The 5 Best Cat Carrier Choices for 2021 – Hard or Soft?

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Are you looking for a convenient, secure, and stress-free way to transport your kitty? Then you need a cat carrier. They’re great for those all-important vet appointments, weekends away, and even long-haul journeys. And with all the different models available, you’ll definitely find one that suits your cat’s specific needs.

To help you choose, we’ve reviewed our top 5 cat carriers, with the help of Oscar and Joey, of course. Whether you’re looking for the best cat carrier for two cats, a scaredy-cat or reluctant traveler, we’ve got you covered.

Overall Winner for Best Pet Carrier for Cats

The Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Cat Carrier gets a big thumbs-up from us, and a round of ‘apaws’ from our boys. It’s a high-quality carrier that is suitable for all types of travel, and it’s made with a strong focus on safety and comfort. The bag is lightweight and easy to carry, but it’s made from durable material, so it will last a long time.

Price-wise, we’d say it sits somewhere in the middle, but in terms of peace and mind and your cat’s well-being, we think it’s worth the money. The Sherpa Cat Carrier is available in three sizes, and you can choose from six different color options.

The carrier features a spring wireframe, mesh panels, side, and top entry access, locking zippers, a removable fleece faux lambskin liner, padded carry straps, and an adjustable shoulder strap. It also has a stability board at the base.

We like that it has a back pocket where you can keep your cat’s harness, treats, toys, medication, and anything else he might need to keep him relaxed and happy. It’s suitable for air travel and easily fits under the seat. If you’re traveling in a car, the seatbelt strap will keep the carrier, and your kitty, secure. If you’re looking for the best cat carrier for long car trips, you won’t be disappointed with the Sherpa deluxe carrier.

What we like:

What we don't like:

Best Cat Carrier for Nervous Cats

There isn’t much not to like about the PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack. This particular one has 4 entry access points, and there are front, side, and upper zipper openings for easy access if you want to feed or give your cat a well-deserved tickle. The backpack-style carrier is perfect for outdoor activity, including hikes, and it’s available in seven different colors. 

We were a little skeptical about this carrier, but the solid structure keeps your cat safe, and there is plenty of room for him to move around. The backpack has chest and waist buckles for added security, and the shoulder straps are padded for comfort. The sherpa lining inside is perfect for additional warmth and keeps your pet comfortable, and we love the front pocket and side pouches for essential travel supplies. 

The PetAmi Carrier Backpack comes with a collapsible pet bowl, which is a neat little extra, and something a lot of reviewers appreciated. Often, it’s the small details that make a big difference.



Best Cat Carrier for Large Cat Option

If you’re looking for the best carrier for large cats, or for transporting two at a time, then you might want to consider the SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier. This comfy carrier is recommended by vets and makes long or short journeys with your cat an absolute pleasure. 

There is plenty of ventilation for your pet, and the extra-wide opening means nervous cats can walk straight in, rather than being forced. The removable door gives your kitty a chance to acclimatize to the carrier before you travel, and it doubles up as a bed too. 

The hard-sided carrier is made from a durable plastic that’s easy to clean, and it comes with a secure locking system. It also folds flat and can be stored neatly out of the way.



Best Cat Carrier for Car Travel

Not all pet carriers have to cost a fortune. The Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier combines safety and comfort for the budget-conscious cat parent. It’s available in three different sizes and comes with handles as well as a shoulder strap.

The soft-sided carrier has mesh panels, offering your cat loads of ventilation, plus it has top and front entry points for easy access. We found that the travel bag holds its shape well when in use, and also folds down neatly for easy storage.

Unfortunately, the cat carrier isn’t airline-approved, but it is an excellent choice if you’re traveling in the car or walking to your vet.



Best Cat Carrier for Plane Option

If style matters as much as safety when you’re transporting your pet, then you need to take a look at the Pet Magasin Luxury Soft-Sided Cat Carrier. This soft-sided carrier is lightweight, weighing just over 2 pounds, but easily accommodates an adult cat. 

The collapsible carrier holds its shape beautifully when in use, but it folds flat for convenient storage. Mesh windows provide plenty of ventilation for your kitty, while the padded mat ensures maximum comfort. We like the comfortable carry handle, or if you prefer, you can use the adjustable shoulder strap. It is airline approved and will fit under the seat.



Our Top 5 Cat Carrier Choices

  1. Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Cat Carrier
  2. PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack
  3. SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier
  4. AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Mesh Pet Travel Carrier
  5. Pet Magasin Luxury Soft-Sided Cat Carrier

What Types of Cat Carriers Can You Choose From? 

There are three main types to choose from, and how you plan on using yours will determine which is the best one for you. 

