If you’re on the hunt for a new cat carrier, you’ve probably noticed the endless array of options on the market. From basic models to upscale versions, deciding which carrier to buy can be an overwhelming process.
First thing’s first, When it comes to cat carriers, size definitely matters. Below, we’ll share our tried-and-true tips to find the perfect carrier for you and your four-legged family member.
Along with selecting the ideal size for your feline, we’ll cover:
- Carrier styles, including hard and soft options, single and multi-door versions, and top vs side loading varieties.
- Carrier capabilities, based on your specific needs.
We’ll also discuss why it’s important to choose the correct carrier size, recommendations for multi-cat households, and options for long road trips/flights.
For nervous kitties, we’ll share helpful hints on making your pet’s carrier comforting and cozy.
Finally, you’ll learn the best way to acquaint your cat with her new home away from home.
Ready to dig in? Great! Let’s great started…
Selecting the Best Carrier Size for Your Cat
As a general rule, your cat’s carrier should allow her to stand, sit, lay, and turn around with ease. Avoid oversized carriers, as the more space your cat has to roam, the higher the chance of her bouncing off the walls, which could result in injury.
Carriers that are too small will likely make your cat feel nervous, uncomfortable, and claustrophobic. If you’re unsure which size carrier to purchase, grab a tape measure! Below, we’ll share the simplest way to measure your pet:
Measuring Your Cat
To determine your cat’s length, measure the space from her nose to the tip of her tail. Add 4 to 5 inches to ensure your pet has just enough wiggle room.
To determine your feline’s height, simply measure the distance from the top of her head to the ground. Again, add 4 to 5 inches for your cat’s ease of movement and comfort.
In most cases, pet supply stores list weight limits along with the dimensions of each carrier. Be sure to make your purchase based on these considerations rather than selecting a carrier that’s labeled “small,” “medium,” or “large.”
Note: If you’re raising a kitten, or your adult cat gains or loses a considerable amount of weight, you may need to treat her to a new carrier.
Choosing the Best Cat Carrier Style
The style of carrier you choose should be based on a few important factors. Ask yourself the following questions before you start window shopping:
- First and foremost, do you need a heavy-duty option for a large or escape-prone cat?
- Do top-loading carriers appeal to you, or would you prefer a side-loading option?
Let’s break down the specifics of each carrier style to help you answer these questions:
Hard Vs Soft Cat Carriers
Before deciding between a hard and soft carrier, consider your needs and preferences. There are pros and cons with both types, which we’ll cover in depth below:
- Durability: These carriers are typically made from hard, sturdy plastic. In addition to providing shelter, they provide a safe space for your pet, even if something happens to fall on the carrier.
- Easy Clean-Up: You can simply spray or wipe it down. Cleaning hard carriers is a breeze.
- Odor-Resistant: Soft carrier can trap odors. This isn’t the case with the hard variety.
- Escape-Proof: Hard carriers offer more security than soft versions.
- Resistant to Destruction: Hard carriers are ideal for anxious or destructive cats, as they can’t be easily torn or destroyed.
- Lacks Comfort: You’ll have to add a blanket or pet bed to ensure your cat is cozy in a hard carrier. These crates aren’t known for their comfort factor.
- Handles May Break: Hard carriers tend to come with plastic handles that often break after a while, which could result in dropping your precious cargo.
- Bulk: These carriers take up a considerable amount of space, unlike many soft varieties that can be folded or broken down.
- Comfort: These carriers are typically comfortable as-is, so you won’t necessarily have to add a blanket or pet bed.
- Breathability: Your cat will breathe easy, as the mesh material allows for optimal air circulation.
- Ease of Entry: Soft carriers often have wider doors, making it easier to corral your kitty.
- Easy Storage: Most soft carriers can be folded, broken down, and tucked away in a closet.
- Less Protection: If something falls on a soft carrier, it offers little protection.
- Less Security: Some cats are able to unzip the doors of their soft carriers and escape, making this variety less secure than hard options.
- Difficult to Clean and Remove Odors: Many soft carriers can be machine washed, but stubborn stains and smells can be difficult to banish.
- Easier to rip and ruin: Soft carriers are best for mellow cats, as they can be easily ripped and ruined.
- Not suitable for nervous cats: The flexible base of these carriers means your cat will be less likely to feel safe when carried. The walls are also prone to collapsing in sideways when lifted, further stressing your cat!
Single Door Carriers Vs Multi-Door Varieties
A great way to determine whether you need a single-door carrier or a multi-door option is to consider your cat’s demeanor. A single door may be suitable for a laidback cat, but fidgety, anxious felines typically do better with multiple entry points.
Multiple entries are also helpful for veterinarians, as they can access the animal more easily and safely. This will also be better for your cat, as their vet visit will be less stressful if they can be accessed without pulling or tipping. In general, you should aim to get a carrier with at least two door options, preferably more.
