Best Cat Carriers

Updated on March 7, 2016
carolynkaye profile image

I'm a writer and lifelong animal lover who has owned cats, dogs, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits.

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If you own a cat, you’ll need a cat carrier for transporting your cat to the vet, groomer or if you travel.

Although there are carriers that fit every cat and cat owner’s budget, it can be overwhelming to sort through the hundreds of carriers on the market and know which are the best.

In this article, you’ll learn how to choose the right carrier for your cat as well as find a listing of the best cat carriers with all the details you’ll need to help decide on the best one for you and your cat.


How to Choose the Right Size Carrier for Your Cat

When choosing a carrier, it’s important to get one that’s the right size for your cat. If you have a kitten, you can either buy a small carrier now and a larger one when he’s full grown, or just buy one he’ll grow into.

The average adult cat weighs 9 to 12 pounds, with females on the lower end of that range. A cat should feel safe and secure in his carrier, but not so confined that he can barely move. There should be at least enough room for him to turn around, even if he can’t fully stand up.

The carrier size also depends on how you plan to use it. If you ever plan to travel by air with your cat, airlines have specific guidelines for carrier size and the height it must be in order to fit beneath your seat. If you’re taking your cat on a long road trip in the car, a slightly roomier carrier is better so the cat can occasionally stand up and stretch his legs. If you just want a carrier for trips to the vet, you can be more flexible on the size and type of carrier you get.

Most carriers will list a weight limit, but don’t use this as the only guideline when deciding what carrier to buy. You should measure your cat’s length (from the collar to the base of the tail) and height (floor to the top of the shoulder) and make sure he’ll fit comfortably within the dimensions of the specific carrier.

If product reviews are available for the carrier you’re considering, be sure to read them for valuable tips and first-hand information from other customers. For example, some carriers are smaller than they look and aren’t suited for larger cats. The more you know about a particular carrier, the better decision you’ll make.


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What To Look For in a Cat Carrier

  • Make sure the carrier has plenty of ventilation so your cat doesn’t get overheated.
  • Consider the weight of the carrier, especially if it’s a soft-sided carrier that you plan to carry with a shoulder strap.
  • Look for safety features such as locking doors and good quality zippers.
  • Make sure the carrier is easy to clean. Hard-sided carriers are usually easy to wipe out, but if you’re considering a soft-sided carrier, look for ones with removable pads that can be machine-washed or replaced if they get soiled.
  • Look for any additional features you may want such as food and water bowls, padded carrying straps or soft floor padding.
  • If you have a cat that is very difficult to get into a carrier, consider one with a top-loading door in addition to a door in front.
  • See if the manufacturer offers any type of guarantee on the carrier in case there’s a defect or problem.


Should You Buy a Hard Side or Soft Side Carrier?

It really depends on your preference and what you plan to use the carrier for.

Hard-side carriers tend to be easier to clean if your cat has an accident. Typically, they’re stronger and are a better option for cats that hate being in a carrier and try to claw or chew their way out. On the downside, they’re usually heavier, bulkier and not as easy to carry around as soft-side carriers.

Soft-side carriers often resemble gym duffle bags. They’re usually lighter in weight than hard-side carriers and are easier to carry. Many come with a soft pad on the bottom and have a ‘cozier’ feel than hard-side carriers. They’re also better for in-cabin air travel if you purchase a size that will fit beneath your seat. If you find a carrier with a removable and washable floor pad, they’re almost as easy to clean as a hard-side carrier.


Which carriers are best for air travel?

If you ever plan to travel with your cat by air, choose a cat carrier that is airline approved. Size requirements can vary by airline, so check with the specific airline you plan to travel with to be sure your carrier size will work. The carrier must fit beneath your seat so look for the smallest airline-approved carrier your cat will comfortably fit into. The SturdiBag, Large is a flexible height carrier that will fit under any airline seat.

In the list of best cat carriers below, I mention whether each carrier is airline approved. If you plan to check your cat as cargo, look for carriers that comply with both IATA and USDA guidelines for carriers. If you are outside the US, check with your specific airline for their requirements.


The Best Cat Carriers -- Soft Sided Carriers



SturdiBag, Large
SturdiBag, Large | Source
SturdiBag, Extra-Large with Front Flap Closed
SturdiBag, Extra-Large with Front Flap Closed | Source

SturdiBag Pet Carrier, Large

  • Approximate Price: $70 to $80
  • Size: 18”L x 12”W x 12”H (Flexible Height)
  • Weight of Carrier: 2.6 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier

Features: Will fit most cats up to 25 pounds, is the lightest professional grade carrier on the market, has seat-belt safety loops as an added safety feature, has an adjustable 4-point padded shoulder strap & leather hand grip for easy carrying, includes a machine-washable, ultra comfortable pad, will fit under all airline seats because of the flexible height feature, has excellent ventilation and privacy flaps that can be opened or closed.

Tips: If you have a larger cat or just want a roomier cat carrier, you can also consider the extra-large size carrier detailed below. Minor assembly required.


SturdiBag Pet Carrier, Extra-Large

  • Approximate Price: $80 to $90
  • Size: 20”L x 16”W x 12”H (Flexible Height)
  • Weight of Carrier: 3.2 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier

Features: Has the same features at the SturdiBag Pet Carrier, Large (listed above), can carry cats up to 35 pounds, great for longer trips because it gives your cat more space to move around. Minor assembly required.

From the Manufacturer: "SturdiBag is offered in 17 solid color choices and an ever changing array of Limited Edition prints."


