How to Choose the Best Cat Carrier for Your Favorite Feline

By: Linda RodgersUpdated:

best cat carriers
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How to Choose the Best Cat Carrier for Your Favorite Feline

On the go with your cat in tow? Whether traveling by car or plane, you’re going to need a cat carrier. The best cat carriers will keep your pet safe and make it easy to load and unload your precious cargo.

Even cats who only leave the house to go to the vet still need a secure way to get there. “If you had a fender bender on the way to the vet, a cat could easily be injured in the car without a safe travel carrier,” explains Dr. Sandra Mitchell, DVM, DABVP (feline), owner of All Creatures Veterinary Services in Bangor, Maine. Another reason to own one: Say there’s a fire in your home—you’d want a carrier that’s ready to go so you could load your cat quickly, Dr. Mitchell notes.

Your travel cat carrier needs are going to be slightly different, depending on whether you’re taking your pet across the country or strolling to the park to get some fresh air. We break down the different types and what to consider before you buy so you can be sure to pick the best cat carrier for your fave feline.

What to Consider Before Buying a Cat Carrier

Choosing the best cat carrier for your needs depends on a lot of factors. Here are the things to keep in mind before you shop.

  • How big is it? If you’re just taking short trips (say, to the vet or to visit friends), the cat carrier only needs to be large enough for your kitty to get up, turn around, and lie back down, says Dr. Mitchell. Traveling longer distances or cross-country? Then you’ll need a roomier cat carrier so your cat has more space to move about and stretch and to accommodate attach a water and feeding bowl.
  • How long does it take to get your cat inside? This is probably the most important factor to consider, says Dr. Mitchell, especially in times of emergency. You should be able to load your cat in quickly and efficiently. For this reason, she recommends a top-loading cat carrier: “It is much easier to drop a cat in from above than it is to stuff them in the front door.” A top loading carrier or one that can be taken apart and reassembled will make vet visits go more smoothly, too. “We can get to the cat safely without having to ‘pour’ them onto the table,” she says.
  • Does it keep your cat dry? Some cat carriers are lined with washable, absorbent removable pads for your cat’s comfort. But it helps if those liners can also soak up water or other fluids quickly and thoroughly. If cats have accidents while they’re in the carrier, they’ll be more comfortable if their paws and bodies stay dry. If the cat carrier bag you pick doesn’t do the job, try this trick from Dr. Mitchell: Line the bottom with puppy training pads.
  • How many air openings does it have? Most carriers are already designed with oxygen flow in mind, Dr. Mitchell notes. There is one caveat, though: “Too many openings can be intimidating to cats, which usually prefer to hide than to view the world,” she says. If possible, get a travel cat carrier with relatively solid sides so your kitty feels sheltered.
  • Can you wipe it down quickly? Carriers are nearly cat-proof, which means you don’t have to worry about your cat shredding or otherwise destroying your chosen cat carrier. But they often take a beating, especially with bodily fluids, says Dr. Mitchell. So how easy it is to clean is an important consideration.
  • Can you carry it easily? If it’s heavy now, then it’ll be that much harder to lug once your cat is inside. “You want to be able to get out of a burning building quickly and safely with your cat in the carrier, so portability is important,” Dr. Mitchell notes.

Types of Cat Carriers

With those basics in mind, you’re ready to shop for the type of cat carrier that suits your needs as well as those of your furry family member.

best cat carrier - soft cat carrier bag

Cat Carrier Bag

The beauty of a soft-sided cat carrier bag is that you can squish it when you need to stow it into a small space, like under the seat of a plane or train, or when storing it at home, says Dr. Mitchell. Another plus to soft cat carriers: The mesh openings let your cat feel “hidden.” Frisco Premium Travel Cat Carrier Bag has other perks: A zippered opening at the top and a washable sherpa lining to keep cats comfy.
Best for: Most cats, but especially shyer ones who like to keep out of sight.
Frisco Basic Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
EliteField Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
FREE 1-3 day shipping

Temporarily out of stock

best cat carrier - best cat crate or kennel

Hard-Sided Cat Kennel

Cat crates are the traditional standard for taking your cat places. While plastic cat carriers take up more space in your home (you can’t fold them like soft cat carriers), many cats like to use them as beds—and they’re much easier to keep clean. The Frisco Plastic Cat Kennel, for example, has a moat on the floor so liquids run off, and it’s easy to take apart (and put back together) to get your kitty out at the vet’s.  
Best for: Good-natured cats who are easy to load and unload.
MidWest Spree Plastic Dog & Cat Kennel
Petmate Sky Dog & Cat Kennel
Petmate Sky Dog & Cat Kennel, Giant
FREE 1-3 day shipping

Temporarily out of stock

best cat carrier - cat backpack

Cat Carrier Backpack

The biggest advantage of a cat carrier backpack is that it’s easy for you to tote your pet around, although you may not be able to see your cat while they’re on your back. Plus, they have a top-loading opening that makes it a cinch to get your kitty inside. This model from Gen7Pets is outfitted with wheels and converts into a rolling carrier for even easier travel.
Best for: Most cats, especially easy-going ones who won’t mind a bumpier ride.
Kurgo K9 Dog & Cat Carrier Backpack
FREE 1-3 day shipping

Temporarily out of stock

MidWest Day Tripper Dog & Cat Backpack
FREE 1-3 day shipping
KOPEKS Deluxe Backpack Dog & Cat Carrier
FREE 1-3 day shipping
best cat carrier - top loading carrier

Top-Loading Cat Carrier

Hard-sided, top-loading cat carriers, this one from Frisco, are an all-around ideal choice, says Dr. Mitchell. They have an opening up top that makes it snap to get your cat in and out, and they’re easy to take apart and clean. Depending on how many air vents they have,  
Best for: Most cats, especially those who are more difficult to load and unload.
Frisco Two Door Top Load Plastic Dog & Cat Kennel
Van Ness Calm Carrier E-Z Load Sliding Drawer Cat Kennel
KOPEKS Detachable Wheel Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
FREE 1-3 day shipping
best cat carrier - stroller

Cat Stroller

Cat strollers take up space in waiting rooms, so you probably won’t be using one for vet visits or trips on airplanes. But anytime you want to take your furry friend for a walk or to the park, a cat stroller is the way to go. The Petique Cat Stroller, for example, can provide a smooth ride over just about any type of terrain, has plenty of storage (and cup holders!) for you, and mesh openings to provide air and a way for your kitty to see the sights.
Best for: Curious cats who like going outside.
Petique All Terrain Dog & Cat Jogging Stroller
FREE 1-3 day shipping

Temporarily out of stock

Petique Dog & Cat Stroller
FREE 1-3 day shipping
Paws & Pals Folding Dog & Cat Stroller
FREE 1-3 day shipping

Temporarily out of stock

No matter what type of carrier you choose, be sure to take the time to get your cat used to it. Unlike litter boxes, which cats have very strong feelings about, most kitties do like their carriers, says Dr. Mitchell—“but if they only see them once a year to go to the vet, they tend to associate them with a negative.” Get your cat used to it from the get-go by putting comfortable beds in the carriers and leaving them out so your pet can take catnaps in it, which is what Dr. Mitchell does. (Get more tips for getting your cat used to their carrier here.) “My cats still don't like it when I close the [carrier] door to go somewhere,” she says, “but it isn’t a scary place anymore.”


By: Linda RodgersUpdated: