The Best Cat Carrier for Taking Your Pet on the Go

The right cat carrier makes it easier to get your kitty across town to the vet or across the country for vacation.

By Carol Benton | Updated Feb 17, 2021 5:48 PM

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Best Cat Carrier Options


Whether you’re taking your cat on a cross-country flight for a vacation or a car trip across town to the vet for flea treatment, a cat carrier can make the journey less stressful for both of you. The best cat carriers keep your pet comfortable, calm, and safe while being easy for you to use. Like scratching posts and litter boxes, they’re a key piece of cat gear.

Cat carriers come in a range of styles and sizes, so it’s important to know what features are available so you can choose the best cat carrier for your needs. Read on to learn the top picks for some of the best cat carriers in a range of categories.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Necoichi Portable Ultra Light Cat Carrier
  3. BEST ROLLING: The Original Expandable Pet Carrier
  4. BEST STYLISH: PetsHome Dog Carrier Purse, Pet Carrier, Cat Carrier
  5. BEST BACKPACK: PetAmi Pet Carrier Backpack for Small Cats, Dogs
  6. BEST HARD SHELL: Pet Magasin Hard Cover Collapsible Cat Carrier
  7. BEST EXPANDABLE: Mr. Peanut’s Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier
  8. BEST WITH LITTER BOX: Pet Fit For Life Large Collapsible Cat Cage/Condo
  9. BEST WITH TOP OPENING: Henkelion Cat Carriers, Airline Approved
  10. BEST FOR TWO CATS: PawHut 39” Soft-Sided Portable Dual Pet Carrier
Best Cat Carrier Options


What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cat Carrier

Here’s what to keep in mind when shopping for a cat carrier.


There are two basic types of cat carriers on the market:

  • Hard-sided cat carriers are usually made from strong plastic and are sturdy enough to withstand some dings while keeping your cat safe. They’re easy to clean and durable, but they’re heavier than soft-sided carriers and take up more storage space when not in use.
  • Soft-sided cat carriers are made from fabric padded with foam. Some have a wire frame to hold their shape. They’re lightweight and can be folded when not in use, so they don’t need much storage space. However, they’re harder to clean, and some cats may claw and shred them.


Whatever type of cat carrier you choose, it should be constructed of material that’s durable, washable, and lightweight. Soft-sided carriers are generally made of nylon or polyester fabric with fabric mesh on the window and door openings. Hard-sided carriers have outer shells made from heavy-duty plastic with metal mesh on the doors and windows. The best cat carriers have a rigid floor made of wood or hard plastic for stability. Many carriers have a padded floor covering that is removable and machine washable.

Size and Shape

A carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around inside the carrier, but it shouldn’t be so large that the cat doesn’t feel secure. If you can measure your cat from the top of her ears to the bottom of her paws while she’s standing and from nose to tail, it will be easier to choose the right size carrier. Some cat carriers have built-in expandable sections that can double or triple the size of a carrier, ideal for giving your kitty a chance to stretch out on long trips.

If taking a cat on a plane, note that airlines require carriers to fit under the seat in front of the passenger. These dimensions vary from airline to airline.

Single vs. Multiple Doors 

Some cat carriers have one door on the front, but it’s easier to put a cat into a carrier with multiple doors. Carriers with a door on top are best, because it’s easier to lower your cat into the carrier than to coax or push him through a door on the side. The best cat carriers have multiple doors so you have several ways to load your cat into them.

Comfort and Breathability

A cat carrier must have proper ventilation so your cat doesn’t overheat. Hard-sided cat carriers generally have ventilation holes in them, while soft-sided carriers have mesh sides or panels to allow adequate airflow. Look for carriers with plenty of openings that allow airflow.

The sides and top of a cat carrier should not collapse on the pet during travel, so look for carriers with metal frames, hard plastic outer shells, or rigid flooring that prevents sagging. Carriers that hold their shape provide greater security and comfort for cats.


