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The Best Cat Carriers for Car or Plane Travel (Short and Long Trips)

I've been a cat owner for most of my life and have learned many tips and tricks for keeping cats happy and healthy.

A list of the best cat carriers and advice on how to choose the right one for your cat.

A list of the best cat carriers and advice on how to choose the right one for your cat.

With so many cat carriers to choose from these days, it’s hard to know which one is best. To make your search easier, I’ve written this article featuring high-quality, well-designed carriers with features you and your cat will appreciate.

The carriers listed are based on my personal experience with them or their reputation as being highly-rated carriers from reputable brands. Some are pricier than the average carrier, but they offer important safety, comfort and convenience features that makes them worth the extra cost.

My List of the Best Cat Carriers:

  1. SturdiBag Pet Carrier Large
  2. SturdiBag Pet Carrier XL
  3. Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier
  4. Mr. Peanuts Airline Approved Soft-Sided Low Profile Travel Tote
  5. Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel
The SturdiBag Large Carrier

The SturdiBag Large Carrier

1. SturdiBag Pet Carrier Large

The SturdiBag Large is my choice for the best cat carrier because it’s extremely lightweight, strong and easy to carry. This flexible-height soft-sided carrier is a size suitable for most cats (up to 30 pounds) and will be accepted on most airlines for in-cabin travel.

It has seat-belt straps on both sides as an added safety feature, an adjustable 4-point padded shoulder strap and a leather hand grip for easy carrying. It also offers top and front openings, so it’s easy to get your cat in and out.

Inside, there’s a soft, machine-washable floor pad and plenty of ventilation on all sides. Privacy flaps can be opened or closed for your cat’s comfort and there’s a large pocket in the back to hold cat treats or various accessories.

  • Approximate Price: $75 to $90 US
  • Dimensions: 18” Long x 12” High x 12” Wide
  • Weight of Carrier: 3.1 Pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, as an in-cabin carrier that fits beneath your seat.
  • Many color options to choose from.

I've used a SturdiBag for my cats for many years. I love that they're super light, yet strong and are very easy to carry around.

Tip: If you have a larger cat or just want a more spacious option, also consider the SturdiBag XL (Extra-Large) Pet Carrier, listed below.

The SturdiBag XL in Bordeaux

The SturdiBag XL in Bordeaux

2. SturdiBag Pet Carrier XL

The SturdiBag XL has the same features as the Large, but it’s bigger and will hold even extremely large cats up to 50 pounds.

While the size makes it a little too big for travel on most airlines, it’s perfect for car rides to the vet, groomer or even on longer trips because it gives your cat extra space to move around and stretch his legs.

  • Approximate Price: $80 to $100 US
  • Dimensions: 20” Long x 16” High x 12” Wide
  • Weight of Carrier: 4.1 Pounds
  • Airline Approved? The SturdiBag XL exceeds the size requirements for most airlines, but according to the manufacturer: “Extra Large is larger than most airlines size requirements, but customers have told us for years that they use it for in-cabin, airline travel.”
  • Many colors to choose from.

Tip: Check with your specific airline to see if they’ll accept this size.

Common Features of the Best Cat Carriers

  • Strong and durable build quality
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Easy-access doors or openings
  • Spacious enough for your cat’s comfort
  • Comfortable for you to carry
The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier (Medium), shown in Plum.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier (Medium), shown in Plum.

3. Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

This stylish, durable and classic soft-sided carrier from Sherpa has mesh panels for ventilation, offers top and side entry and a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

There’s a machine-washable faux lambskin liner and a locking zipper to prevent an escape. The carrier also has a rear storage pocket for holding treats or accessories.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe is available in small, medium and large, but medium or large are the best options for cats.

The medium holds cats up to 16 pounds and the large holds cats up to 22 pounds, but choose a carrier size by dimensions as well as weight.

  • Approximate Price: $35 to $50 US depending on size and color
  • Dimensions, Medium: 17” Long x 10.5” High x 11” Wide
  • Dimensions, Large: 19” Long x 11.5” High x 11.75” Wide
  • Weight of Carriers: Medium is 4.2 pounds and the Large is 4.7 pounds
  • Airline Approved? Both sizes of the Sherpa Original Deluxe are approved for in-cabin travel on most airlines, however please check with your specific airline to be sure. Some customers have mentioned that the 'Large' was not accepted on certain airlines.
  • Several color options.
The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier (Large), shown in Black.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier (Large), shown in Black.

Safety Tip

Inspect your cat’s carrier before each use to make sure there are no rips, tears or broken parts. Also, check to see that all doors, zippers, openings and latches are working properly to avoid an escape.

The Mr. Peanuts Airline Approved Soft-Sided Low Profile Travel Tote

The Mr. Peanuts Airline Approved Soft-Sided Low Profile Travel Tote

4. Mr. Peanuts Airline Approved Soft-Sided Low Profile Travel Tote

This affordable, high-quality carrier from Mr. Peanuts is a great choice for cats up to 16 pounds. It's lightweight (at only 2.7 pounds) and is made from a strong, waterproof nylon fabric.

