Did you know that a good cat carrier is an investment into happy cat transportation?
For most people, hard plastic or soft carriers work best and top loaders offer you and your veterinarian easier access to your cat.
No matter how anxious or calm your cat is the carrier should also be escape-proof, preferably with plastic snaps or locking zippers.
Since there’s an abundance of carriers to choose from it can be difficult to find the one that will encompass all these features.
So, how to select a carrier for your cat?
Look for carriers that prioritize your cat’s safety and comfort. Hard carriers are sturdier and more durable, while soft carriers work better for calm cats. A cat carrier should also be at least 1.5 times the size of your cat to be comfortable.
That’s the quick version but in this complete guide to cat carriers, we’ve gathered all the useful information, tips, and features. We’ll explore the material options, go through size selection, and what carriers are most suitable for long-distance travel or a quick vet visit.
Plus we’ll have several recommended options across just about every cat carrier category there is.
So, let’s see which carrier perfectly fits all your cat’s needs and yours for that matter! If you want to jump ahead to a section that you’re most interested in, you can use the table of contents below:
What Type of Carriers Are Out There?
When a cat feels stressed or scared, they usually hide in dark, preferably enclosed places that feel safe.
The perfect carrier can be that exact enclosed place that will offer your kitty a sense of security as it can easily be turned into a comfortable and cozy dark haven during your travels.
Let’s see what carriers fit this description.
Cardboard Cat Carriers
As you might expect, cardboard isn’t the most durable or sturdy material, and there’s a lot that could go wrong with it.
First of all, cats have sharp enough claws and teeth to chew their way through and out of a cardboard box, unless they’re a kitten in which case it will most likely withstand their assault. As it often happens when cats get scared, they can soil the cardboard and get it wet in which case the material can tear and easily break apart under your cat’s weight.
It’s also hard to secure cardboard carriers and they usually don’t offer enough space for cats to feel comfortable. Some shelters will give cardboard carriers to new parents during adoption, but they aren’t reusable and should only be used as temporary transport.
If there’s an emergency and you only have a cardboard carrier or box, then make sure there are breathing holes on the top and sides of the box. You can use a plastic garbage bag to line the bottom and then cover it with a thick blanket to protect the box from getting wet.
Fabric Cat Carriers
One option for a cat carrier is one that’s made of soft flexible material. They are usually less bulky, but because of the soft fabric, they’re not as sturdy as plastic carriers. Nonetheless, they offer a lightweight alternative and they’re easy to store in small spaces when they’re not being used.
Depending on the design these type of fabric carriers usually offers more than one opening, but if you have a nervous kitty the material can get damaged over time as they’ll use their teeth and claws to get out. Some cats might also find a way to escape if they push their way out where the zipper is located.
If your kitty gets carsick, or soils themselves, cleaning could also prove difficult with some soft carriers, unless they can be safely washed in the washing machine without loosening the zipper or overall fabric.
- This soft-sided pet carrier features front and top openings, held together by sturdy zipper closures.
- It comes in three different sizes, and the medium and large size should work perfectly for average-sized cats that weigh up to 16 lbs (10 kg).
This simple, but elegant black carrier offers great ventilation thanks to the multiple mesh panels. It’s perfect for most cats that enjoy the outside view, while still having some privacy to themselves.
And let’s not forget the machine-washable fleece that will keep your kitty cozy and the carrier clean!
Hard Plastic Cat Carriers
Carriers made of hard plastic are definitely loved by many cat parents, myself included. Depending on the design they’re most likely easy to use, they’re definitely durable, and are more likely to stay in place no matter how active your cat is.
If you pick the right sized hard carrier your kitty will have plenty of room to turn around and even stretch feeling safe in this sturdy enclosure. But when it comes to comfort most hard carriers don’t offer padding, so you’ll have to take care of that yourself, by using a soft towel or blanket.
The plastic is definitely easy to clean if soiled, and it doesn’t absorb the bad smells after you give it a good scrub. But they can be difficult to store away since they can be quite bulky.
- This 23-inch carrier can hold a pet from 12lbs (5.5kg) to 20 lbs (9kg).
- Screws are included to attach the top and bottom for extra security.
- The top door has a handle and latches that make it possible to open the carrier to the left or right.
