Many pets prefer the security and vantage point of their owner’s arms; however, carrying a dog or cat around can greatly limit an owner’s ability to accomplish their daily tasks. Fortunately, there’s a stylish—and functional—solution. Just as more and more parents carry their babies in wraps or backpack-style carriers, pet parents are replacing traditional pet carriers with pet slings and dog and cat backpacks.
Benefits to Carrying Your Pet
Did you know that there are more than just emotional benefits to being close to your furry friend? In fact, multiple studies have shown that a holding your dog or cat can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, strengthen your immune system and relieve pain.
There are benefits for your pets, too, as they feel more secure when they’re physically close to their person. This closeness boosts confidence and increases relaxation, which can be important for newly adopted dogs or cats, especially if they have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect.
If your pet is young or a senior, it can be hard for them to keep up on outings. Dogs or cats with arthritis or other physical limitations may find movement to be painful. Even if they can’t walk alongside you, being carried is much more simulating than being stuck at home alone.
New Pet Carrier Styles
Most people think of pet carriers as hard or soft boxes that are usually reserved for trips to the vet or long hauls on airplanes. But there’s a new trend in pet carriers—pet slings, dog backpacks and cat backpacks—that are more stylish and functional for everyday use.
Front packs or backpacks distribute the weight of the dog or cat evenly across the pet owner’s shoulders and are great for walks, hiking and errands. Cat backpacks can also be a less-stressful option than enclosed pet carriers.
The K9 Sport Sack Air Forward-Facing Dog Backpack allows your dog to sit comfortably on your back with his head out so that he can feel like a part of the adventure. The durable design has side ventilation panels as well, so it can be used for outdoor excursions like hiking and biking.
The Outward Hound PoochPouch Dog Carrier is a front pack that allows your pooch to face forward and see all the action! The small size holds up to 10 pounds, and the medium holds up to 20 pounds. It is made with a water-resistant nylon fabric that is durable and easy to clean, making it perfect for outdoor adventures. It also has convenient zipper pocket that allows you to store any essential pet items or your own keys, phone and wallet. With a safety harness attachment and a drawstring pouch, your pet won’t just be comfy in this carrier, he’ll be safe, too.
Besides pouches, slings are another stylish option for carrying your small furry friend. Pet slings are great for walks or light errands. You can cradle and cuddle your pet, wrapping them gently in comfy fabric with these functional pet carrier options.
Alfie Pet Chico 2.0 Revisible Pet Sling Pet Carrier allows you to keep your dog or cat close to your body, where you can pet, hug and talk to them. To make sure your pet is secure, this pet sling has a safety collar hook, so you can move around without worrying about your fur baby jumping out. This sling holds pets up to 12 pounds and is made of a soft cotton fabric.
FurryFido Adjustable Pet Sling with Pocket holds your pal safely and comfortably so you can have your hands free to go about your daily business. It can hold pets up to 13 pounds and has a zippered pocket for all your essentials, so you don’t have to carry a purse as well as your pup. Since it’s made of high-quality, soft cotton, it’s ultra-wearable and machine-washable.
If you already have a soft-sided pet carrier, you can convert it into a sling-style carrier with the Sherpa Travel Pet Carrier Accessory Comfort Strap. This strap will work with most soft-sided pet carriers and has an extra-wide design so that it distributes the weight of your pet evenly across your shoulder. This is a great option for pet parents who travel often and want to bring their four-legged companion along for the ride!
Making Your Pet Feel Comfortable in a Sling or Backpack
Pet slings and backpacks will typically accommodate smaller dogs and cats only. When placing your pets in a sling or backpack, always make sure to utilize the safety features, which usually include some sort of collar hook or drawstring top, to ensure your pet doesn’t leap out and injure herself.
Some pets will happily sit in a cat or dog sling without any training—but most will feel strange in the unfamiliar situation. The same is true for trying to put cats into a carrier—if you haven’t taken time to get them used to it first, it’s a recipe for disaster! It’s important to introduce the backpack or pet sling thoughtfully.
Michael Schaier, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of Michael’s Pack, a Long Island-based dog training company, recommends taking your dog on a walk, engaging him in a rowdy game of fetch or practicing training exercises before you attempt to carry him in a dog sling or dog backpack for the first time. “A well-exercised dog is a well-centered dog,” says Schaier.
Being a strong and confident leader is also an important part of making any new experience comfortable for your pets. Convey a sense of controlled calm through your body language, tone and word choice. Dogs are especially responsive to your eyes; make confident eye contact while speaking in a controlled, quiet tone. Schaier says it is best not to become frustrated or anxious while getting your pet used to the new type of carrier.
Don’t force your pet into the carrier—go slowly and gently. Wear the pet sling or backpack with her inside for a short duration in a comfortable setting before venturing out on long walks in new places. Reinforce that the dog or cat backpack or pet sling is a happy place by offering your pet treats while she is in it.
Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies including trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.