For those of us who own cats (or perhaps, more accurately, are owned by them), making sure our feline companions are safe and comfortable is incredibly important. This is especially true when we have to take them with us as we travel. Part of ensuring safety and comfort for our pets is having the best cat carriers for car travel or airline trips.
However, finding the best carriers for cats can be difficult—largely because there are so many to choose from. Some of the most important features of a cat carrier include:
- Durability. How well can the cat carrier protect your pet from impacts?
- Comfort. How comfortable is the carrier for your cat?
- Security. How hard is the cat carrier to break into or escape from?
Also, if you’re flying with your pet, it’s important to check the airline’s approved pet carrier list or guidelines to see what requirements they have for carriers for plane travel. Remember: the best cat carriers for car travel will not be the same as the best carriers for plane travel.
Additionally, you should consider the size of your cat since traveling with large cats may be more difficult than traveling with normal domesticated cat breeds. Bigger, stronger cats may require stronger pet carriers whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile. Especially large exotic cats may not fit in standard pet carriers, and may need specialized cages to provide adequate security. The cat carriers featured in this article are all meant for normal, domesticated house cats, not for wild cat species.
To help you pick the best cat carrier for your needs, we’ve combed through lists of top-rated products from all over to find the few that will best meet your feline’s needs. Please note that prices, when given, are subject to change as the availability and demand for pet carriers varies.
The Best Cat Carriers for Car Travel
When moving cats by car, comfort is usually the biggest issue. Here, your cat’s carrier is unlikely to be lumped in with cargo (unlike when traveling by plane or train), so soft-sided carriers tend to be preferred over less comfortable hard-sided ones. Here’s a list of some of the top-rated carriers for car travel:
- Sleepypod Atom. This is a top-rated pet carrier for smaller pets—like cats or Chihuahuas. It made Bustle’s list as the top overall choice because of its crash-tested safety features and breathable mesh design. It’s on the pricey side, however, costing around $130 (give or take $10, depending on the color you choose and availability). Additionally, if you’re traveling with large cats, this isn’t an option, since it is only meant for pets weighing less than 12 pounds.
- Petisfam Top Load Cat Carrier. At the time of this writing, this is the best-rated cat carrier on Amazon with 722 ratings and 88% of them being 5-star reviews. A breathable nylon mesh keeps your kitty secure without restricting air flow, and being able to load from the top or either side makes it easy for you to put your pet into the carrier. Also, this cat carrier is advertised as being one of the approved pet carriers for Southwest airlines, American Airlines, Jet Blue, United Airlines, Allegiant Air, Virgin airlines, Alaska Air, and Frontier Airlines. At a mere $29.99, this is an affordable and economic carrier for cats.
- Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier. Business Insider listed this pet carrier as their top overall cat carrier choice. See-through mesh keeps this cat carrier breathable without obstructing kitty’s vision, while a rear pocket allows you to stash treats and toys to keep kitty content during your trip. Available in three sizes: small, medium, and large. This carrier isn’t meant to have a lot of excess room, so it’s best for shorter plane trips or car trips where you can let your pet out for a walk every few hours. It’s also machine washable, so you can clean it easily between trips.
- Mr. Peanut’s Double-Expandable Pet Carrier. Want to be able to give your cat more room to maneuver from time to time without having to let them out of their crate? The double-expandable pet carrier from Mr. Peanut might be a good choice. This is a highly-rated cat carrier by Amazon customers, and the folding sides provide some room for pets to move around a bit if they get restless on a trip—though the height of the carrier may prevent some larger cats from standing fully upright. Soft faux fleece interiors give your cat something comfortable to rest on, and this carrier is approved for use in many airlines as a carry-on item—so kitty doesn’t have to sit in cargo.
The Best Hard-Sided Cat Carriers
Let’s say that, for some reason, you aren’t able to take your cat with you by car or as a carry-on with your airline/rail transit company—and so have to put your pet in the cargo section of the plane or train. So, you need an airline cat carrier with hard-sided construction that can be safely stored in the cargo hold without the risk of being crushed by other pet crates or people’s luggage.
Here’s a list of some hard-sided pet carriers that you can use to keep your cat safe:
- Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Kennel. This is rated as the best hard cat carrier by both Business Insider and Bustle for its ease of loading, extreme durability, and low cost. Being larger than most of the travel carriers listed above, the Petmate Two-Door kennel will give your cat plenty of room to stand and move around. However, you may want to line the bottom of this kennel with a pet blanket or piece of carpet to improve your cat’s comfort. This is available in two sizes from Amazon, each one costing around $32 (at the time of this writing, at least).
- SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier. A collapsible hard-sided cat carrier with a unique wedge-like shape and a large front door to let your cat in or out. This pet carrier is easy to carry and doesn’t take up a lot of space when not in use. Ideal for heavier cats because it can hold up to 35 lbs. of weight. The door can also be removed to turn this cat carrier into a mini cat house when at home—helping to acclimate your pet to the carrier when you’re not traveling so they experience less anxiety when being carried in the crate later on.
- AmazonBasics Two Door Top Load Carrier. This is the budget option for someone who wants a high-quality and secure cat carrier to use for airline trips. It’s virtually identical to Petmate’s two-door top loader, so many of the same benefits and criticisms apply. However, one caveat is that this carrier isn’t as good for heavier cats—the top door may come open when lifted by the handle if the pet is too heavy (~20+ pounds). Available in two sizes from (of course) Amazon, with prices ranging from $26.49-$31.63 (at the time of this writing).
These are just a few of your cat carrier options for taking your pet with you when you travel. Not able to take your favorite pet with you on a plane or train trip? Check out some alternative methods for shipping pets from one city to another today!