Best Cat Carriers – Which One For Your Cat?

What is the Best Cat Carrier For Car Travel?

Taking a cat in the car isn’t always as easy as with a dog. A lot of cats (although not all) stress out during car trips and you can generally easily tell if this is the case just by your cat’s behavior.

Excessive meowing and calling (often in a tone that you don’t normally hear at home), pushing the nose up against the edge or front grill of the cage, urinating, and/or just slinking to the back of the carrier looking for all the world like he wants the world to swallow him up.

Yes, car travel can bring about much anxiety for cats who aren’t used to it or those who just don’t enjoy it no matter how often it happens.

A good car carrier can make a big difference in your cat’s feeling of comfort and security. Any of the above airline approved carriers are obviously suited for car travelling as well, but you’ll also have a bunch of other choices as well.

Whichever carrier you use, securing it in the car properly with a seat belt is absolutely paramount. The carrier or cage should not wobble about, and should certainly not be at risk of dislodging from the seat in the event of sudden braking.

The best cat and pet travel carriers are made with features that allow easy and adequate securing in the car; and these are ones that I rate the highest and best! Safety first, and you can’t go wrong.

There are two main types to consider: hard plastic cages, or a soft sided bag style carrier.

Both have benefits, and both have the potential to be superb or terrible (or somewhere in between) in terms of quality and durability.

A low quality, cheaply built pet car carrier will cause you more heartache than if you spend a little more, and take the time to find one that is well built and made of solid material.

Airline Approved Cat Carriers

Caldwells under seat cat carrier bag Petmate Sky Kennel airline approved cat travel cage Pet Peppy expandable airline approved carrier for cats Mr Peanuts soft sided airline approved carrier for cats
18″L x 10″W x 13″H 21″L x 16″W x 15″H 18″L x 11″W* x 11″H 18″L x 10.5″W x 11″H
Polyester 1680D Plastic   Nylon
Weight Weight Weight 2.7 lbs
Under Seat: Yes Under Seat: No Under Seat: Yes Under Seat: Yes
Find out more Find out more Find out more Find out more

*Expandable to an extra 10″ width on both sides

Probably the single most stressful form of travel for a cat, or any animal, is air travel. While more and more airlines are allowing small pets like cats to travel in cabin with you, others will put animals in the cargo hold with the luggage. Needless to say, this is a worrying time for both you and your cat. A good quality carrier, that is both airline approved AND provides maximum comfort and stress reduction during transit, will make all the difference in how your cat copes with the trip.

In the past, airline approved cat carriers were generally all hard sided usually made of tough plastic. These days, there are now also some very well made soft carriers that have gained approval for use on many airlines.

Note: Always check with your specific airline and their specific pet travel requirements.

Under Seat Airline Cat carriers

For airlines that allow your cat on-board into the cabin, you’ll want a cage or carrier that fits under the seat according to their requirements. TSA approved under-seat pet carriers need to be resistant to escape, puncture-resistant, have good air circulation and be of a size that meets specifications. With all of this in mind, I’ve found the best carriers (and some don’t even look like animal carriers, yet meet specifications) that fit the bill.

Caldwell’s Underseat Airline Cat Travel Carrier

Caldwells underseat cat carrier bag

This carry-on pet carrier just looks like any other bag you’d take on board with you – except your cat will be comfortably and safely inside it.

My concern with any air travel carrier for cats is that it’s highly secure and provides maximum comfort to reduce stress. Security and escape-proofness is taken care of with the meeting of TSA and airline standards – I have confidence that any carrier that meets these standards has passed all the necessary requirements. The Caldwell’s cat carrier ticks this box.

Comfort is another matter. A highly stressed cat is not going to be fun to travel with and you want to reduce anxiety as much as possible. What design features does the Caldwell’s bag have to help with this?

