As cat parents, we want to make our cat’s lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Travel is one of those unavoidable scenarios that can have the potential to cause stress for sensitive cats. One of the best ways to minimize this stress is to choose a cat carrier that’s well designed and allows your cat to stay as comfortable as possible during the journey.
If you need to take your cat on an airplane, then taking the time to choose an airline-approved carrier is essential. Equally, choosing a comfy carrier for occasional vet trips will also make your life easier when it comes to the annual trip for vaccinations.
But the sheer number of choices out there when it comes to cat carriers can start to feel overwhelming. That’s where we come in! We’ve trawled through all the available cat carriers and selected our top picks for the best cat carriers on the market to choose from. You can find our top 10 below, along with plenty of information about each one.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier||
|Best Value||Petmate Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag||
|Premium Choice||Cat-in-the-bag E-Z-Zip Cat Carrier Bag||
|Doc & Phoebe's Sleep & Go||
|K&H Pet Products Mod Capsule Cat Carrier||
The 10 Best Cat Carriers
1. Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier — Best Overall
Our top pick out of all the cat carriers we reviewed is the Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier. This soft carrier is approved for use with most major airlines, although of course, it’s always best to check this before you travel! The hold-all style of this carrier has a shoulder strap that makes it even easier to carry, while the sides are supported by a flexible wireframe, so they will never collapse onto your cat.
There’s plenty of ventilation on this carrier, making it perfect for summer trips. The zippers are self-locking, an important feature to prevent your cat from escaping! There’s also a rear pocket for storing your cat’s leash, treats, and whatever other accessories you need for your trip.
To conclude, we think this is the overall best cat carrier available this year.
- Locking zippers
- Seatbelt strap
- Airline approved
- Washable liner
- Some cats can rip the mesh
2. Petmate Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag — Best Value
The Petmate Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag takes the prize as the best cat carrier for the money. This large, soft-sided carrier is a great budget choice if you know you’re not going to need a cat carrier but don’t want to spend a large amount of money. The comfortable shoulder strap means this is an easy way to carry heavier cats. The two-door design includes one door on the end of the bag and another on the top. Some cats much prefer being put into a carrier from the top, so this feature could make your life easier!
You can choose from two different sizes, both airline approved. This cat carrier also features a pocket on one end, so you can easily store your cat’s belongings when traveling. There’s plenty of ventilation, with mesh sections on all sides, excluding the base.
- Available in two sizes
- Top and side doors
- Airline approved
- Good ventilation
- Some cats will rip the mesh
3. Cat-in-the-bag E-Z-Zip Cat Carrier Bag — Premium Choice
If you’re looking for a premium cat carrier, the Cat-in-the-bag E-Z-Zip Cat Carrier Bag is a little different but comes highly recommended! The innovative design involves a head opening for your cat and a zippable bag that encloses the rest of your cat’s body. You need to be careful to fasten the neck opening at the correct tightness that your cat can’t slip their head inside the bag, but otherwise, most cats adapt well to this carrier!
The carry handle can also be used to secure your cat to the seatbelt of your car. Plenty of cats who hate the feeling of being confined in a hard or soft-sided carrier like the feeling of freedom that this bag gives them when traveling. The only reason this didn’t make it onto our top two is that it can’t be used for airline travel, for obvious reasons!
- Many cats prefer this style of carrier
- Available in three sizes
- Easy zipper access
- Not suitable for airline travel
- Needs adjusting correctly
4. Doc & Phoebe’s Sleep & Go Cat Carrier
If your cat has travel anxiety, you’ll want to take a close look at this 3-in-1 cat carrier. The Sleep & Go from Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. works as an open-sided bed when you’re at home. When you’re ready to hit the road, you can zip on the cozy dome, complete with padded carrying straps and a zippered door. Plus, the plush cushion is washable and the vinyl liner makes cleanup simple.
This cat carrier does cost a bit more, so you’ll have to make room in your budget. It’s also not soft-sided, making it a little harder to store. But if you use it as your cat’s bed and carrier, it offers great value. And this carrier was specifically designed to make trips to the vet easier — something we can all get behind.
- 3-in-1 convertible design
- Washable cushion and vinyl liner
- Choice of cozy cave or open bed shape
- Padded carrying straps and zippered door
- A bit more expensive
- Less ventilation
5. K&H Pet Products Mod Capsule Cat Carrier
This unusual carrier can also double up as a cat bed or playhouse! The modular design consists of a rigid circular base and top plate, with sturdy sides that zip together. This carrier can also be used as a bed or playhouse once your cat is home, or it can easily be zipped apart and stored flat. The soft polyfil cushion can be removed and washed when necessary.
