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Review: My Favorite Airline-Approved Cat Carrier

I am a former scholar of classics and mythology. I enjoy writing about the ancient world, popular science, and my hobbies.

My name is Samhain the Cat, and I've flown many times in this Sherpa Deluxe carrier. It is my favorite airline-approved cat carrier.

My name is Samhain the Cat, and I've flown many times in this Sherpa Deluxe carrier. It is my favorite airline-approved cat carrier.

The Best Onboard Pet Carrier for Air Travel

If you must drag us cats on the airplane, we insist that you carry us in a sturdy airline-approved cat carrier like my Sherpa Deluxe Bag. A good under-the-seat soft-sided cat carrier lets us travel close to our owner's feet in the main cabin, where we can voice our displeasure and plot vengeance.

My name is Samhain the Cat, and I flew on planes for many years. I'd like to share my experience, so that you can make air travel as painless as possible for your pet. On this page I'll review my favorite soft-sided airline pet carrier and recommend a few others suggested to me by other cat owners. My feeder-person has also written a guide to airline pet travel, including pet policies for most major airlines.

My Favorite Airline-Approved Pet Carrier

Why I Like the Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier: In-Depth Review

  • Since it's soft-sided, it can scrunch down to fit the insanely small 17x12x8.5 inch size restrictions on some airlines.
  • It's roomy enough for me to turn around in but not too big. Most pets like snug carriers.
  • The zipper top makes it easy to get me in and out at security, and one end unzips drawbridge-style for easy access and exit at home.
  • The mesh sides give me fresh air, and don't rub my nose raw like the airholes on my old hard-sided Petmate Cabin Kennel. Flexible plastic frame and bottom insert provide structure.
  • The tote-style carry straps distribute my weight, and the shoulder strap attaches with a dog leash clip so it can be used as a spare leash.
  • Both ends are covered with velcro-fastened outer flaps that can be rolled up to make windows. When down, most people don't realize there's a cat in here!
  • Zipper pockets on both sides are useful for holding travel documents -- mine and hers.
  • The washable synthetic fleece liner is cozy, although I tend to scrunch it up like a pillow. Owner puts a disposable liner underneath for extra security.
  • Metal O-ring inside lets dog owners clip their pet's collar so pooch can't bolt.
  • Velcro strap along the non-mesh side (opposite the zipper pocket) fits securely over luggage handle or mini pull-cart.
  • Note: My owner's read two reviews from owners whose cats managed to chew through the mesh and escape. Click the Amazon link above this list to read their reviews.
  • For reviews of other pet carriers, visit the Featured Pet Travel Lenses at the bottom of this page or click product listings in my "What's Your Favorite Pet Carrier?" Poll for Amazon customer reviews.
  • The stiff, flat plastic floor insert under liner can be removed in a pinch if size restrictions are unusually tight. The floor insert and semi-flexible reinforcing struts along edges of carrier maintain its shape.

Bamboo Silicone Pop-Up Travel Bowl

Update: Alas, Samhain's travelling days are over. She passed away at age 18 on May 31, 2014, still the queen of the roost.

Update: Alas, Samhain's travelling days are over. She passed away at age 18 on May 31, 2014, still the queen of the roost.

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.

Fan Mail and Feedback

Maya on January 16, 2017:

YOU are awesome, thanks so much for the useful feedback.

Natalia on April 10, 2016:

I would never buy this one. My cat would tear it apart in minutes. Why do they make those terrible net mesh everywhere without any spare flaps and safety zippers??? I have checked this one in a pet store, it is unreliable.

TravelTourist on November 20, 2013:

We are moving from Australia to Wyoming mid next year and really want to take our Ragdoll with us, to be honest its been one of the things we have been dreading as she is a bit highstrung to say the least :) . Anyway its good to find some products that have been used by someone who actually travels with their cat and hopefully we can learn a bit from you and keep Bella a happy healthy cat.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on May 03, 2013:

@anonymous: Sorry, I don't. I would try calling Jet Blue and asking for help (and be sure to get the name of the person you talked to.) I haven't updated this page in a couple years and need to review ALL the airline pet policies again to see what's changed; off the top of my head I can't remember whether JetBlue lets pets go in the hold. There must be some option for dogs, though, surely.

anonymous on April 21, 2013:

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Read More From Pethelpful

I'm moving back to Texas with my two cats and I'm flying on jet blue. I have two main coons.. One is 17 pounds... The problem is jet blue only allows carriers 17inches long. Do you have any suggestions?

hovirag on March 12, 2013:

It is not just a great review lense but I love the perspective through the cat's eyes :)

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on February 08, 2013:

@anonymous: Sorry! I hope the flight went well. Samhain was a football-shaped (tubby) but still not-all-that-large 13 pound kitty during her flying days. (At age 14, she retired from jet-setting).

anonymous on February 05, 2013:

I bought this Sherpa carrier in medium for my daughter's cat. She was flying back to LA with her on southwest and they have strict guidelines. Because its soft outfit under the seat perfectly. She took a very tiny piece of a cat sedative, had soft kitty treats ,soft harness and leash and a pheromone collar. Trip went perfectly ! She meowed once. Best travel experience yet. Thanks

anonymous on January 14, 2013:

How large is Samhain? Hoping my cat can be comfortable in the Delta sherpa as well for an unavoidable and long flight.

anonymous on September 27, 2012:

I really like the Sleepypod Air instead!

