Article at a Glance…
- The best cat carriers I’ve found are Pet Gear (suitable car travel), Pet Magasin (good for nervous cats and air travel; has over the shoulder strap) and Tutto (on wheels).
- A cat transport bag or crate is necessary to bring your pet to the vet or pet sitter, when moving house, for family visits and general travel.
- Make sure to measure your pet and choose a model with enough space for comfort.
If you own a cat, one of the many things you definitely should have is a cat carrier. If you haven’t needed one yet, you will, trust me. You’ll quickly realize you have a problem if you suddenly need to transport your kitty and haven’t prepared a container in advance.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money. There are a wide range of options to suit every budget. We own two types. One for short trips like vet appointments in addition to a heavy-duty crate for longer journeys. Hopefully this post will help you find the right solution for you and your kitty.
Before you buy
Don’t go ahead and buy the first cat carrier you see, or whatever is on clearance at the pet store. To make sure your kitty is safe and secure, there are a few things you must consider.
How big is your cat?
It may seem obvious, but carriers aren’t one-size-fits-all. One that’s too small will stress your pet out and he may even start tearing at it to try and escape.
There should be enough room for your cat to shift around and find a comfortable position. Measure your cat’s length and height and compare them with the dimensions listed by the manufacturer. If your kitty is not fully grown yet, an average adult cat is about 23–25 cm (9–10 in) in height and 46 cm (18 in) in length. Tails average 30 cm (12 in) in length (source).
And how heavy?
Like most things in life, cat carriers have a weight limit. Soft fabric designs in particular can tear if your pet is too big (or if you put more than one cat in).
Where are you bringing your cat?
Where you plan on bringing your pet has a big influence on the type of transport container you’ll need. If it’s for short vet visits, a smaller, soft-sided design with an over-the-shoulder strap will do the job. For longer trips by car, your kitty will need more space to stretch his legs. If you like to bring your feling compantion on adventures such as hikes, a backpack for cats will make things easier. For longer travel by air or train, you will need a hard crate to protect your cat and to meet airline requirements.
Restrictions and requirements for air travel
If you’re looking for a carrier for air travel, it’s a seriously complicated process. I know because we’ve transported our two furbabies by air twice now through four continents (that’s a story for another day). Each airline has its own requirements for the structure, features and dimensions of an acceptable container for pets. Even if a product advertises itself as approved for airline travel, I always do my own research rather than trusting it at face value.
Requirements vary in the US vs other countries so it’s hard to find a globally approved model. The last thing you want is for your kitty to be turned away at the gate because your container is an inch to big or doesn’t have a feeding tray. Not only will you have wasted money but your travel plans will be disrupted too.
Hard-sided vs. soft-sided carriers for cats
As I’ve already mentioned, hard and soft carriers both have their benefits. Hard designs protect your cat from bumps and knocks. They usually provide more space for him to stretch his legs. They often include water dispensers and food trays for longer trips. Airlines require a hard crate if your pet is traveling as cargo. On the downside, they’re usually quite heavy and hard to carry. If you have two cats with a crate each, you won’t be able to lift them both together so plan in advance.
Soft carriers take up less space, are easy to wash and are usually cheaper than hard ones. Depending on quality, they can break more easily. They don’t usually offer any protection from the outside world. Soft models are best when you are going to be next to your pet for the duration of the trip.
Other points to consider
- The model you settle on must be secure. If it seals with a zip, could your cat wiggle it open? You know your pet’s abilities best. If it has a mesh for ventilation, make sure it’s extremely strong as your cat will try to tear it. If you’re looking at a hard crate for your pet, make sure the door locks, the material is tough and hinges sturdy.
- There should be adequate ventilation so that your pet has enough fresh air.
- Is it easy to clean? If you’re taking longer trips, your cat will have to go to the toilet in the container. You can provide a layer of newspaper or disposable cloth but you should be able to wash the carrier thoroughly. This will keep it smelling fresh. Soft models should be washing machine safe and hard ones should be smooth without crevices for easy wipe down.
- If your cat is really heavy or you have trouble lifting, a pet carrier on wheels could do the job for short trips.
- If you have two cats, you can put them both in one container if it’s big enough. Only do this if they are on friendly terms. That said, airlines require one crate per animal.
- If possible, get a carrier with multiple entrances. Top loading is most common but sometimes it’s easier to get your cat to walk into a front opening.
Carriers for car travel
For car travel, I recommend this carrier from Pet Gear. It’s roomy enough for even a large cat, without taking up huge amounts of space in your car. It’s soft-sided and locks in place with a seat belt to make sure your pet stays safe and secure. This feature in particular means it’s good for long car travel.
I really love the attached leash. You can clip your cat’s collar to this to be absolutely certain he won’t escape. Even if he manages to open the zipper. My pets are indoor-only, so one of them getting loose is a huge fear. This feature really gives peace of mind and you can tell it was designed by a cat owner (or at least someone who did very good market research).
Carriers on wheels
If you’re looking for an easy-to-transport wheeled option, Tutto’s creation is a good choice. Cat carriers on wheels are not as popular as the lift-able kind as they can be a bit more cumbersome. But if lifting a heavy kitty isn’t possible, it’s certainly a great alternative. Tutto’s medium Pet on Wheels carrier has a strong, fiberglass frame to protect your pet from bumps and knocks. It has ample ventilation. A fun feature is the privacy screen in case you don’t want people to think you’re weird for walking around with a suitcase full of CATS. I don’t think you’re weird, don’t worry.
Best cat carrier for airline travel
As I’ve said already, I’m reluctant to say that one container will work for all airline travel. It depends on the airline and whether your pet is going to be in the cabin or in cargo.
That said, for cabin travel, this stylish option from Pet Magasin seems like a safe bet. It fits under under the airplane seat as required. It even has velcro on the bottom to stop it sliding to visit the person in front of you. It’s made of waterproof material so the cleaning staff won’t be cursing you afterwards when your little angel leaks urine onto the carpet.
Please note that the above is only suitable for cabin travel, not cargo. For cargo, you will need something like this crate. Please check the exact requirements with your airline before purchasing. The size of the crate will depend on the size of the cat and a bunch of other things.
Carriers for nervous cats
Our kitty Saus is pretty nervous. Not just when traveling – she generally hates anything new. If there’s a carrier that can make transporting her a little less stressful, I’m all over it. Protip: spraying some calming Feliway helps keep her relaxed too.
This soft sided model from Pet Magasin is my choice for nervous cats. It has a soft, padded base, unlike cheaper models which are rigid and slippery. This means your pet is secure on his cfeet, even on a bumpy ride, which reduces stress levels. It’s made of waterproof material so any “accidents” won’t leak through to your car seat leaving it stinky. It also protects your cat from rain during the dash through the car park.
It’s light, compact and comes with a shoulder strap. There’s enough space for her to be comfortable during short trips but it still feels secure and cosy. The only downside is that there’s no way to attach this to your seat belt. This means it’s going to be very difficult to secure for long car travel. I’d go with the Pet Gear product for car trips. It is, however, advertised for airline cabin use.
I’m always on the lookout for things that will make my pets’ lives easier. Of course, the best option is not to travel with your cat at all. It’s stressful for most felines (though my boy doesn’t seem to care and just looks out the window). We only move our pets when it’s absolutely necessary. That’s still a lot with vet visits and moving house. Doing your research and choosing the right carrier will ensure a happy and safe trip with your cat.