  • Fleece pads: 2 are included and they provide a perfectly sized soft support at the basic level – which you can supplement if you wish.
  • Structural support: Despite being a soft sided carrier, it is made not to collapse or bend down on to the cat, which would result in a cat having the feeling of being constricted. By maintaining its structure under the seat and when being carried, this bag reduces risk of unnecessary anxiety. If, in some cases, the carrier is too high to fit under the seat securely, the very top is able to gently bend down to lower the height, without affecting the cat and without risk of restricting the height of the bag to an uncomfortable level
  • Zip-up window for quick access to your cat without risking escape.
  • Mesh panels surrounding most of the carrier – this has the dual benefit of providing much needed airflow, as well as letting you have a constant view of your cat to monitor how she’s going.

You might have seen a previous version of this bag, but the entire design was upgraded and improved in 2016. Everything from the fabric material to the zippers and structural support system were improved and enhanced. I would recommend only buying the current version of the Caldwell’s under seat carrier because it is fitted with the most modern, up to date features required for safe, low-anxiety air travel.

The company worked on addressing issues that customers had raised, and that led to the total 2016 redesign (also keep in mind that any online reviews you find of this carrier prior to mid-2016 are referring to the old version and should be disregarded).

More than anything, it was the support system, resulting in a completely non-collapsible carrier, that Caldwell’s spent much of their time improving, and have done so exceptionally.

This carrier will fit most cats comfortably, but if you have a particularly large cat then please measure up to determine whether he will require something larger. The dimensions are:

Length: 18″
Width: 10″
Height: 13″

The bag supports a weight of 25lbs.

So the weight support is really not an issue for cats at all, but do run some quick measurements if your cat is bigger than average in size. Since this carrier is suited for small dogs, size is not going to be a problem for 99.9% of cats.

The carrier can also be easily secured in a car with a seat belt on your way to the airport, with a strap provided for this purpose as well as for use as a shoulder strap.

Cat Carriers For Two Cats

Necoichi two cat portable carrier PawHut Dual pet carrier for two cats
Necoichi Portable 2 Cat Cage Pawhut Dual Carrier
20″ x 20″ x 31.8″ 39″ x 19.5″ x 20.25″

Putting two adult cats into the one carrier where there’s no division or separation, is something to do with caution and only if you are absolutely certain the cats get along.

Under stressful circumstances, like travelling, even the most gentle and placid of cat friends can and will turn on each other in an enclosed environment if they feel trapped and anxious.

Dual cat carriers have their place for some people, and are certainly great for transporting kittens.

I want to focus on carriers that are made for multiple cats, but have a separation so each cat has their own space.

But I’ll also touch on some of the better large carriers which can be awesome for kittens or really calm, friendly adult cats who are known not to stress during travel (these are more ideal for short trips, not long ones).

In truth, there just aren’t many carriers that are suited for more than one adult cat. Kittens, yes, but being large and safe enough to have two adult cats in is another matter.

Cardboard Cat Carriers

If you’ve ever had the good fortune of adopting a cat from a shelter, then you might have brought your new friend home in a cardboard box carrier, if you didn’t take along your own travel cage.

Cardboard travel carrier for cats

True, cardboard carriers are not what you’d use for regular travel but they certainly have their uses and benefits. Consider this:

  • Cardboard carriers for cats are cheap and easy to keep on hand for an emergency situation
  • They’re disposable, so if you transport a sick cat or kittens you don’t have to worry about cleaning and sterilizing
  • Ideal for short one way trips; i.e. for rehoming a cat or dropping off kittens or cat at a vet

A cardboard box carrier clearly isn’t what you’re going to use for regular travel, but they have their uses and provide a cost-effecient, hygenic way of moving many cats from shelters, or taking a rescued cat home, to relocating stray cats, and other times when you need something you can pull out quickly and not have to worry about cleaning afterwards.

Collapsible Cat Carriers

The dual carriers above are both collapsible, soft sided carriers.

Being able to fold down a carrier is really convenient at times, the least of which is just storing it at home.

Especally if you hvae multiple cats – those big plastic carriers can take up a lot of storage space.

With that said, even most traditional plastic hard sided carriers can be dismantled for storage; but they don’t flat pack like the soft carriers.

They also don’t go back together as quickly as a soft carrier does, where you just need to unfold it rather than having to screw and attach different parts together.

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