Original Deluxe Sherpa Pet Carrier, Large
Original Deluxe Sherpa Pet Carrier, Large | Source

Original Deluxe Sherpa Pet Carrier, Large

  • Approximate Price: $62 to $75
  • Size: 19”L x 11.75”W x 11.5”H” (for cats up to 22 lbs.)*
  • *Go by cat’s measurements, not just by weight.
  • Weight of Carrier: 4.35 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier, but check with your specific airline to make sure the size is approved.

Features: Mesh panels for ventilation, top and side entry, shoulder strap, removable, machine-washable faux lambskin liner, locking zipper to prevent escape, zipper pocket. Also comes in Small and Medium.



Sherpa Ultimate Pet Carrier, Large in Black
Sherpa Ultimate Pet Carrier, Large in Black | Source

Sherpa Ultimate Pet Carrier

  • Approximate Price: $70 to $90 depending on size
  • Medium: 17”L x 11”W x 10.5”H (for cats up to 16 lbs.)*
  • Large: 19”L x 11.75W” x 11.5”H (for cats up to 22 lbs.)*
  • *Go by cat’s measurements, not just by weight.
  • Weight of Carrier: Medium: 4.6 pounds, Large: 5.2 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier, but check with your specific airline to make sure the size is approved.

Features: Mesh panels for ventilation, top and side entry, roll up flaps for privacy, fashionable quilted texture, shoulder strap for easy carrying, large accessory pocket, removable, machine-washable faux lambskin liner.


Sherpa Sport Duffle Cat Carrier Bag & Tote, Medium in Red
Sherpa Sport Duffle Cat Carrier Bag & Tote, Medium in Red | Source

Sherpa Sport Duffle Cat Carrier Bag & Tote, Medium

  • Approximate Price: $55 to $65
  • Size: 18”L x 10.75”W x 10.5”H (for cats up to 12 lbs.)*
  • *Go by cat’s measurements, not just weight.
  • Weight of Carrier: 2.9 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier

Features: Zippered side pockets, reflective safety trim, shoulder strap, mesh for ventilation, top and side entry.

Tip: This carrier will only hold cats up to 12 pounds, so if you have a medium to large cat, it may not be large enough. Be sure to take your cat’s measurements before buying.


Bergan Comfort Soft-Sided Pet Carrier, Large in Black
Bergan Comfort Soft-Sided Pet Carrier, Large in Black | Source

Bergan Comfort Soft-Sided Pet Carrier, Large

  • Approximate Price: $32 to $40
  • Size: 19”L x 10”W x 13”H (for cats up to 22 lbs.)*
  • *Go by cat’s measurements, not just weight.
  • Weight of Carrier: 1.6 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier

Features: Removable, machine-washable fleece travel bed, safety belt loop so carrier can be restrained with seat belt, excellent ventilation, multiple pockets, padded shoulder strap, airline compliant, available in black and rose wine colors.

Important Tip: Although this carrier is called “large”, it runs small and is better suited for smaller or small-medium size cats. Always measure your cat to make sure he’ll fit comfortable inside the carrier and don’t only rely on the maximum weight the carrier is said to hold.



The Best Cat Carriers -- Hard-Sided Carriers



Suncast 19-Inch Pet Carrier, Round
Suncast 19-Inch Pet Carrier, Round | Source
Side view of Suncast 19-Inch Carrier
Side view of Suncast 19-Inch Carrier | Source
Suncast 23-Inch Pet Carrier, Round
Suncast 23-Inch Pet Carrier, Round | Source

Suncast 19-Inch Pet Carrier, Round

  • Approximate Price: $20 to $25
  • Size: 19.5”L x 13.3”W x 10.2”H (for cats up to 9” tall)
  • Weight of Carrier: 4.4 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, for Cargo Only

Features: Comes pre-assembled, includes food and water bowl, easy to clean, durable wire and resin construction, excellent ventilation, a good choice for cats that try to claw their way out of a cage, comes in a light blue with dark blue accents, can personalize with your cat’s name (letters included), good value for price.

Tips:

  • If you have a medium or larger cat, go up a size to the 23” Suncast Carrier. (Listed below)
  • Cover the carrier with a big towel for warmth in cool weather.
  • Line the bottom of the carrier with a towel or purchase a soft carrier pad to make it comfortable for your kitty.


Suncast 23-inch Pet Carrier, Round

  • Approximate Price: $25 to $35
  • Size: 23”L x 15”W x 12.5”H (for cats up to 11.5” tall)
  • Weight of Carrier: 6.2 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, for Cargo Only

Features: Same features as the 19” model. Comes in brown with blue accents.


Petmate 19" Two-Door Kennel
Petmate 19" Two-Door Kennel | Source
Petmate 24" Two-Door Kennel
Petmate 24" Two-Door Kennel | Source

Petmate Two-Door Top Load Pet Kennel (19” and 24” Models)

  • Approximate Price: $30 to $45 (depending on size)
  • Sizes: 19” Model: 19.4”L x 12.8”W x 10H (for cats up to 10 lbs.)
  • 24” Model: 24.05”L x 16.7”W x 14.5” H (for cats up to 20 lbs.)
  • Weight of Carrier: 19” Model: 3.6 pounds, 24” Model: 5.8 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, but check with specific airline.

Features: Has front and top doors for easy access and loading options, made with steel and plastic for strength, ventilation, safety and durability, includes a water cup, comfort carry handle, steel front door with secure latch, 24” model will accommodate larger cats, modern design, top loading option is great for shy cats that are hard to get in/out of carrier. Comes in a variety of colors.

Tips:

  • Purchase a padded liner or use a towel on the floor of the carrier for extra comfort.
  • Unless you have a small cat, the 24” model will be a better size.


© 2012 carolynkaye

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