Are Cat Backpacks Safe?

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In the United States, around 60 percent of all domestic cats are only kept indoors.1 While this is for good reason, as indoor cats tend to live significantly longer than outdoor cats, there are certain considerations we should not overlook. In particular, indoor cats need adequate enrichment to battle boredom, burn excess energy, reduce their stress, and overall, keep happy and healthy. 

A good medium between keeping your cat within the safety of your home and letting them explore the great outdoors is taking them outside in a cat backpack. However, as cat backpacks are a relatively new product on the market, there are many misconceptions about them. Are cat backpacks safe? Are cat backpacks cruel? This blog post will answer these questions and more. Continue reading if you want to learn more about cat backpacks. 

Do Cats Need To Be Outdoors?

Whether cats need to be outdoors has long been a debate between passionate pet parents who only want the best for their feline companions. However, from just looking at the statistics, it is clear that indoor cats live a relatively safer life than outdoor cats.

In fact, indoor cats have an average lifespan of around 10 to 15 years, while outdoor cats only live about 2 to 5 years in comparison.2 Additionally, outdoor cats are exposed to traffic accidents, feral cat fights, toxic outdoor plants, anti-freeze, fertilizers, and other dangers. Even if your cat only spends some of their time outdoors, unfortunately, the possibility of accidents cannot be eliminated. 

With that said, giving your indoor cat time outdoors in a safe and controlled way can be very beneficial to their well-being. While it isn’t necessary for all cats to go outside, and you should always consider the health and preferences of your cat, it is true that most cats enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.

Cat backpacks can be a fun and secure way to let your cat explore nature.

What Is A Cat Backpack?

A cat backpack, sometimes known as a cat walking bubble, is a cat carrier that you wear on your shoulders and secure to your body. Unlike typical cat carriers that mostly feature handles, crossbody straps, or wheels, cat backpacks tend to have padded shoulder straps, a sternum fascinator, water bottle pockets, and other compartments to organize all your cat care needs. Not only can you carry your feline friend on the front or back of your body, but you can also bring their leash, some extra treats, and toys with you if needed. 

Good cat backpacks also include a sturdy and supported base and big areas of mesh to ensure your cat gets an adequate amount of fresh air. Let’s take a look at the various types of cat backpacks to learn a bit more about their different features.

Types Of Cat Backpacks

Bubble cat backpacks

A bubble cat backpack, or a cat walking bubble, as its name suggests, includes a transparent, convex, and bubble-like half-sphere that juts out of the front of the backpack. This “bubble” should be big enough to comfortably fit your cat’s head and front paws and acts as a look out point. Other than mesh panels, it often has holes cut out from its sides or bottom to increase the airflow in the backpack as well, and many pet parents love its unique appearance and almost UFO-like look. 

Compared to mesh-only cat backpacks, a cat walking bubble may be slightly less breathable, but the clear view it provides definitely makes it a favorite among cats. 

See through cat backpacks

A see through cat backpack has a front side that is entirely made out of transparent plastic. While it gives your cat a 360 degree, unobstructed view of what’s outside, it can be rather stuffy. These cat backpacks are typically only ventilated with a few holes cut out on the plastic. They also tend to be smaller than other types of cat backpacks. If you wish to purchase a see through cat backpack, make sure to try it out and see if your cat feels comfortable in it. Many cats, especially cats who have cat anxiety, want a place to hide and may not prefer completely see through cat backpacks. 

Mesh-only cat backpacks

Mesh-only cat backpacks don’t feature a transparent plastic section where your cat can look outside. Rather, they usually have a clip that attaches to your cat’s harness that allows your cat to safely have the top half of their body in the open air with the backpack partially unzipped. These cat backpacks provide the best ventilation but require a bit more supervision. 

Some cat backpacks combine features from each of the types mentioned above. Finding the right backpack for your cat requires a lot of consideration and trial and error. 