This is definitely a standard heavy-duty carrier made of durable plastic with a steel-wire front for that your kitty won’t be able to claw his way out of. he will be able to see outside and have the best ventilation possible.
It’s definitely a spacy carrier that a large cat can feel comfortable in it, but you will have to buy a cushion or place your own towel to make it cozy.
Rolling Cat Carriers and Cat Strollers
While most cats love suitcases, backpacks, and our rolling luggage, hard carriers don’t really emit the same response, but if they look less than a carrier and more like luggage some might change their mind.
While this carrier category isn’t as common as the soft and hard carriers, some people do find them useful when they need to transport their cats. Since you don’t have to actually carry the rolling carrier they can offer more room for the cat, especially the cat strollers that tend to be quite spacy.
They can be perfect for curious cats that enjoy looking at their surroundings in the safety of their carrier. If you have a heavy cat that you couldn’t possibly carry or a condition that makes it an unrealistic task, then rolling or strolling your cat to the vet can be a great alternative.
While it’s spacy and great for people who can’t bear heavy loads, a rolling carrier needs to be handled with extra care. Rolling your feline companion is not the same as rolling your luggage, and if the road ahead is bumpy your kitty can get scared.
While rolling carriers can still be made of sturdy material, strollers don’t offer the same amount of protection. Both options are also more difficult to clean and since they constantly come in contact with the ground, you’ll find dirt on the outside as well.
- Suitable for small-sized cats, that weigh up to 15 lbs (6.8 kg)).
- Can convert into a backpack, wheeled carrier, car seat, and pet bed.
- The three-sided mesh ensures ventilation and visual-ability.
The Lollimeow rolling carrier is definitely one of the cutest designs out there. not only does it offer plenty of space for your kitty, easy transportation thanks to the wheels, but it also has plenty of pockets for your cat’s treats, toys, and passport.
It’s important to remember that not all cats enjoy busy airports or nosy people, that’s why this rolling carrier is designed with rollable window shades on front to keep warm and privacy when needed.
- This stroller is perfect for large cat breeds as it can handle a pet weight up to 50 lbs (22.6 kg).
- The soft and durable fabric inside the carrier repels water, dirt, and other liquids.
- It offers three convenient pockets and an extra-large under basket.
If you’ve ever wondered what a transformer would look if it had to transform into a carrier, now you know! This beast of a carrier is the Editors’ Choice Award Winner of 2020 Dogster & Catster Magazines!
I mean it is luxurious, and it will offer your kitty a comfortable ride thanks to the pump-free, foam-filled rubber wheels! most importantly, it can be transformed into a pet carrier, a car seat, and back to a stroller in less than 5 minutes.
Another new trend in cat transportation is the cat backpack. They are basically backpacks that you wear on your back obviously, and they usually have a window from where your kitty can observe the world around them.
While they can be fun for some cats, they can also be stressful for others. Not all cats want to have a clear view of the outside while they travel. These backpacks are also not roomy enough and your kitty can end up sitting in an uncomfortable position.
Some of these backpacks definitely aren’t suitable for long trips, and since you’re carrying them on your back it will be difficult to notice if your kitty isn’t feeling well, or if they’re trying to escape.
- Suitable for smaller cats up to 10 lbs (4.5 kg). The dimensions are 12.2*11.4*16.5 inches, so measure your cat before purchase.
- The bubble window offers a broader vision of the outside.
- The oxford cloth with nine holes and the air mesh bring better air circulation and anti-scratch effect.
This can work perfectly for cats that enjoy walking outside on a leash. You can let your cat stay in the backpack if there are dogs or too many people outside and take them out again once the coast is clear.
Curious cats will be able to enjoy your walks with you from the safety of the Henkelion Backpack and you can always wear it on the front to make sure your kitty is alright.
How Big Should A Cat Carrier Be?
No matter how short the distance, ASPCA states that a cat carrier should be a comfortable space for your kitty to be able to stand, sit, lie and turn around.
Usually, a cat carrier should be one and a half times larger than the size of your cat. Consider all dimensions including length, width and height.
A cat that’s crammed into a small carrier especially for a long trip will feel very uncomfortable, and if it’s made of hard plastic then you’ll also have a towel or blanket lining the bottom which will take up even more space.