Plastic Carriers

Plastic or hard carriers are perfect if you need to pop your kitty to the vet for his annual check-up, or in the case of an emergency. They’re especially good if your cat gets car sick, as they’re easy to clean. And if you’ve got a Houdini on your hands, they’re almost impossible to break out of.

A lot of the hard carrier models fold down, making them convenient to store when not in use. On the downside, however, some hard models aren’t suitable for air travel as they’re too big to fit under the seat. Also, as shown in carrier crash tests, they are more likely to shatter compared to the other types. For longer car trips or if you regularly travel with your cat, soft carriers or backpacks are a better option.

Soft Cat Carriers

If you and your furry friend spend a lot of time in the car, a soft carrier is your best option. They’re comfortable for your kitty, easy for you to carry, and can be slid under the seat on a plane. As far as safety tests go, these score better.

But it’s worth noting if your kitty has any anxiety-induced mishaps, a soft-sided carrier is harder to clean. And the mesh panels and zipper openings make it easier for him to claw and break out of.

Backpack Carriers for Cats

Backpack carriers aren’t just for outdoor activities. They’re a comfortable, convenient, and secure way to transport your furry feline to the vet, a weekend away, or on a plane.

Backpack and soft carriers have storage spaces and pockets where you can keep treats, food, water, or toys. And rather than lugging him lopsidedly through the airport, banging against your leg, and other people, he’s got the best seat in the house. Keep in mind, though, while many cat backpacks are airline approved, it is worth checking the recommended dimensions ahead of your trip.

Other options for cat carriers include roller type carriers and cardboard carriers. 

Cat Carriers With Wheels

Some cat carriers with wheels can be converted into backpacks, allowing you to transport your pet quickly and conveniently. But if you have a skittish kitty, the noise of the rolling wheels could be a significant drawback.

Cardboard Carriers 

Cardboard carriers are available; however, these should only be a temporary means of transporting your pet. They’re used mostly at adoption centers and pet stores and won’t hold up to regular use. They also don’t offer your cat any kind of protection in an accident.

Makeshift Carriers

As tempting as it might be, we strongly recommend you don’t use a makeshift carrier. Pillowcases, laundry baskets, and boxes aren’t safe for your cat, and they’re also very uncomfortable. If it’s an absolute emergency and you have to transport your cat in the car, you could try a safer (vet recommended) option.

Who Should Buy a Cat Carrier?

Let’s put it this way, if you’ve got a cat, then you should buy a carrier. For responsible pawrents, it’s an essential item when you travel with your cat, whether you’re quickly popping out to the vet, taking a road trip, or going on a plane. They’re also excellent in emergency situations, and for keeping your kitty safe temporarily.

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Choosing the Best Carrier for Your Cat: Buying Guide

 Our reviews take the guesswork out of selecting the right one for your cat. But if you’re looking for something more specific, say, the best cat carrier for difficult cats, our buying guide highlights what you need to consider.

What Type of Carrier Do You Need?

There are plenty of products available, but how you plan on using it will determine which one you need. Soft-sided types are usually better if you’re traveling on a plane, while hard carriers work best for shorter trips in cars. Backpacks can be used in cars and planes, but it’s always worth checking with the airline whether the one you have is suitable.

What Is It Made Of?

Plastic carriers, although they look relatively cumbersome, are made from lightweight and durable materials. It’s not easy for a cat to break out of it, and it can withstand clawing and biting. Soft-sided models are also lightweight and made from durable fabric, but there’s a chance your kitty can escape. Whether you prefer the plastic or fabric option, make sure the handles and straps are sturdy, and the zippers are working.

Is It Easy To Clean?

This is definitely worth considering, depending on how your cat feels about traveling. If he’s anxious and gets carsick, you want to get one that’s easy to clean. A plastic carrier can be washed and left in the sun to dry, but if you prefer a soft carrier, make sure it has removable, machine-washable padding.

Is It Durable?

Does the carrier sag under your kitty’s weight? Is the fabric strong enough to withstand clawing, or if you’re using it regularly, daily wear and tear? A plastic carrier, although seemingly more durable, can break and splinter in the event of a collision.

Is It Easy To Get Your Cat In and Out Of The Carrier?

Some cat owners would rather wrestle a pig than get their feisty feline in and out of a carrier. Look for one that has multiple access points or a wider opening in the front. Walk-in carriers are a good option for nervous, anxious, or hard-to-handle cats.

Is It The Correct Size?

When it comes to the size of the carrier, it’s best to buy one that allows your cat to stand up, lie down and turn around without having to crouch. However, it should be a snug fit so that your cat can’t get thrown around while been transported.

Does It Offer Your Cat Enough Ventilation?

Size, durability, and ease of access are essential, but so is ventilation. To prevent cats from overheating, the carrier should have adequate ventilation.

How Much Does It Cost?