Benefits Of Cat Backpacks

Benefits of cat backpacks

Cat backpacks can provide a myriad of benefits for both you and your cat. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Allow for outdoor exploration: For indoor cats, exploring the outdoors without the proper gear, protection, and supervision can be dangerous. Just a harness may not be enough when it comes to taking your cat out on an expedition. Cat backpacks allow cats to see the great outdoors without their feet even touching the ground. As a pet parent, wearing a cat backpack on your front or back also allows you to monitor your kitty whenever you need and make sure they are safe and sound. 
  • Provide safety in unknown environments: Cat backpacks are also wonderful when used in conjunction with cat harnesses. You can carry your cat for long stretches until you reach the destination, so they aren’t tuckered out before they start exploring. At the destination, you can let them out while wearing a harness and leash and place the cat backpack somewhere they can easily reach. In this instance, the cat backpack acts as a place of refuge, and your cat can go back into its security whenever they are scared or tired. Traveling with a cat can be hard, but cat backpacks can make it easier for both you and your cat. 
  • Improve human-cat bond through quality time: Cat backpacks allow you to spend more quality time with your cat. After all, you are literally carrying them on your body as if they are your baby, showing them the world around them and doting on them. Your cat is sure to appreciate your attention and  the enrichment of going outdoors.

Are Cat Backpacks Cruel?

Cat backpacks should never be cruel as long as they are used safely. Also, it is important to keep in mind that not all cats will like cat backpacks, so do not force your cat into one if they are clearly uncomfortable. 

Your feline friend may like being carried around in their cat backpack but not like being confined for long periods of time. Know their limits and make sure to stick to them. In addition, a proper introduction is important when getting your cat to use a cat backpack. Take it slow and let your cat get to know their new backpack (over several days or weeks)  on their own terms. Add some treats and toys to the backpack to encourage your cat. Make sure the first few trips you take your cat on in their new backpack are short and sweet as well. 

Are Cat Backpacks Safe?: How To Choose A Cat Backpack

What to look for in a cat backpack

Overall, cat backpacks are very safe as long as you choose one that is high-quality and well suited to your cat. Below are a few factors to consider when choosing a cat backpack:

  • Adequate size: You never want your cat to feel cramped in their cat backpack. As a general rule, they should be able to turn around comfortably. It should be the perfect size. Cat backpacks that are too big have the potential to knock your kitty around while you are walking. 
  • Durable material: Your cat backpack should be made out of a durable material and be lined on the inside. This way, if your cat suddenly needs to scratch, it won’t break apart just like that. 
  • Steady base: A steady base is crucial for your cat’s comfort and contentment. Without one, your cat will have trouble standing, sitting, and lying down in their cat backpack. 
  • Different ways for entry: Your cat may not like entering their cat backpack from the top, and it’s always best to have options in case they change their mind. 
  • Good ventilation: Especially if you want to take your cat out in their backpack in the summer, good ventilation is key. Look for an adequate amount of holes and mesh. 
  • Sufficient number of windows: A cat walking bubble usually has one primary window for cats to look out from, but maybe your cat would enjoy a section of the backpack that opens up directly to the outdoors. 
  • Includes tether points that attach to your cat's harness: Tether points allow you to make sure your cat is safe even when your backpack is partially unzipped. This helps your cat get a better view of the outside world and breathe in fresh air. 
  • Multiple safety features: When looking for cat backpacks, check to see if the zippers are especially sturdy, if the bubble window can be popped out in any way, and whether it can be fastened to your sternum for extra support. 

Cat being carried on owner’s back  in cat backpack

Final Notes

Are cat backpacks safe? Absolutely. Just be sure to take time to find the best one for your cat and train them to use it with patience. 

If you need help training your cat to use cat backpacks or cat carriers, consult a Dutch vet. Dutch licensed vets can help you solve a variety of pet issues, whether you have questions about specific symptoms, behavioral problems, or how to train your pet. Dutch is an online vet service that allows you to get your pet the care they need from the comfort of their home. Try Dutch today. 

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References

  1. Foreman-Worsley, Rachel. et al. "Indoors or Outdoors? An International Exploration of Owner Demographics and Decision Making Associated with Lifestyle of Pet Cats." MDPI Animals, Feb. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7909512/.

  2. Craft, Tyler, Greenspan. Sheryl, & Klein, Amanda. Cats: Indoors or Outdoors? UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk491/files/inline-files/Cats-Indoors_or_Outdoors.pdf.

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