Choose a cat carrier that’s easy to carry. Look for features like lightweight materials, looping handles, and padded shoulder straps. If you’re not able to lift a carrier, look for a rolling carrier with wheels. Your comfort while toting the carrier is as important as your cat’s comfort while riding in it.

Additional Features 

Many carriers include tethers and doors with locking zippers or latches so cats cannot escape. Some carriers offer belt systems that can interface with a car’s seat belts so you can secure the carrier when traveling by car. Carriers with external pockets will keep your cat’s supplies close at hand. Be sure your carrier has an ID tag in case you get separated from your kitty.

Our Top Picks

With the above shopping considerations in mind, here are some of the top picks for cat carriers in a range of categories.

Best Overall

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier

While most carriers have mesh windows, Sherpa’s carrier has three sides made entirely of mesh. The pet can see out and enjoy cooling ventilation, making him calmer and more comfortable while traveling. There’s a removable plush liner to keep the pet comfy, too. Humans will appreciate the locking zippers, top and side entry options, large zippered pocket, padded carry handles, and padded shoulder strap. It comes in four colors and three sizes: the small will accommodate cats up to 8 pounds, the medium fits cats up to 16 pounds, and the large works well for cats up to 22 pounds. It’s also approved for use on most airlines.

Best Bang For the Buck

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Necoichi Portable Ultra Light Cat Carrier

Necoichi’s cat carrier is a good pick for those who are budget-minded. It has a front entry door, tote handle, mesh ventilation windows, and locking zippers. It’s made of sturdy fabric on a flexible wire frame and can accommodate a cat weighing up to 17 pounds. There’s a slot for an ID card, too. When not in use, this carrier collapses and folds down to an 8-inch-diameter circle that’s small enough to tuck into a purse or suitcase, under the car seat, or in a cabinet or drawer. Release its elastic security band and the carrier springs into shape. It won’t fit under an airline seat, so it’s not suitable for air travel.

Best Rolling

The Best Cat Carrier Options: The Original Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier

Thanks to this cat carrier’s detachable wheeled platform, a cat can be rolled or carried to his/her destination. The soft-sided carrier has two doors, one on top and one on the front, and plenty of ventilation. Both sides fold out to double the size of the carrier and give the cat room to stretch out. It’s sized to fit under an airline cabin seat, so it’s suitable for air travel. It also comes with a removable plush pad to keep the cat comfy, a padded shoulder strap to ensure user comfort, and spacious storage compartments. The wheeled cart comes with a retractable handle similar to the ones on rolling suitcases, and the carriers’ wheels rotate 360 degrees for maximum maneuverability.

Best Stylish

The Best Cat Carrier Options: PetsHome Dog Carrier Purse

Take a cat along in style with the PetsHome Pet Carrier. It’s got fashion to go with function and looks like a nice piece of luggage instead of a pet carrier. Its top unzips and rolls back to make it easy to load the pet into the carrier and provide plenty of ventilation. It has a safety tether and two plush removable pads and includes a back pocket to store small items. The carrier’s handle and body are made of artificial leather, and the carrier is studded with gold-tone hardware. It comes in 14 colors and two sizes: small accommodates cats up to 13 pounds, and medium will work for cats up to 17.5 pounds.

Best Backpack

The Best Cat Carrier Options: PetAmi Pet Carrier Backpack for Small Cats

PetAmi’s Pet Carrier Backpack has four doors, so it’s easy to load a pet into the carrier and take him on a hike or to the vet. It’s made of high-grade 600D polyester and has a zip-up mesh window for airflow, a safety tether, and a thick, washable pet bed. To keep users comfortable, it has thickly padded shoulder straps and waist and chest straps to give extra support. A front pocket and side pouches store pet treats and other gear, and it even comes with a collapsible pet bowl. It can accommodate a pet that weighs up to 18 pounds and is available in seven colors.

Best Hard Shell

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Pet Magasin Hard Cover Collapsible Cat Carrier

Pet Megasin’s lightweight cat carrier combines the best features of hard- and soft-sided carriers. The hard top and base protect the cat from accidental bumps and knocks, but its soft sides fold down so it’s easy to store when not in use. The mesh ventilation openings on all sides provide plenty of air circulation and allow the cat to see out. It has a removable padded mat, carrying handle, and sturdy zippers locks so the cat cannot escape. As it’s too big to fit under an airplane seat, this is a good option for car trips.