You also don’t want to go too big, unless it’s a stroller since it will most likely be difficult to carry and keep balanced a carrier that’s too large. It’s already a stressful enough situation for your kitty and sliding from one side to the other won’t make it easier.
When adopting a kitten, you also need to consider that they’ll grow into a full-grown cat and their carrier needs will change. So, it’s best you go for an adult-sized carrier and line it with a thick blanket to help the kitten balance in the large space, instead of sliding from one side to the other.
You could of course go for a small carrier and then change it, but it’s always best to help your cat get used to one permanent carrier. Then again if your kitten has grown into a larger cat than you expected, then the best thing you can do is to purchase a larger carrier and donate your old one to a shelter if possible.
What Extra Features Do You Need To Consider Before Choosing A Cat Carrier?
While the style of your carrier is important as well as choosing the right size there are a few more things that can make a carrier a long-term investment that will make your cat travels easy and stress-free.
Your Cat’s Safety
Whether you pick a soft or hard carrier, on rollers or not, you need to make sure it’s escape-proof. Cats are smart creatures that know how to survive and escape anything that they perceive as dangerous.
Being locked in a carrier isn’t always the best feeling so many cats will try to get away. They have sharp claws to make that escape possible, but if the carrier is made of sturdy material, then there’s no way they’ll be able to break out.
Safety isn’t only about sturdiness, but how easy it is to transport the carrier with the cat inside without any accidents. That’s why I’d suggest you look for carriers that have seatbelt loops which means they can be belted into the backseat. Alternatively keeping the carrier on the floor of the backseat is the safest option.
The Closure System
Next, finding a carrier with a closing system that offers security and functionality is definitely an important feature.
Side snaps are easy and quick especially when it comes to carriers that have a top opening. The only drawback is that plastic snaps can break with time, and the snapping sound they produce can scare your cat.
Plastic pegs are also a quick and easy alternative to opening and closing the carrier’s entry points, but they can easily get lost, and depending on the model and company you might not be able to replace them.
You have to align the carrier perfectly to latch the plastic knobs together, but it’s still a fairly quick and easy process.
Sliding Plastic Locks
These are not as loud as side snaps. Easy and quick, but they can be hard to use at first for someone who’s not used to this system.
These can definitely keep your kitty secure inside a carrier. While easily replaces, they can be more time-consuming when trying to take them out and put them back in.
Definitely, the most straightforward closing method is the zipper and Velcro closures, but a cat can push their way through an opening like that. That’s why a carrier with a latched front gate will work best.
Single or Multiple Exits
Getting a cat in and out of a carrier can be a nightmare especially if there’s only one point of entry. If you have a cat that doesn’t like carriers and gets easily stressed, then having multiple ways to guide your kitty into the carrier will make it easier for you and your veterinarian.
Veterinarians suggest that top loaders are especially great because they offer access to your cat without getting them out of the carrier completely. This can make the whole experience for your kitty less stressful and they most likely won’t try to escape into some dark corner of the vet’s office.
Aside from a top opening having a front opening as well or a very large round opening overall will make it easy for you to take your kitty out and put them back inside without the additional stress.
My first carrier used to have just two side openings and it was so difficult trying to put my kitty inside. I would have to slide them inside and be fast as lightning when I had to close the door, but now that I have a top loader there’s enough space to place my cat down and then close it.
Visibility or Privacy
So, the type of carrier you’ll eventually get should take into account your cat’s preference when it comes to privacy. A cat that’s curious and feels comfortable to be carried around in a carrier can benefit from multiple entry points that offer visibility, a backpack carrier for example could be a great choice.
Both of my cats are pretty chill when it comes to carriers, but they still get somewhat nervous, especially if we’re traveling on public transport. If your kitty also enjoys their own privacy like my feline companion do then look for a carrier that offers some kind of visual shield.
This is also a good solution for cats that can get sick from the constant motion, or anxiety altogether. You can of course throw a light fabric over the carrier to reduce the visibility, but make sure it’s not keeping the air from traveling into the carrier.
As I’ve already mentioned some cats prefer to be in a dark carrier with minimal visibility, and if that’s the case for your cat you also need to make sure the carrier is well ventilated.
A carrier that has openings on more than one side should be enough, but three openings are even better. This helps your kitty from suffocating and overheating during the warmer months.