Top-Loading Carriers Vs Side Loaders
Whether you choose a top-loading or side-loading carrier is a matter of personal preference. For carrier-resistant cats, top-loading options can make entry easier. For particularly anxious cats, we recommend a carrier with multiple entry points to ease your cat’s stress—and make your life easier.
Top-loading access is really useful at the vet’s office, as most cats won’t leave their carrier voluntarily. Even better, choose a carrier that can be easily taken apart around a very reluctant cat- this can allow the cat to stay in the base during their examination, reducing stress.
Are cat backpacks safe for cats?
As cat lovers and experts, we’re always on the lookout for pet products with standout features. For instance, some cat carriers double as a backpack, and others have wheels, making them ideal for travel.
You should know that vets have warned against cat backpacks. The clear plastic works like a greenhouse, heating up the inside of the carrier and causing heat stress for your cat. These carriers also don’t have enough ventilation, further compounding the problem.
Lastly, cats are prey animals and feel safer when they’re hidden- the cat backpacks can be really stressful for them.
Carrier Capabilities: What to Consider
When narrowing down your choices, decide which features are most important to you. If you’ll be carrying your cat long distances, you’ll want to opt for a carrier with soft, comfortable handles. If you’ll use it for travelling, you might want one with a water bowl and litter box.
If your carrier will only be used for local vet visits, you can opt for a basic model.
Cat Carrier Suggestions for Multi-Cat Households
It’s up for debate whether multiple cats should share a carrier. If the carrier has adequate space and you’ll be traveling a short distance, your felines should be fine. Many cat owners use a single carrier to take multiple kittens to the vet, but for full-size cats, we don’t recommend toting more than two in a carrier together.
Your cats’ temperaments should also be considered when it comes to doubling up. If your felines aren’t friendly, it’s best to keep them in separate carriers. If they’re besties, however, they may feel safer and more secure snuggled up in a carrier together. Deciding whether cats are friends can be difficult- if you haven’t seen them grooming one another, it’s probably best to give them a separate carrier.
Best Carriers for Long Road Trips and Flights
If you plan to take your cat on an extended road trip or flight, you’ll want to pick up a travel/airplane-friendly carrier. Because larger cat carriers aren’t typically allowed in airplane cabins, size is an important consideration.
Each airline has different rules regarding carrier sizes, so if you plan to fly, be sure to check your airline’s requirements before purchasing a carrier.
Special Considerations for Nervous Cats
Even laidback cats tend to shy away from being forced into compact spaces, especially if they know what’s coming next.
If your cat is particularly nervous, consider the following tips:
- Choose a durable carrier, but make it comfy: We recommend purchasing a hard carrier for your nervous cat to ensure she doesn’t chew or claw her way through less durable material. It’s important, however, to add a blanket or small cat bed for added comfort.
- Opt for a carrier with a metal grill: Some carriers come with plastic grills, which we don’t typically recommend—especially for travel. Metal is much more durable, and the locking mechanisms tend to be more secure.
- Pick a carrier that’s easy to clean: Accidents happen, especially when you have an anxious feline. We recommend avoiding carriers that are difficult to clean and those that hold in odors.
- Pick a carrier with multiple access options: Nothing will add to your feline’s fear more than being dragged or tipped out of a carrier at the vets. Find a carrier with access through the top, or that comes apart- ideally with a quiet mechanism.
Acquainting Your Cat with Her Carrier
One common mistake cat owners make is stowing their carriers away until it’s time to tote their pets. Keeping the carrier accessible will allow your cat to explore and become acquainted with its new mini home. The following set-up tips should help:
- Make the carrier homey: Add a blanket and some of your pet’s favorite toys to make it an extension of your home. Cats are scent-based creatures, so this will help them relax.
- Add catnip: Sprinkle or spray catnip inside the carrier to attract your feline. Be sure to refresh the catnip supply periodically.
- Use it for feeding time: Try offering your cat food inside her new carrier. Make it part of her territory and a place she loves.
- Treat your cat: Place a few treats in your cat’s carrier throughout the day to keep her coming back for more. You want her to see a carrier as a positive place.
- Consider pheromone spray: Using a pheromone spray can help your cat to associate the carrier with safety. Remember to spray it regularly, and at least 20 minutes before a trip so the alcohol excipient can dissipate.
By keeping it accessible at all times, your cat won’t just associate her carrier with the vet or scary road trips.
A Final Piece of Advice for Cat Parents
If at all possible, introduce your cat to her carrier long before your first outing. In fact, thinking of it like crate training a dog is a great way to ensure your cat will enjoy her carrier.
Some cats despise confined spaces, but many can learn to view their carriers as safe, snuggly places to relax.
As British author James Herriot once said, “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.” As their owners, we have the opportunity to make their lives as comfy and cozy as possible.