Twilightstar54 on August 09, 2012:

@anonymous: Hi, Mostlikly you have already taken your trip, but I would pick the L, it isn't that much larger and maybe you can put a favorite toy and or blanket in with your cat to make the trip easier.

gottaloveit2 on June 13, 2012:

Excellent review lens. I've never traveled with a cat on a plane (or even one of my dogs for that matter) and wouldn't relish it. But, if I did, I'd certainly buy this cat carrier.

Adrienne Jenkins on May 21, 2012:

When my cat's in the car, she actually prefers sitting on top of the carrier so she can be at eye level with the windows and look out. However, tunnels with flashing lights freak her out. Happy travels.

anonymous on May 20, 2012:

I found a traveling cat harness and leash to be handy for TSA inspections also kept it tethered to my wrist even when cat was in soft carrier just in case zipper failure etc.. They have these new harness and leashes that are metal free to speed up the airport inspection process kind of sparked my interest. I think called fast pass? anyone tried one, was it helpful?

Fay Favored from USA on May 02, 2012:

My pets travel with me also. The cats have a "limo" as I call it much like yours. I like how these carrying bags let them see out, and they are easy to carry with the handles/long strap.

anonymous on May 01, 2012:

Hi, my cat will be traveling internationally for the first time (10 hour flight) and are trying to decide which size of Sherpa is better- M -18x11x11 or L - 20x11.5x11.5. She is 10.5 pounds. I am not sure what is better for a 10 hour fligh? Snug or looser? Please help. Thanks!

Rose Jones on April 26, 2012:

I really appreciate you sharing Samhain. I imagine that it is a huge bother for you to take time away from your job being lovely and snooty at the same time (as any decent cat does well) to write this, but I am really glad you did. I didn't even know that you could take a cat in the cabin that is how out of touch I am. I have pinned this to my Cats board so that others can learn. And I usually don't give Angel Blessings to product lenses - but this one is really well-written with recommendations I trust, and well it is written by a CAT after all.

anonymous on April 07, 2012:

Eco Stylish Pets dog carrier bags

offers dog collars, dog clothes, dog beds, dog treats, dog carriers and dog toys made from organic, natural, renewable and recycled materials.

grega85 on April 07, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this lens. Well done.

anonymous on March 16, 2012:

dog carrier bags

Eco Stylish Pets offers dog collars, dog clothes, dog beds, dog treats, dog carriers and dog toys made from organic, natural, renewable and recycled materials.

anonymous on March 16, 2012:

dog carrier bags

Eco Stylish Pets offers dog collars, dog clothes, dog beds, dog treats, dog carriers and dog toys made from organic, natural, renewable and recycled materials.

Blackspaniel1 on March 08, 2012:

If I had a cat it might be nice.

seegreen on January 18, 2012:

I took one of my cats on a plane some years ago and used a soft sided cat carrier like the one you have featured. When I saw it in the store I thought it was going to be too small and flimsy but it was perfect for plane travel. This is a really good price too. We brought the wrong sort of carrier to the airport (hard sided) and had to buy the soft sided cat carrier at the lugguge store there. What a rip-off! It cost us $100 but we were fortunate to find it, it was the only one they had.

poppy mercer from London on January 09, 2012:

I had no idea that you could take a cat inside a plane...that opens up a new dimension.

grifith on August 24, 2011:

Very Good Lens

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on August 02, 2011:

Great lens, Greekgeek!

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on March 22, 2011:

@jamesnodturft: Oh my gosh! I trust you got the cat back!

I would be utterly frantic.

jamesnodturft on March 22, 2011:

Someday I should write a lens about the time an airline LEFT MY CAT OFF THE PLANE. It was so horrible!

anonymous on May 11, 2010:

Thank you so much for all of this information. I am a first time cat owner and was scared stiff at the thought of taking my cat flying since I'm considering moving from Hawaii to the mainland.

I assumed cats would be in the cargo of the plane but was relieved to read here that cats can be kept under the seat! I like your photos and review of the Sherpa carrier and I'm about to check the links on the other products listed.

Thank you again!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 06, 2010:

Samhain the Cat, it sounds like you have done a lot more traveling than I have and I am glad you travel in style with this Sherpa Pet Delta Airlines Deluxe Pet Carrier. Lensrolling this great lens to my Pet Talk so my pets can meet you. They don't get out of town much or never so will be as impressed as I am.

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