While ventilation is important for all cats, if you’re kitty has breathing issues like feline asthma, then the Catit Cabrio Cat Carrier, Turquoise, 41371 is the way to go. It has multiple holes all over the carrier which means it has a perfect ventilation system.
With 20 L x 13 W x 13.75 H inches (51 x 33 x 35 cm) dimensions it’s also comfortable and spacious, suitable for cats that weigh up to 13.74 (35 cm) inches tall and weighing up to 25 lbs (11.3kg).
The translucent window is great for cats that enjoy seeing what’s happening outside of their carrier. If you decide to cover the carrier instead don’t use heavy materials and check on your kitty to make sure they’re feeling well. Additionally, when you don’t need the carrier its design makes it easy to turn the Catit Cabrio into a full-time bed.
Easy To Clean
I know we want to keep our cats happy and make them feel comfortable in their own carrier, but we also need to think about our own ease. Carriers can get messy and we’re the ones who will clean up the mess, so an easy-to-clean carrier will really remove certain anxieties.
You also might find yourself cleaning the carrier more often than you’ve expected. According to veterinarians “If you have already tried to put your cat into a carrier and they’ve been scared or nervous while doing it, they will sometimes release stress hormones.”
It’s important to remove these stress hormones by cleaning the carrier after each vet visit so they don’t smell them each time you have to move them inside.
If you have a cat that can easily get stressed, you might find that they urinated or defecated the moment you arrive at the vet’s office. A carrier that’s easy to clean means that you can easily wipe the dirt away with pet-friendly wet wipes, so your kitty doesn’t have to travel back home in their own mess.
When using bedding make sure that it’s absorbent, this way you can simply remove it and put your kitty back inside and clean everything when you’re back home. Easy to clean carriers also mean that you don’t have to use strong cleaning detergents that can leave certain scents behind that your kitty might not like.
Hard plastic carriers can be cleaned with warm water, perhaps some non-toxic soap if it’s too dirty, and placed in the sun to dry. Some plastic carriers have small dents here and there so I’d suggest you look for smooth carriers with minimal nooks where dirt can accumulate.
Size, material, and comfortability should be a priority when it comes to carriers, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be fashionable and cute.
You can choose a carrier that represents your style or matches your cat’s collar. Soft carriers often look like handbags and provide several pockets for your cat’s necessities, like vet papers and such.
It’s easier to turn a good-looking carrier into a bed for your kitty to sleep in at your home. This way your cat will see it as part of their space instead of some boogeymen that only comes out of the closet whenever you have to take them to the vet.
How To Select The Right Cat Carrier For Your Cat?
Knowing what kind of cat carrier will work best for your cat’s needs is not an easy task, and the variety of carriers on the market can be overwhelming. But despite the difficulty, there are certain boxes you can tick that will ensure you’ve made the right choice.
So, let’s take a look at the three things that can make a carrier good for your cat.
Soft vs Hard Cat Carrier
The major dilemma you might face as you look through carriers is whether to pick a soft cat carrier or a hard plastic one.
Most veterinary centers prefer hard-sided carriers with a top opening that can be latched securely into place. Soft carriers may not be large enough for a cat to turn around in and ASPCA states that your kitty might be smart enough to get through the zipper enclosure.
It’s important to note that plastic carriers are perfectly suitable for especially anxious cats. They are built to withstand any clawing and thrashing, especially the ones with steel doors. Let’s also not forget that hard carriers are easy to clean, and they don’t absorb smells as much as soft carriers do.
On the other hand, carriers made of nylon or other soft materials can work better for calm cats, of smaller stature. My mum’s cat is a Siamese bobtail and he’s tiny in comparison to my cats, along with his zen personality, he always feels comfortable in his soft carrier.
If you go for a hard plastic carrier, make sure the handle is strong enough to support your cat’s weight. And if you go for a soft carrier then look for the one that has a sturdy base that won’t alter its shape under your cat’s weight.
Choose The Right Size
Picking the size that will make your kitty as comfortable as possible can be a bit of a struggle. For cat parents that have adopted a kitten, this choice might seem even more confusing. Do you buy a small carrier and then change it when they grow up?
The best thing you can do is get a carrier that will accommodate your kitten when they’re all grown up. Kittens grow the fastest, in fact, you can expect them to grow an ounce about every three days. So, there’s no point in getting a carrier that they will soon outgrow.
