BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Pets

Best hard-sided carrier for cats

Which hard-sided cat carriers are best?

Dogs are generally eager to jump into the car and go for a drive. They seem to love nothing more than sticking their heads out the window to catch the breeze. Cats, on the other hand, prefer the comforts of home — it's often a struggle to round them up, bundle them into the car and drive to where you need to go.

So before you end up with multiple scratches and are seen as the worst pet parent, get a good-quality cat carrier with hard sides. The Van Ness Calm Carrier E-Z Load Sliding Drawer is an excellent choice, as it's easy to get your cat inside.

What to know before you buy a hard-sided carrier

The size of your cat

Since not all cats are the same size, you must consider their dimensions when looking for a carrier. An excellent way to determine this is to measure your cat’s height from the floor and how much space it needs to turn around. The carrier’s internal space should be large enough for the cat to comfortably stand and turn in. Keep in mind that cats might be in the carrier for long periods, and if they can’t stretch their legs, it could cause cramping or discomfort.

You can also throw in some cat toys if there is space.

The closure mechanism

Cats are inquisitive and quickly learn how things work. That’s why you must ensure that the closure mechanism is challenging to paw open. Most use a system where you must unlatch two points to open the door or have several clips that can’t be manipulated.

The number of openings can also make your life a lot easier when you need to take your cat out or put it in the carrier. One opening at the front is tricky, as a cat can (and will) brace itself against the edges.

A better strategy is to get a carrier with two openings or a carrier where the hard top easily comes off the base. It’s easier to put a cat inside from above than from the front, but it’s best if the top part comes down over them onto the base.

Hard-sided is the way to go

There are plenty of carriers, from cat backpacks and cardboard to strollers and rolling carriers. But the best and safest way to transport your feline friend is in a hard-sided carrier. It keeps the cat safe from external dangers and also lowers stress levels because visibility isn’t that great.

However, if you plan to fly with your cat, you must check with the airline on its rules. Some carriers are too large for in-cabin flights, as they must be stored underneath the seat in front of you. The maximum dimensions on certain airlines are 18.11 by 11.02 by 9.45 inches.

What to look for in a quality hard-sided carrier

Indestructible plastic

Your cat's safety should be the top priority, regardless if you're going to the vet around the corner or flying across the world. By nature, a hard-sided carrier is made of plastic, but a good-quality carrier is nearly indestructible. It can withstand several drops and bangs (preferably without a cat inside) and shouldn’t chip or break at any point.

Normal wear and tear, such as scratches and scuffs, is expected. But that should in no way compromise the carrier’s integrity.

It comes apart for easy storage 

Cat carriers are for a specific purpose and probably won’t be used often. They are bulky and difficult to store, but a good-quality carrier can easily come apart. You’d be surprised how much space you save by simply popping off the top and stacking it on the lower base. If it doesn’t detach from itself, you could store other items inside to make room. 

Maintenance and cleaning

While it doesn’t happen often, cats occasionally soil the carrier. Any cat owner can attest to the challenge of getting the cat urine smell out of anything. A good-quality carrier is easy to clean and is effortless if it comes apart. 

Mild soap and lukewarm water usually do the trick, but if harsher chemicals are needed, ensure that the carrier is appropriately dry and odor-free before the next use. For more comfort, line the carrier with absorbent padding. Your cat will be comfortable, and the liquid and odor are repressed when an accident happens.  

How much you can expect to spend on a hard-sided carrier

The price depends on its size and features. A regular carrier with plastic sides and a metal door costs $20-$30, while a larger carrier with multiple access points runs $50-$80.  

Hard-sided carrier FAQ

Do carriers come with padding?

A. It's rare to find a hard-sided carrier with padding inside. If your cat wants something soft to sit on, you can put a folded-up towel or a thin piece of foam inside.

How do you secure a carrier in your vehicle?

A. Most people put it on the front or back seat, but that also depends on its size. For added safety, some carriers have a protruding handle at the top through which you can feed the seat belt.

What’s the best hard-sided carrier to buy?

Top hard-sided carrier

Van Ness Calm Carrier E-Z Load Sliding Drawer

What you need to know: This cat carrier is the perfect solution if you struggle to get your cat inside.

What you’ll love: It looks like a regular cat carrier but has a special mechanism where the bottom slides out. This is perfect if your cat has trouble getting in or out and makes it easy for the vet to take a look. It has a metal door in the front that clips into the carrier's sides.

What you should consider: The door can’t open without sliding the drawer. 

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy

Top hard-sided carrier for the money

MidWest Spree Hard-Sided Cat Kennel

What you need to know: This sturdy carrier will keep your beloved pet safe with ample room to move around.

What you’ll love: Made of robust plastic, this carrier has a door on the front that's secured with four latches. It can open in two directions or be removed entirely.  

What you should consider: It will be a tight fit for larger cats, as it is best suited for cats weighing around 11 pounds. 

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy

Worth checking out

Catit Cabrio Multi-Functional Cat Kennel

What you need to know: Your cat will travel in style with this sleek carrier that opens multiple ways.

What you’ll love: The robust carrier has a see-through plastic door in the front with a kibble and water holder inside. It swings wide open for easy access, and the top lid is divided into two parts that disconnect to open the carrier completely.

What you should consider: Some reviewers said that the hinges on the top section aren’t as sturdy as expected.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals. 

Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: