Best Cat Carriers – Top 5 Crates, Bags & Packs For Traveling With Your Cat
Cat carriers are a travel essential.
For quick drives to see the veterinarian, road trips across the country, and journeys by plane, carriers make traveling easier and safer for both you and your cat. The power of the carrier is manifold: carriers allow you to carry your cat easily from place to place, enable them to board a plane, and give your cat a safe, private place where they can relax during the journey.
Cat carriers come in several different varieties, each offering a different combination of qualities that set it apart from the rest. Depending on your needs, you may prefer a collapsible soft carrier, a hard plastic carrier, or a multipurpose carrier that you can both roll and carry.
Let’s outline the different types of carriers, establish what makes each of these types a valuable choice for your cat, identify what qualities are absolutely critical in a carrier, and then review our picks for the top 5 best cat carriers.
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What is the Best Cat Carrier?
Types of Carriers
Hard plastic carriers
These utilitarian carriers are usually highly-durable, sturdily constructed, and easy to clean, making them extremely convenient and easy to handle. Additionally, this type of carrier offers your cat superior security by being almost impossible for them to escape from.
Along with the convenience and strength of hard plastic carriers comes certain drawbacks. The most significant flaw of hard plastic carriers is a safety concern: these carriers haven’t done well in Center for Pet Safety crash tests. In these tests, the plastic tends to fracture and the dummy pet is ejected from the carrier. Additionally, these carriers aren’t collapsible for storage and don’t sling over your shoulder for effortless carrying. Styles and design options are limited.
Key features to consider:
- Look for carriers with multiple points of entry and an easy-to remove top. These make it easy to get your cat in and out of the carrier.
- Metal, rather than plastic, doors tend to be stronger and have greater longevity.
- For maximum security, some carriers are assembled using screws, while others have more convenient latches using plastic snaps, sliding locks, or pegs.
Soft sided carriers score points with their storability, superior comfort for certain cats, and the variety of designs and color options available. These low-profile carriers often feature long straps so that you can easily sling them over your shoulder like a duffel bag. Soft carriers have done better in CPS crash testing than hard plastic carriers have, making them a better choice for cats spending time in the backseat.
Soft carriers, however, are more difficult to clean than hard carriers. Removable, washable pads are a must in these carriers, but even the best design is impossible to just spray out and forget about. This is a major consideration for cats who often get carsick.
Besides the cleaning issue, soft carriers are easier for your cat to escape from. Crafty cats can unzip or unfasten the doors on their own and some may claw through the mesh, making it doubly important that you select a sturdy, well-made carrier.
Key features to consider:
- Washability is critical. Look for carriers with removable pads and easy-to-clean body construction.
- Soft carriers are flexible but firm. They shouldn’t be flimsy. Especially if you’re concerned that your cat may claw its way out of the carrier, it’s important to ensure that you get a soft-sided carrier that’s made from sturdy, durable materials.
- Outer pockets allow you to stow treats and other gear effortlessly.
Rollables and Backpacks
Roller carriers make transporting your cat as simple as pulling a roller suitcase. The ability to use your carrier as a backpack makes it easy to transition from activity to activity – enabling you to take your cat through airports, up stairs, and even on outdoor trails. Some carriers incorporate both of these elements to make travel with your cat almost effortless.
With the addition of additional functionality, these carriers typically have the same merits and features as soft carriers. Roller carriers may frighten some cats who are sensitive to the rumbling noise of the wheels turning on the ground.
What makes a cat carrier great?
A great carrier is one that’s easy to use, comfortable for your cat to hang out in, and from which your cat is unlikely to escape. If you plan to travel with your cat by plane, it’s important to choose a carrier that is airline approved. If traveling via car, you may want to look into a carrier that is easily strapped in with a seatbelt and has been crash tested and approved.
Regardless of how you plan to use it or what style you choose, a great carrier shows certain markers of superiority. In choosing the top 5 best cat carriers available today, I’ve selected only carriers with these critical qualities:
- Easy to clean – whether made from cloth or plastic, a carrier must be easy to clean. When cats get sick or have accidents in the carrier, an already stressful situation can turn nightmarish. Easy cleaning helps to make these situations more manageable.
- Designed to ensure that your cat won’t escape from the carrier mid-trip. Especially when traveling in a car, it’s important to be certain that your cat remains in place and doesn’t slip under the pedals, onto the steering wheel, or into any dangerous or distracting location.
- Easy to get your cat into and out of. Especially for cats who associate the carrier with stressful experiences, it can be challenging to get them into the carrier. Likewise, once you’ve reached your final destination, your cat may not want to leave that safe space. Multiple doors and removable tops make this process a little bit easier.
- Sized for cats – the perfect carrier will allow your cat to stand up and turn around comfortably. The products on our list of the top 5 best carriers are all cat-tested and approved and come in sizes to suit most feline physiques.