As we’ve mentioned earlier the carrier needs to be large enough for your cat to lay down in a comfortable position, they must be able to stand up and adjust their position when they need to.
VCA hospitals suggest that it’s best to “get the right size cat carrier. If your cat dreads going into the small confines of a carrier, consider getting an oversized, top-loading cat carrier so your cat doesn’t need to squeeze through a narrow door.”
Consider Your Cat’s Individual Needs
Before making the final decision make sure that your choice is also influenced by your cat’s personality. Some cats are really chill about vet visits, they even go into their carrier on command, but I think most cat parents will agree that this is not the typical carrier-cat interaction.
For example, if you live in a southern country, ventilation and the number of openings your carrier has are even more important. Multiple openings and holes in the plastic will prevent your cat from overheating.
There are cat carriers with a top opening that will help you lower your cat into the carrier from above, while front-loading carriers in which the entire top is removed make it easier to train your cat to like the cat carrier and use it as a bed.
Your cat might have a medical condition or an injury that requires them to lay down, so a large and soft carrier will be more comfortable. Hard carriers on the other hand will protect your cat since soft carriers don’t hold their shape when you have to move through a tight space.
Knowing what carriers are out in the market, your cat’s personal needs, and our suggestions should help you make an informed decision about the kind of carrier your kitty truly deserves to have.
What Cat Carriers Are Suitable For Travelling?
While our house cats spend most of their time taking naps around the house there are times when you’ll need to take them out of the safety of their home. Vet appointments are the most common and frequent trip they’ll make, but you might also be moving house or traveling somewhere together.
The best way to ensure your cat’s safety during such transportations is a priority, so you need to get the right kind of carrier!
Trip To The Vet
For most cats, the only trips they’ll be taking are to the veterinarian’s office. That in itself can be a stressful experience for plenty of cats, and a bad carrier can turn it into a traumatic one.
That’s why laundry baskets, cardboard boxes and the like shouldn’t be on your travel checklist, no matter how close the vet is. Pick a vet-friendly carrier, preferably a top loader for easier access.
If your cat enjoys soft cozy places a soft carrier could work for short trips to the vet. But make sure the zipper is secure and that the fabric can withstand anxious scratching.
Don’t forget to take your comfort into account as well. Carrying a carrier filled with an anxious moving cat can be difficult and the last thing you want to do is drop the whole thing. Check the handle and make sure it feels as comfortable as possible.
Aside from the carriers we’ve already recommended, the Morpilor Pet Carrer bag is definitely ticking all the boxes when it comes to vet visits!
- The medium-sized carrier is 17.3*12.2*13.4 inches and can hold a pet weight up to 15 lbs (6.8 kg). While the large is 18*12.5*14 inches recommended for pets up to 20lbs (9kg).
- It has a lamb velvet cushion for extra comfort.
- It's Airline approved.
At an affordable price, the Morpilot carrier offers cozy transportation to your kitty. The durable polyester works to maintain the carrier’s upright shape.
It comes with top holders and also adjustable straps making it an easy carrier to carry. It’s very practical since it has a pocket where you can store treats or your cat’s documentation. Plus your cat gets a foldable bowl as a gift!
Before leaving the house make sure to check any openings, zippers, and latches. Seeing your cat make his grand escape inside your car can be dangerous and if it’s on the street it can be in turn dangerous for them.
A long-distance trip is very different from a short trip to the vet and there are a lot of things you need to consider so you can make it a comfortable experience for your kitty, and the most important is the carrier.
If you’re traveling by car, then you need to ensure that the carrier can be fastened to the seat belt so they experience as little movement as possible.
When taking your kitty on a long trip, because you’re moving or you’re visiting your family for the holidays, choose a carrier that you can fit their water and food bowls, possibly a small litter box.
- Perfect for car trips with medium to large cats. It measures approximately 24x16.5x16 inches and holds cats up to 55 pounds.
- It has three locking zippers to prevent your cat from opening and a clip inside for additional security.
- It has a steel support structure that is foldable.
While it’s a soft carrier it difficulty is sturdy and cozy enough for a long trip. It’s a top loader as well so you won’t have any issues putting your kitty inside it.
This Petseek carrier doesn’t have a cover to limit visual stimulation, so it’s going to be more suitable for confident kitties.
