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How to Pick a Travel Carrier for Your Cat


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Published: 8/20/2021

A cat carrier is something that all cat parents must have on hand. Even if your feline friend spends most of their time indoors, you’ll still need one every now and then. Going to the vet, moving, or traveling anywhere are just some instances where using a cat carrier is necessary. Not only does it allow you to transport your little tiger safely, but it also makes traveling less stressful for both of you.

Why invest in a cat carrier

Some people use makeshift carriers such as cardboard boxes, laundry baskets, or pillowcases to move their cats. While this may seem like a good way to save money, DIY carriers are not safe for transporting felines, as they can easily escape or get injured.

Traveling with your cat loose in the car is a huge no-no as well. Your furry pal can climb onto your steering wheel, in front of your dashboard, or under your pedals. And if they become frightened, they might scratch, bite, or otherwise distract you from your driving. Your cat can also bolt from the car and get lost or hurt. 

In other words, transporting your cat without a proper carrier can be dangerous! 

Types of cat carriers

With different styles of carriers on the market, it can be hard to figure out which one to get. Here are the four main types of cat carriers that you’ll likely come across:

  • Cardboard carrier. Some adoption facilities give cardboard carriers to cat parents for bringing their new four-legged family member home. But since they’re too small for a cat to comfortably turn around and can be scratched or chewed through, they’re not recommended for long-term use. In addition, cardboard carriers have unsecured openings, making it easy for a cat to break out. They’re also difficult to clean and do not hold up well against rain, urine, or spilled water
  • Rolling carrier. Rolling carriers look like rolling luggage and are usually more spacious. They also have mesh windows, allowing your kitty to see their surroundings. This type of carrier is good for cat parents who experience pain when carrying objects. Rolling carriers are hard to clean if soiled though, and some cats don’t like the noisy and bumpy movement when being rolled across the ground. 
  • Soft-sided carrier. Lightweight and easy to move, soft-sided carriers are usually made with firm but flexible materials such as nylon or ballistic nylon. Though popular among furry travelers, these carriers are only recommended for cats who are able to stay calm while in transit, as it is possible for an agitated feline to tear up the mesh ventilation panels or push their way through the zipper. It’s also important to note that some soft-sided carriers have bottoms that will sag when a passenger is inside, which isn’t comfortable for cats.
  • Hard plastic carrier. Extremely sturdy and durable, hard plastic carriers offer the most protection to the occupant, especially if a heavy object falls onto it. They can be more difficult to fit under an airplane seat, but they are very easy to clean and can be fitted with food and water dishes for longer trips. Most hard plastic carriers have tops that can be removed, making it easier to place your cat inside or take them out.  

How to choose a cat carrier

Here are some other things to consider when purchasing a cat carrier, regardless of style:

  • Size. The carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not too big that they slide around inside during a bumpy ride or air turbulence. For longer trips, choose a carrier that can accommodate food and water bowls, and in some cases, a small litter box. 
  • Ventilation. Adequate ventilation is a must to prevent overheating or suffocation. Pick a carrier with holes on at least two sides, ideally three. 
  • Openings. Choose a carrier that not only opens from the front, but also from the top. That way, if your cat is reluctant to go in or out of the carrier, you can lower them in or lift them out from above, which is easier than trying to coax them through the front door. A top opening is useful during vet visits as well; in some cases, the vet can check your cat without having to remove them from the carrier.

Additional tips

  • If you have more than one cat, have a separate carrier for each of them. It’s not recommended to let multiple cats travel together in one big carrier, as even bonded felines can show aggression towards one another if they are stressed. 
  • Each airline has different guidelines on the types of carriers they accept, so be sure to check your airline’s rules if you and kitty are traveling by plane.
  • You can train your cat to go into their carrier—read this guide to learn how!

Whether you’re taking your cat to the vet or bringing them along for an out-of-town trip, a carrier offers the best way to transport them safely with less stress for you and your four-legged friend!

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