Top 5 Best Cat Carriers
Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed & Carrier Review
Meets the same safety standards set for child safety restraints
The Sleepypod is an elegantly designed 3-in-1 product that functions as a carrier, bed, and car seat. As a car seat, the Sleepypod has passed crash testing and meets the same standards set for child car safety restraints. The Sleepypod minimizes travel stress by doubling as a bed, allowing cats who would otherwise balk at the idea of going into the carrier to travel in the same bed they’d nap in at home. As a carrier, the Sleepypod features a water-repellant padding cover, machine-washable bedding, and a ballistic nylon exterior. With its padded, adjustable shoulder strap, the Sleepypod makes it easy to transport your cat. – Buy It
- One of the few truly protective car seats for your cat
- Made from ballistic nylon for maximum claw-proof durability
- Adjustable top zipper allows you to access your cat from above
- Stylish and elegant design
- Round shape surrounds your cat from all sides, making it a comforting space
- Fits any cat weighing 15 pounds or less
- Round shape may make it awkward to carry
- Not certified for use on commercial airplanes
- Too small for extra-large cats
Watch this carrier in action:
Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel Review
A sturdy, reliable hard plastic carrier with dual access
This design from Petmate is a simple, sturdy product that you can rely on. With top and front loading options, it’s easy to get your cat in and out of the carrier. The top of the carrier is screwed on for maximum strength and security. – Buy It
- Securely-latching steel top and front doors make loading and unloading your cat simple
- Comes in two sizes to accommodate cats up to 20lbs
- Easy to clean plastic carrier
- Roomy design
- Approved for airline transport
- This carrier has not been crash tested and may not be the safest choice for car rides
- A bulky carrier
Video review of this carrier:
PetLuv Soothing “Happy Cat” Premium Soft Sided Cat Carrier & Travel Crate Review
This roomy crate aims to eliminate travel anxiety by creating a comfortable, airy environment that cats love
If your cat hates being cramped in a carrier, this crate/carrier offers a roomy, cozy space that reduces stress. Roll down the privacy flaps for a dark, cozy environment and maximum security or let your cat look out at the world through the mesh windows. With all of the windows pulled up, the carrier can also function as an unenclosed bed. – Buy It
- With a 45lb weight capacity, it’s great for large cats and multiple cat homes.
- Both sturdy and easy to store – made with a fully collapsible steel frame
- Front, top, and two side access windows make it easy for your cat to enter and exit the carrier
- The heavy-duty nylon canvas and plush pillow are both machine washable
- All zippers feature locks to prevent escape
- Comes with stakes so that it can also be used as an outdoor enclosure – perfect for RV kitty
- With its large size and lack of a shoulder strap, this carrier/crate isn’t ideal for toting your cat around
- Not crash tested – may not be the safest choice for car travel
- Not approved for use on commercial airplanes
Sherpa Delta Pet Carrier Review
Designed specifically for airline travel
This soft-sided carrier was made with jet-setting pets in mind. It’s approved for use on most major airlines and features a patented spring wire frame that collapses slightly to allow the carrier to conform to under-seat requirements. Fully collapsible with top and side entry, a machine-washable liner, an outer storage pocket, and an included Delta luggage tag, this carrier is exceptionally convenient and easy-to-use. – Buy it
- Conforms to most in-cabin flight requirements, so you can fly with your cat close at hand
- Features mesh window with privacy flaps
- Locked zippers add security
- Padded straps make this carrier comfortable and easy to carry
- Includes a machine-washable faux lambskin liner
- Not crash tested – may not be the safest choice for car travel
Gen7Pets Geometric Roller Carrier with Smart-Level Pet Carrier Review
This carrier features wheels for effortless rolling and transforms into a backpack so you can easily take your cat anywhere
If you’re looking for a carrier that you can easily take from the car to the plane to the trail, this multifunctional carrier has what it takes. Unlike some other roller carriers, this carrier features a smart-level platform to ensure a comfortable ride. It transforms into a backpack so that you can carry your cat up stairs and through the world. With top and front access, it’s easy to get your cat in and out. – Buy It
- Smart-level platform ensures that your cat won’t tip over when being pulled along
- Side storage pockets allow you to stow essentials right on the carrier
- Top and front doors allow for easy access
- Includes a seatbelt strap and inner safety tethers for security
- Approved for use on most airlines
- Comes in two sizes for cats up to 20lbs
- Not machine washable – must be wiped with a damp cloth and light detergent
- Cats may not like the sound of the wheels rolling over the ground
- Not crash tested – may not be the safest choice for car rides
Watch this roller carrier in action:
Tips For Using Your New Carrier
Once you’ve chosen the carrier that suits the needs of your cat and his or her travel companions, it’s time to train your cat to use the carrier. To make travel as low-stress as possible, it’s important to help your cat to understand that the carrier can be a safe, private space where they can relax.
Here are tips for helping to make the carrier a comforting place that your cat loves:
- Introduce it as a bed. Let your cat grow accustomed to the presence of the new carrier as a cozy bed. If your cat is willing to sleep in the carrier at home, they’ll be more likely to relax in it while on the road or onboard a plane.
- Add familiar bedding. Even if your new carrier comes with soft bedding, your cat might not find it comforting just yet – it still smells like something strange and new. Especially if your cat is nervous around carriers, familiar bedding can help them to relax. Old clothes, towels, and blankets are covered in familiar smells and can help put your cat at ease.
- Use a pheromone spray. Pheromone sprays are synthetic replicas of feline facial pheromones, which cats use to mark their territory and communicate with other cats. These sprays are proven to help relieve stress, so spritzing some on your cat’s bedding prior to a trip can help them to feel more comfortable in the carrier.