If you’re traveling by airplane, train or some other means of transportation make sure to read the rules each company has in regard to pets. Can you keep the carrier with your kitty in the cabin with you? What are their pet health requirements and if you can take your cat outside of the carrier?
Some cats that are trained on a leash can take a few minutes outside of their carrier in safe places, but it’s still best they stay in their carrier so this space needs to be comfortable.
- Easy to clean since the cozy mad is detachable and machine-washed.
- The carrier has steel strands added into the frame to increase stability and avoid sagging
- Offers detachable and adjustable shoulder straps and by using the loops you can secure the carrier in the car with a seatbelt.
This carrier might be on the pricy side but it definitely is a frontrunner! It’s perfect for long-distance trips since it’s quite large, but most importantly it has 4 breathable soft-sided extensions that allow your kitty to stretch as much as possible.
One of the reviewers swears by this carrier since her Maine Coon that is 18lbs fits comfortably even while the carrier isn’t expanded. So, if you’re going on a long journey, and your kitty is on a larger scale this is perfect for you!
Humane Society state that pet parents should avoid living the carrier on tarmac or outside during extreme weather conditions since fabric and plastic can easily heat up or become cold. Ventilated carriers are a must no matter how short or long the trip.
Should I Keep Cats In Separate Carriers?
If you have more than one cat moving will definitely seem scary. I’m lucky enough to have very calm cats for the most part, and we’ve traveled quite a bit over the years and moved into different homes as well, and I’ve always used two separate carriers.
To make the process of traveling with more than one kitty easier it’s important to keep them in separate carriers that suit their individual needs, whether it’s size or visibility. No matter how bonded your feline companions are carriers and traveling is going to stress them out and it can definitely bring out the worst in them.
Just like you shouldn’t have two cats sharing one litter box, cramming them into the same carrier will definitely be uncomfortable, and they might end up fighting. Even if they don’t do it on the way to the vet, they might do it on the way back home and this means that they might injure each other physically and it could hurt their friendship.
The more pleasant the carriers and the overall trip are for both of your cats the more positive they’ll be the next time you’ll have to make the trip.
How To make the Cat Carrier Comfortable?
Most cats will run away and hide underneath the bed at the sight of a carrier, so not only do you have to get a carrier that is perfect for your kitty, but also turn it into something your kitty can at least tolerate if not enjoy.
Here are a few ways you can do it:
- Once you bring the carrier into your home don’t hide it. Preferably, leave it in the room your kitty spends most of his time.
- Use your cat’s favorite towel to line the bottom so they’ll smell a familiar scent.
- Soft bedding will also turn the carrier into a cozy place to rest and prevent them from sliding when you move them.
- You could also add a bit of catnip or spray the bedding with a Feliway pheromone half an hour before you place them inside to help them feel calm and relaxed.
- Use positive reinforcement, by giving them treats each time they lay or come close to the carrier.
- Leave their stuffed toys inside so they can associate the carrier with something pleasant.
The ultimate cat lord Jackson Galaxy has a great video guide that can help your kitty create a positive association with their carrier.
So, you can take a moment to check what he has to say!
Another thing to keep in mind is the weather conditions in your country. While fuzzy towels can make a carrier a cozy safe space, they won’t work during hot weather. So go for lighter materials or bedding that won’t cause overheating. While during the wintertime you can actually transform it into a warm spot.
When taking your cat to the vet, you can use their favorite towel to gently wrap them and place them inside the carrier. This way your kitty won’t feel as intimidated, and you might even notice that they’re purring, surrounded by familiar scents inside a comfortable carrier.
Finally, before the big trip, you could take your kitty for short drives around the block so they can get used to your car. You can even start by putting your kitty in the carrier and carrying them around the house before taking them into the car, this way you might be able to control their travel anxiety.
As loving cat parents, we want to do what’s best for our cats and meet all their needs, especially when it comes to traveling.
It’s clear that even the most trained kitty shouldn’t travel outside of a carrier, and the carrier should meet their needs as much as possible. Like being clean, cozy, and comfortable for them to move around it.
You might go for the soft carrier or the hard plastic, with a zipper or side snaps, but if you truly want to make it veterinarian friendly go for the top loader!
Now tell us what kind of carrier you’re looking for and what does your kitty think of them?