How To Choose The Best Cat Carrier

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A high-quality cat carrier is essential if you travel with your pet by car, plane, or train. Not only must your cat remain in the carrier when you travel on public transportation, but carriers also prevent injury when driving with them in the car. So whether it's a 20-minute car ride to the vet or a long flight, a pet carrier is something every cat needs to remain safe and secure. 

Finding the best carrier for your situation can be challenging with so many options available. Depending on where you're going or what you're doing with your cat, you might have multiple carriers—one that's more comfortable and better suited for the car and another that's compliant with your preferred airline's pet policy. In any case, finding the right carrier is necessary for the comfort and safety of your beloved feline friend. This article will help you choose a  carrier to ensure you make the right choice for your pet. 

Factors To Consider When Buying A Cat Carrier

Finding the right cat carrier is crucial whether you're learning how to travel with a cat or have recently realized how unsafe it is to let them freely roam in your car while you drive. A cat carrier will provide your pet with a safe space to reduce anxiety in public while ensuring their safety and preventing them from escaping. But how do you find the best cat carriers? 

Here are a few factors to consider: 

Factors to consider when buying a cat carrier


There's a cat carrier for every budget, and you don't have to overspend to ensure your cat is safe. But, of course, you also shouldn't spend too little on your carrier. In most cases, you get what you pay for, so the cheapest option is likely to be the least comfortable or durable. Ultimately, it's not worth the risk to put your cat in something that could break and cause injury or allow them to escape. 


Carriers should have ample ventilation to allow your cat to breathe easily, especially for long periods. However, avoid too much ventilation because excessive holes in the mesh panels can make your cat feel more anxious since they'll be able to see everything outside the carrier. For example, if you're at the vet, you may not want your cat to see dogs and other pets in the waiting room. Meanwhile, if you're at the airport, seeing a crowd of people could cause severe anxiety. Luckily, you can avoid some fearfulness with the proper amount of mesh and a privacy flap. 


Cats can have accidents in their carriers, especially if they're in them for long periods. So you must be able to remove messes as soon as they occur. Some cat carriers can be easily wiped down after an accident, while others are more complicated to clean. 

The top cat carriers are easy to clean before and after use, allowing you to vacuum or wash them out. Additionally, some carriers have comfortable padding you can wash in the laundry or with warm water and mild dish soap. 


If your carrier gets damaged, it may become unsafe for your cat. For example, cats can scratch soft carriers and create holes to escape from. Meanwhile, hard carriers may break, leaving hard materials and sharp edges inside the crate where the cat may get hurt. 

Since your cat carrier is supposed to keep your cat safe, look only for ones that offer exceptional durability and protection. Remember, cats in carriers can experience anxiety, which can cause them to try to break free or scratch at them. Also, because your cat's nails are sharp, look for carriers they won't be able to slash through. 


The size of your cat carrier is especially important if traveling by plane or train. Airlines have specific measurement requirements you must adhere to, whether your cat is flying in the cabin or cargo hold. Always check your airline's pet carrier requirements, including the total weight allowed. The rules vary by airline, so it's always a good idea to review their pet policy to ensure your carrier is compliant. As a general rule of thumb, the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. 

Measure your cat in the standing and lying down position to ensure they fit in their new crate

If you’re unsure of what size carrier to get for daily use, vet trips, or car rides, measure your cat while they’re standing and lying down. This makes it easier to shop around and compare carriers. 


Your cat must stay in their carrier when traveling by plane or train, no matter how long the trip is. Meanwhile, if you're traveling long distances by car, your cat may have to spend a significant amount of time in their carrier, so it should be comfortable. 

Some cat carriers are more comfortable than others, and you can look for features like extra padding to ensure your pet is cozy. Additionally, depending on the size of your cat carrier, you can add a small blanket from home to reduce your cat's anxiety while traveling. 


Cat anxiety can cause your pet to try to escape their cat carrier, so you should always look for extra safety features to prevent escapes. One of the best safety features many top cat carriers have is an interior tether that prevents them from escaping through the doors. In addition, you can connect your cat's collar or harness to the carrier when your cat takes a break for food or water. However, you shouldn't use the tether during long travel because your cat's leash can get tangled and pose a choking hazard. 

Additionally, ensure you choose a cat carrier that's been crash tested and has a certification to prove its effectiveness. A crash-tested safety certification will provide peace of mind and help protect your pet if there's an accident while driving. 


