Review: My Favorite Airline-Approved Cat Carrier

Updated on November 26, 2016

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 twelve 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

Sherpa Delta Pet Carrier Medium Black
Sherpa Delta Pet Carrier Medium Black

Here's the soft-sided carrier I used for the last seven years before I got too old for air travel. (It's still my ride to the vet.) Click the picture to jump to Amazon's current listings and read other customer reviews, or read on for my own in-depth review.

Dimensions: 18 x 10.5 x 11 inches ; 4.1 pounds.

The proper pet carrier makes travel tolerable. That doesn't mean I'm not going shed in your suitcase.
The proper pet carrier makes travel tolerable. That doesn't mean I'm not going shed in your suitcase.

In-Depth Review of Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier - Why I Like This Cat Carrier

  1. Since it's soft-sided, it can scrunch down to fit the insanely small 17x12x8.5 inch size restrictions on some airlines.
  2. It's roomy enough for me to turn around in but not too big. Most pets like snug carriers.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. Zipper pockets on both sides are useful for holding travel documents -- mine and hers.
  8. 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.
  9. Metal O-ring inside lets dog owners clip their pet's collar so pooch can't bolt.
  10. Velcro strap along the non-mesh side (opposite the zipper pocket) fits securely over luggage handle or mini pull-cart.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Stiff, flat plastic floor insert under liner can be removed in a pinch if size restrictions are unusually tight. Floor insert and semi-flexible reinforcing struts along edges of carrier maintain its shape.

Bamboo Silicon Pop-Up Travel Bowl

Bamboo Silicone Pop-Up Travel Bowl, 1-Cup, Colors Vary
Bamboo Silicone Pop-Up Travel Bowl, 1-Cup, Colors Vary

After having to beg an airport fast food joint for a bowl of water when my 1.5-hour flight to Utah was delayed several hours, I realized that one should always carry food and water, even on short trips. I noticed that many of the pet owners who have bought carriers on this page were buying these collapsible travel bowls for their pets. They look like a good solution.

(Tip: they're okay for occasional travel, but don't use plastic bowls at home. Use metal, glass or ceramic. Plastic bowls can pick up germs and are a frequent cause of chin acne in cats.)


Photos of Me and My Sherpa Pet Carrier Bag

A Well-Travelled Feline (Every December!)

show route and directions
A markerSouthern California -
Orange County, CA, USA
get directions

Home sweet home since 1996.

B markerSalt Lake City, Utah -
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
get directions

WHY IS THERE COLD WHITE STUFF ON THE DECK. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Oh. Wait a minute. A 3-story house. I suppose I could put up with this.

Be As Amazed By Me as I Am

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

Questions & Answers

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    • profile image

      Maya 15 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Natalia 2 years ago

      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 profile image

      TravelTourist 4 years ago

      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.

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 4 years ago from California

      @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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      hovirag 5 years ago

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

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 5 years ago from California

      @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).

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I really like the Sleepypod Air instead!

    • profile image

      Twilightstar54 5 years ago

      @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 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      Adrienne Jenkins 5 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      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?

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      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!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      grega85 6 years ago

      I enjoyed reading this lens. Well done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      If I had a cat it might be nice.

    • profile image

      seegreen 6 years ago

      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.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 6 years ago from London

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

    • profile image

      grifith 6 years ago

      Very Good Lens

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 6 years ago

      Great lens, Greekgeek!

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

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

      I would be utterly frantic.

    • profile image

      jamesnodturft 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      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.