Best Expandable

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Mr. Peanut's Expandable Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier

This carrier is sized to fit under an airline seat, so it’s good for plane travel. It also has seat belt attachments to secure it in a car. It has a zip-out atrium that increases the size of the carrier by 50 percent so the kitty can stretch out and relax on long car trips or airport layovers. The carrier has two doors, a removable fleece pet bed, mesh ventilation panels, and a privacy cover. There’s a padded shoulder strap to make it easier to tote through a bustling airport, carry handle, and zippered mesh storage for treats. The carrier has a detachable name tag, safety tether, and it can accommodate a cat weighing up to 15 pounds.

Best With Litter Box

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Pet Fit For Life Extra Large

Pet Fit For Life’s cat carrier/condo is a good choice for car trips with a cat when a litter box is needed. It’s large enough for two cats and made of durable nylon fabric on a flexible steel frame. This carrier has a pair of carrying handles and comes with a washable floor pad, collapsible feeding bowl, and a collapsible litter box. Mesh doors and windows provide ventilation and allow cats to view their surroundings. When not in use, the carrier collapses for storage. This cat carrier does not meet regulations for air travel.

Best With Top Opening

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Henkelion Cat Carriers Dog Carrier Pet Carrier

It can be tough to load a cat into a carrier, but Henkelion makes it a little easier with this carrier that opens from both ends, one side, and the top. Anti-scratch mesh on three sides gives ample ventilation and allows the cat to see out. It has a safety tether and comes with a fleece pad for comfort and a wooden board in the bottom for stability. Humans will like the padded shoulder strap, carry handles, and side pocket for storage. The carrier comes in five colors and two sizes: the medium for cats weighing up to 15 pounds and the large for cats up to 25 pounds.

Best For Two Cats

The Best Cat Carrier Options: Pawhut 39 Soft-Sided Portable Dual Compartment Pet Carrier

Take two cats along for the ride in this pet carrying system with twin carriers that can be zipped together or separated for use as two separate carriers. They’re made of oxford cloth and polyester netting stretched over a steel frame, and they can be folded up and stored when not in use. Each carrier has two zippered doors for easy loading and unloading of pets, two mesh windows for ventilation, and a fleece floor pad and hammock for napping. The carriers have a strap that can be used with a car’s seat belts to hold it in place while traveling. Because it’s more than 3 feet long when zipped together, this carrier is not suitable for airplane travel, but it’s good for car trips.

FAQs About Cat Carriers 

If you still have questions about which cat carrier is the best one for you, here’s some more information to help you decide.

Q. Do cats prefer hard or soft carriers?

That depends on the cat. Anxious cats may feel safer and more secure in a hard-sided carrier that blocks their view of their surroundings as they travel. Calmer kitties may prefer soft-sided carriers with expandable compartments that give a cat more room to stretch out and relax on long trips.

Q. What should I put in my cat carrier?

To keep your cat calm and comfortable, include a soft floor pad, a favorite toy, or a piece of clothing with the scent of the cat’s favorite human.

Q. How do you get an aggressive cat into a carrier?

A few days before you’re going to travel, set the carrier in a familiar spot and let the cat get used to going in and out of it. The day of your trip, place a few treats inside and around the carrier to lure your cat to it. Then pick him up and lower him (rear first) into the carrier.

Q. Can you calm a cat in a carrier?

Some carriers have small openings that let you reach in and pet your cat while you’re traveling. Feeling your touch can soothe an anxious kitty. Covering a carrier with a towel can make an anxious cat feel more secure, as can putting your cat’s favorite toy or a comfortable mat in the carrier.

Q. How long can a cat stay in a carrier?

A cat can stay in a carrier for up to six hours. He’ll be most comfortable if you are able to let him out for water and bathroom breaks every few hours, though.