A carrier should be easy to lift and transport. It should never be too heavy for you to carry through airport security or at the vet's office, and there should be various straps and handles that make transporting your cat easy. 

The best carriers have shoulder straps and a double handle for easy lifting and maintaining balance. You may also find carriers with additional straps to help you secure them in the car and prevent them from sliding around in the backseat, which may cause further anxiety. You can also find cat carriers with pockets to keep essential items, such as collars, IDs, and leashes. 

Of course, your cat carrier shouldn't just be convenient for you; your cat should be able to get in and out easily. Most cat carriers have two openings that allow your cat to get in from either side. Meanwhile, hard-sided carriers allow you to unlatch the bottom to free your cat without them needing to use the doors. This can be ideal for cats who are afraid of the veterinary clinic and don't want to leave their carrier. The vet can take the top of the carrier off and examine the pet in the carrier.

Top Carrier Styles For Cats

Cats can be picky about the things they like, especially their carriers. Finding a cat carrier your pet likes may take trial and error, but you have options. 

Top carrier styles for cats

Here are the top cat carrier styles to choose from: 


Hard-sided carriers are considered the sturdier option and can protect your cat if you have a car accident or drop their carrier. They're also easier to clean and can usually be wiped down before and after every use. 

Unfortunately, these carriers are bulky and can be difficult to carry when traveling for long periods. In addition, most hard carriers don't come with padding, so you'll have to add padding at home. It's important to choose the right size to ensure there's enough room for your cat to move around comfortably with an extra blanket. 


Soft-sided carriers are a popular option for traveling for long periods because they easily fit under most seats. They're made with flexible materials and are lightweight. However, your cat can damage the soft material with their teeth or claws, so they may provide less security and protection than hard-sided carriers. 


Cardboard cat carriers are what you may receive when you adopt a new cat. However, while they're a convenient option for bringing a new cat home, they're not a long-term solution. Since they're made of cardboard, they'll break down over time, and cats can break through them or chew on them, so they're not a safe option for long travel. 


Rolling cat carriers make it easy to take your cat anywhere, and they're a great option for individuals who can't carry their cats. Rolling carriers can hit bumps that startle your cat, so it's best to be careful with them. Your rolling carrier should always stay on level ground.

Man using cat carrier backpack to carry cat


Backpack cat carriers are a fun option for those who want to take their cats everywhere. However, these types of carriers can be stressful for cats, especially if there's no privacy flap and they can see everything going on outside. Additionally, traveling on your back might not be comfortable for cats because they can feel each step you take. 


Strollers are another fun option for pet parents who want to take their cats on walks or to the vet. However, they're not ideal for travel since trollers don't provide enough protection. Additionally, most of them consist of more than 50% mesh, which cats can easily chew or scratch through. 

Best Carriers For Cats: FAQs

What type of cat carrier is the best for my pet?

The best type of cat carrier for your pet depends on your cat's preferences and type of travel. For example, when traveling by plane, you'll likely only be able to choose between soft and hard-sided cat carriers, so weigh the pros and cons of each. In most cases, you should opt for a cat carrier with no more than 50% mesh because cats can scratch their way out. 

What cat carrier should I purchase if I'm flying?

When flying, you can choose a soft or hard-sided cat carrier. Either option can be good for your pet, as long as they feel comfortable and have enough ventilation. However, you should verify the size requirements with your airline to ensure you're compliant with their pet policy and get the best cat travel carrier. 

How long can my cat be in a carrier?

Your cat can spend up to eight hours in their carrier. However, they should be let out for food and water and to stretch their legs every few hours. Keep in mind that airlines require your cat to stay in its carrier the entire time.

Final Notes

Finding the best cat carrier for every situation is crucial. Luckily, there are affordable, durable, and high-quality options for every budget and cat. But before you put your cat in a new carrier for long-distance travel, you should always get them accustomed to spending time in it via training.

Cat carriers can provide your pet with a safe space that reduces anxiety and helps them feel calm on a plane or at the vet. However, cats can still feel anxious in any situation. Talk to a Dutch vet if you're worried about your cat's anxiety. Dutch online veterinary care specializes in everything from cat nutrition to anxiety, so you can treat various health and behavioral issues at home. Try Dutch today. 


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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