No Matter What Kind You Use)

safety first yellow road sign

Before every trip (even if it’s just to the vet’s office), check the carrier to be sure it’s in good condition and is sturdy enough to hold your cat securely.

Tighten all bolts on a plastic carrier and check a soft-sided one for holes, rips, tears, especially in seams.

Be sure any zippers work easily. If your cat might panic or is an escape artist the better carrier is the hard plastic type.

Otherwise they’ll probably rip, tear, open zippers, and generally shred any fabric or soft carrier.

Best Cat Carrier For…

Sherpa backpack carrier
Sherpa® Backpack Carrier

You might be asking… “What’s the best cat carrier for a car trip or on an airplane?”

Here are some different modes of transportation and tips for what carrier works best for them.

Airplane Travel

airplane climbing into clouds-travel

If the airline you’re using allows cats, you must use a carrier that they approve of or your cat won’t be going.

Airlines have specific safety requirements for carriers both for cargo and in cabin travel.

Many carriers are advertised as airline approved but you’ll want to double check the latest requirements of your specific airline.

Find out more about taking your cat on an airplane at “Air Travel With a Cat“.

Car, Truck & RV Travel

black car interior

Car, truck and recreational vehicles are the most flexible travel methods for carriers.

You can use anything in which your cat will feel comfortable and safe.

The most popular type of carrier is the familiar hard plastic kind with a front (and sometimes top) opening and door.

Soft-sided carriers and backpacks are other popular options.

Bicycle & Motorcycle Travel

cat standing on bike

If you’re planning to take a bicycle or motorcycle trip with your feline friend, there are a few things to know about carriers.

Find out more at “Biking With Your Cat“.

Cameras for videos

Here’s a helpful video:

Top 5 Best Cat Carriers (We Tested Them All), All About Cats, December 24, 2020


You & Your Traveling CatPreparing For a Trip
Moving With a Cat…An Adventure!What Mode of Transportation Are You Using?
Air Travel With a CatWhat Is Your Travel Destination?
Teach a Cat to Come When CalledLeash & Harness Training Your Cat
Cat Carrier Wars – How to Get Yours to Love It!Camping With a Cat
Biking With Your CatFirst Aid for Cats

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are 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.

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

List of Sources

(Links given here are for your information only… I make no money from them.)

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

“Cat Speak”, by Bash Dibra with Elizabeth Randolph, New American Library, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY, 2001, pp. 208-211, 80-82

“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

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