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Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best cat carriers

Cats are nothing like dogs, and it goes without saying that they won’t happily jump in the back of your car when you whistle for them. Whether you’re moving house or taking a trip to the vet, you’ll need a cat carrier to keep your feline friend safe and secure when traveling.

But how do you select the right cat carrier? With such a wide range of options available, it’s not as simple as it sounds. That’s why we’ve written this detailed guide to cat carriers to provide you with all the information you need to make the best purchasing decision.

Read on and your kitty will soon be traveling in comfort and style.

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Cardboard cat carriers are okay for one-off use if you have no other options, but all cat parents should have a sturdier carrier on hand.

Key considerations

The first thing you’ll need to decide when buying a cat carrier is whether you want a hard or soft carrier.

Hard cat carriers

Hard cat carriers are usually made from strong plastic with coated wire or metal bars on the door. They should feature ventilation holes on at least two sides, plus the door.

Hard cat carriers are sturdy enough to withstand a few gentle knocks without hurting your cat. If your cat has a tendency to shred fabric, a hard carrier is the best option. It’s also extremely easy to clean a hard cat carrier.

However, hard cat carriers are heavier than their soft counterparts. If you’re short on storage space, hard carriers take up a lot of room when not in use.

Soft cat carriers

Soft cat carriers are made from fabric padded with foam. They may contain a wire frame to help them keep their shape.

Soft cat carriers are extremely lightweight, and you can fold them so they don’t take up much storage space. Your cat may be more comfortable in a soft carrier, too, particularly on long journeys.

That said, soft cat carriers are more difficult to wash. It’s also possible for determined cats to claw their way out of soft carriers.

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It’s unsafe to drive with a cat loose in the car – she could jump on the driver or dart under the pedals and cause an accident. Always use a cat carrier when traveling with your kitty.



Whether you choose a hard or soft cat carrier, the material should be strong enough to securely hold your four-legged friend. Hard carriers should be made from heavy-duty plastic that won’t crack or shatter on impact. Soft carriers should be made from a durable fabric, such as nylon. Rip-stop materials are ideal, especially if your cat likes to take his claws to soft furnishings.


It’s important to select a cat carrier that’s an appropriate size for your kitty. If she’s cramped, the carrier won’t be comfortable for her. Your cat should be able to stand up in her cat carrier without crouching and be able to turn around. If she can’t do so, the carrier is too small. If you can manage to measure your feline friend from the top of her ears to the bottom of her paws while standing, it will be easier to find the right size carrier. A cat carrier's width should be proportional to its height, so if it’s tall enough to accommodate your cat comfortably, it should be wide enough, too.

Door location

Cat carriers traditionally only have one door on the front. However, some modern cat carriers also include a door on the top of the carrier, so you have another option for loading your cat into the carrier. It’s generally easier to lower your cat in through the top of the carrier than it is to get him in through the front door. This is especially true if your cat is resistant to being placed inside his carrier.


Your chosen cat carrier must have proper ventilation. Without adequate airflow, your cat could overheat and become quite ill. Hard cat carriers generally have ventilation holes in them, whereas soft carriers are more likely to have a few mesh sides or large mesh panels for ventilation.


You can find basic hard cat carriers for as little as $15 to $25, but if you want an extremely durable model or one with additional features, such as a top-loading door, you can expect to pay $30 to $50.

Soft cat carriers start at $15 to $20. Models in this price range aren’t especially durable, however. Expect to pay $20 to $50 for a higher-end soft cat carrier that will stand up to regular use.


  • Make your cat carrier cozy. Your cat will be more comfortable in his carrier if you place some blankets or soft towels inside. They should be machine-washable in case of accidents.

  • Secure the cat carrier when traveling by car. If you’re traveling with your cats in the car, you’ll need to secure the carrier so it doesn’t fall or tip. Either place it on a passenger seat and secure it with a seatbelt, or wedge it tightly on the vehicle’s floor.

  • Choose a cat carrier that’s easy to carry. Pick one with a sturdy and comfortable handle or even a shoulder carrying strap.

  • Check the door closure. Cat carriers either have a latch or a zipper enclosure, depending on the type of carrier you choose. Whatever the closure type, it should be sturdy and not be able to spring open.
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Although your chosen cat carrier should be large enough for your cat, don’t go for the biggest option available. Traveling in a carrier is stressful for cats, so being in a tight space can make them feel more secure.


Q. I have two cats. Should they share a carrier or have one each?

A. If your cats are like two peas in a pod, it’s okay for them to share a single carrier as long as it’s large enough. However, it’s preferable for each cat to have his own carrier. Being confined to a cat carrier is stressful, so even two cats who are usually the best of friends can become irritable with one another.

Q. How do I find a cat carrier approved for airline use?

A. First, you need to know whether your cat will be flying in the cabin or the cargo hold. The majority of airlines allow pets to travel in the cabin if they’re small enough to fit in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. The requirements for cat carriers are different if your cat must travel in the cargo hold, however. Cats traveling in cargo need a hard carrier, whereas soft carriers are fine for cabin use. Each airline has its own requirements for cat carriers, so check with the airline you’ll be flying with before purchasing a cat carrier for air travel.

Q. My cat doesn’t like her carrier. How do I get her used to it?

A. Ultimately, it’s not always possible to teach a cat to love her carrier, but it is possible to teach her to tolerate it. You need to attempt to break negative associations your cat has with the cat carrier. Usually when your cat sees the carrier, she’ll soon be shoved inside and driven to the vet’s office – not a fun day.

You can desensitize your cat to the carrier by getting it out every day or two and leaving it on the floor or on a table with the door open. After a while, your cat might check it out and may even go inside. You can encourage her to explore the carrier by placing treats around and inside it. Once your cat is more accustomed to the carrier, try placing her inside, shutting the door, and letting her out again. Repeat this occasionally over the next few weeks, leaving her in a little longer each time. You can also try feeding her inside the carrier with the door open. When she knows the carrier doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to the vet, she’ll have less reason to fear it.

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