There are large mesh windows on the top and all sides for ventilation. It also offers key safety features like premium zippers, locking clasps and a weight-tested handle and shoulder strap.

Inside, there's a removable fleece pad that can be hand-washed or dry cleaned. In addition, it features a compartment for treats, and can be folded down to store.

  • Approximate Price: $36 US
  • Dimensions: 18" Long x 11" High x 10.5" Wide
  • Weight of Carrier: 2.7 Pounds
  • Airline Approved? Yes, the Mr. Peanuts carrier is approved on most airlines for in-cabin use. As with any carrier, check with your specific airline to be sure.
  • Several color combinations to choose from.

Note: The useable space inside is 17" Long x 10" High x 9.5" Wide due to padding and the fleece liner.

A cat enjoying his Mr. Peanuts Low-Profile Tote

A cat enjoying his Mr. Peanuts Low-Profile Tote

Sizing Tip

The interior dimensions of most carriers are slightly less than the exterior dimensions due to padding and a fleece base. Keep this mind as you decide on a carrier.

The Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel 19"

The Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel 19"

5. Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel

This well-designed, hard-sided carrier from Petmate offers front and top doors which makes it easy to load and unload your cat. It’s made from steel and plastic for strength, has good ventilation, a steel front door with a secure latch and a comfort-carry handle.

The 24” model will hold cats up to 20 pounds and the 19” model will hold smaller cats, up to 10 pounds.

  • Approximate Prices: $40 to $45 US for the 24” model and $30 to $35 for the 19” model.
  • Dimensions, 24” Model: 24.05” Long x 14.5” High x 16.75” Wide
  • Weight of Carrier: 6.43 Pounds
  • Dimensions, 19” Model: 19.4” Long x 12.8" High X 10” Wide
  • Weight of Carrier: 3.8 Pounds
  • Airline Approved? No. Because of the top door, these two carriers are not suitable for airline travel.
  • Several color combinations to choose from.

Hard-Sided Cat Carrier Tip

Add a machine-washable fleece pad to your carrier for your cat's comfort.

Here's the Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel 24" model. This hard-sided cat carrier is great as an everyday carrier for vet visits or for long road trips with your cat.

Here's the Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel 24" model. This hard-sided cat carrier is great as an everyday carrier for vet visits or for long road trips with your cat.

How to Choose the Right Size Cat Carrier

  • To avoid having to make a return because of size, be sure to consider the carrier’s dimensions and weight limit.
  • Even if your cat is below a carrier's maximum weight limit, it doesn't mean he'll fit lengthwise. This is why it's helpful to know your cat's current measurements and weight to ensure he'll fit comfortably into a specific model.
This is how to measure your cat for a cat carrier.

This is how to measure your cat for a cat carrier.

Cat Carrier Size Tips

  • Your cat should feel safe and secure inside their carrier, but not so confined that he can barely move. There should be enough room for your cat to turn around, even if he can’t fully stand up.
  • The size of carrier you select also depends on how you plan to use it. If you ever plan to travel by air with your pet, you’ll need one that’s airline approved and meets size requirements in order to fit beneath your seat.
  • If you’re planning to take your cat on a long road trip in your car, a slightly roomier carrier is better so the cat can occasionally stand up and stretch his legs.
  • If you want a carrier just for vet visits or other general use, you can be more flexible on the size and type you get.
  • 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.

Are Hard-Sided or Soft-Side Cat Carriers Best?

It really depends on your cat and how you plan to use the carrier. Here are some pros and cons of each type:

Hard-Sided Cat Carriers

Pros

  • Easy to fully clean and sanitize if your cat has an accident.
  • Good for cats that hate being in a carrier and try to claw or chew their way out.

Con

  • Heavier and not quite as easy to tote around as a soft-sided cat carrier.

Soft-Sided Cat Carriers

Pros

  • Generally lightweight and easy to carry.
  • They have a 'cozier' feel for the cat than hard-sided type.
  • The best choice for in-cabin air travel as long as you choose a size that will fit beneath your seat. (Each airline varies in their requirements, so check with your particular airline for specifics.)
  • Most can be cleaned and the floor lining pad can be either washed or replaced if needed.

Con

  • Not a good option for strong or aggressive cats because some cats can claw or chew through mesh or fabric.

Tips for Choosing the Best Cat Carrier

  • If you plan to travel with your cat by air, choose a carrier that's airline approved. Size requirements vary by airline, so check with your specific airline to be sure.
  • Choose a carrier with plenty of ventilation.
  • If your cat is difficult to get in or out, choose a carrier with top and front openings.
  • If you have a strong or aggressive cat, go with a hard-sided type.
  • Look for carriers made with durable materials and secure closures.
  • Consider the carrier's weight, especially if it’s a soft-sided type that you plan to tote with a shoulder strap.
  • Make sure the carrier is easy to clean. Hard-sided carriers are easy to wipe out, but if you’re considering a soft-sided variety, look for one with a removable floor pad that can be either washed or replaced if it gets soiled.
  • Read customer reviews about the carriers you are considering. They’re a great way to gain insight on whether a particular model is right for your cat.
  • Find out if the manufacturer has a guarantee or warranty in case there’s a defect or the carrier needs repair.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 carolynkaye