For most of us, price is always a consideration. You don’t have to spend a small fortune on a carrier, but you should buy the best one you can afford. After all, it’s a member of your family’s safety we’re talking about.

Does It Have Extra Features?

We love extra features, don’t you? In most cases, they don’t add to the carrier’s efficacy, but they do offer convenience. Pouches and pockets to store essential travel items, expandable models and others that fold flat for easy storage, as well as those that are sold with bedding and collapsible water and food bowls.

10 Top Tips for Keeping Cats Safe and Calm During Travel

So you’ve got a high-quality carrier that’s the right size, is durable and comfortable with loads of ventilation, but what else can you do to keep your cat calm and happy while traveling? We share our top tips below.

  1. For the most part, cats associate a carrier with a visit to the vet, which is why they run a mile when you bring it out. It’s a good idea to get your cat used to it before you hit the open road. Leaving it where your cat can see it, and putting treats and toys in the carrier will make it a more positive experience.
  2. Make the carrier as comfortable as possible. Place his favorite blanky, removable fleece, or an old item of your clothing that smells like you in the carrier.
  3. When traveling in the car, don’t put the carrier on the front seat. The best spot is behind the driver’s seat, on the floor, In the event of an accident, your cat will be safer here than anywhere else in the car. There are cat carrier options that can be fastened with a seatbelt, but be sure to follow the instructions correctly to ensure your cat’s safety.
  4. To alleviate cat travel anxiety, it’s worth packing a toy, a cozy blanket or liner, or even some edible treats. Catnip has a calming effect and is often recommended for long journeys.
  5. Once your cat is safely in his carrier, you should remove leads or harnesses. If you stop for a toilet break, remember to put it back on so your cat doesn’t get startled and dash off.
  6. Your cat should travel with a quick-release collar or one that has a break-away mechanism. Don’t use a training, pinch, or choke collar.
  7. In an emergency, it’s a good idea to have your name and contact information on the carrier or on his collar. Also, make sure you have proof of his vaccinations.
  8. Don’t keep your kitty in his carrier for extended periods of time. It’s best to make regular stops so he can stretch his legs, have a drink of water or go to the toilet.
  9. When traveling, always check that your cat isn’t directly in the sun. If it’s unusually warm, place the carrier near an air vent so that he stays cool and doesn’t overheat.
  10. Dog, cat, human, no-one’s immune to motion sickness. If your cat gets carsick, it’s a good idea to get him used to travel gradually. If the problem persists, your vet will be able to recommend the best motion sickness medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which carrier is best for my cat?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to a cat carrier. The one that is best for your cat will depend on your personal preference, how you will be traveling with your cat, and of course, your budget.

A hard carrier, in our opinion, is more durable than soft cat carriers, but it isn’t necessarily the best option for long car trips or flights. A soft carrier is more portable and can easily fit behind the driver’s seat in the car or under the seat in an airplane. Take a look at our reviews to see which is the best carrier for you.

2. How Do I Choose a Cat Carrier?

The most important things to consider are the carrier’s size, its durability, ease of access, and ventilation. Our buying guide tells you everything you need to know when it comes to choosing a cat carrier for your needs.

3. What Cat Carriers Are Airline Approved?

The best way to answer this is to give a quick outline of what airline-approved means. For cat carriers to be approved for use on a flight, they must:

  • keep your pet safely enclosed
  • provide your pet with adequate ventilation
  • be leak-proof

To find out whether the cat carrier you have meets with the airline’s regulations, it’s best to write them an email. Even if the carrier can fit under the seat, it won’t automatically be allowed on the plane.

4. What Size Carrier is Best For My Cat?

The ideal carrier will be big enough for your cat to stretch, stand up and turn around in. We recommend you measure your cat when he’s standing, from his shoulder to the floor. To get an idea of the correct length, measure your cat from the nape of his neck to the base of his tail. Cats shouldn’t feel restricted or have to crouch to move in the carrier.

5. How long should a cat be in a carrier?

Cats shouldn’t be left in their carrier for extended periods. A short trip to the vet is okay, but for longer journeys, you will need to take him out the carrier to stretch his legs, have a drink, eat something and use the litter box. Never leave your cat in a carrier in an unoccupied car.

6. Should you cover a cat carrier?

Cats are all different. Some enjoy traveling in a carrier while others get anxious. Use your discretion when it comes to covering the carrier.

7. Can I Use a Cat Carrier For My Dog?

Pet carriers are used to transport most pets, so yes, you can use a cat carrier to transport dogs. Just make sure it’s the right size, that your pet is secure and feels comfortable.

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Carmen Scott
Carmen Scott
I’m the “Mom” behind The Cat Mom. I adopted my two kitties back in 2014 and since they’re the heart and soul of our home so we decided to share our experiences and tips with everyone who share the same love for their furry friends as us.

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