The small circular door is not that easy to get a wriggling cat through, and the zippers aren’t locking, which is a big downside, in our opinion. It does have a safety loop to attach a seatbelt to, but for hot weather, this carrier offers little ventilation. This carrier is also on the small side for large cats, who may find it uncomfortable for long journeys.
- Easy to store
- Doesn’t have locking zippers
- Not well ventilated
- Difficult to get a cat in
6. Pet Magasin Collapsible Cat Carrier Bag
This versatile cat carrier combines the benefits of both soft and hard-sided carriers! The hardtop and sides are combined with soft and well-ventilated sides that collapse down when not in use. The soft padded mat inside makes this comfortable for your cat to sit in, while the oval design means it’s also easy for them to turn around.
This is a bit difficult to assemble, and the zippers are small, which makes the task even harder! But if you like the idea of a hard-sided carrier combined with the easy storage of a soft carrier, this is a good choice.
- Easy to store
- Well ventilated
- Mesh can get ripped
- No seatbelt straps
- Difficult to assemble
7. Necoichi Ultra-Light Collapsible Cat Carrier
If you’re looking for a lightweight, collapsible, and small cat carrier on a budget, this is your best bet. This lightweight carrier has sloping sides that join together at the top, rather than a roof. This does reduce the headroom considerably, so a larger cat may have trouble getting comfortable in this carrier. It does mean that it folds flat for storage easily.
There’s no bedding cushion included, so you’ll have to add your own to keep your cat comfortable. There’s only a small mesh window on each side, which means this might not be suitable for use in hot weather. It’s also tricky to get your cat in through the slanted door unless they’re incredibly relaxed about getting into a carrier!
- Folds flat for easy storage
- Too small for large cats
- Mesh can rip
- Slanted sides
- No bedding cushion
8. EliteField Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Cat Carrier
This hold-all-style cat carrier is a great choice as an airline-approved carrier. The lightweight material is combined with mesh sections that allow your cat to see out and get ventilation. While the manufacturers do state that this carrier is airline approved, we recommend confirming this with individual airlines before traveling, as some owners of this carrier have reported that the larger size is not always accepted by all airlines.
While this carrier does come in two different sizes, the large size is still a bit too small for big cats! This carrier does have a removable soft bed, which is easy to take out and clean after use. There are also a seat belt loop and strap, so you can secure this to a seat in the car or plane. The two pockets have plenty of room to store your cat’s accessories and treats.
- Choose from six colors
- Good value for money
- Mesh can get ripped
- Not the best quality
- Too small for large cats
- Sides can collapse
9. Pet Gear VIEW 360 Cat Carrier
The Pet Gear VIEW 360 Cat Carrier is a good choice if your cat likes to see the world go by from all directions. The mesh ventilation gives a 360-degree view and is great for hotter weather when your cat needs ventilation. The curved lid means your cat has plenty of headroom if they prefer to travel standing up. This can be converted into a car seat, but it’s not airline approved due to the height of the lid.
The zipless design is a nice touch, as it means you can simply push the button on either end of the carrier’s steel frame to release the folding fabric lid. There’s also an interior leash attachment point, so you can clip this onto our cat’s leash if you need to open the lid while traveling but still want to keep your kitty secure. The fleece pad is removable and washable, meaning it’s easy to keep clean.
- Padded handle
- Can be used as a car seat
- Awkward to carry
- Not airline approved
- Some cats will rip the mesh side
10. JesPet Cat Carrier
In our final spot, we have the JesPet Cat Carrier. If your cat is small and you’d prefer to carry them in a rucksack-style carrier rather than a traditional hand-held version, then this is a good choice. The well-padded shoulder straps mean this is comfortable to carry, while the soft fleece bed and rigid base mean it’s comfy for your cat too!
You have the option of two openings, one on the front of the backpack and one on the top. You might find this carrier too small for larger cats, though, as they won’t have much room to sit down or turn around. Unless your cat is still young, this carrier is also too small for them to lie down comfortably.
- Comfortable to carry
- Not suitable for large cats
- No straps to secure to a seatbelt
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Cat Carriers
If you’re a cat parent, you need a cat carrier! Even if you don’t travel with your cat all that often, using a cat carrier makes trips to the veterinarian much more comfortable and safe for you and your cat. If your cat comes with you on road trips or an airplane, a cat carrier is essential. There are quite a few different features to consider when it comes to choosing the best carrier.
What’s the difference between soft and hard cat carriers?
Soft cat carriers look similar to a hold-all shoulder bag but usually have rigid floors made from plastic or chipboard, so your cat has a secure surface to stand on. They’re an excellent choice if you don’t use your carrier all that often, as they can be collapsed and stored flat when not in use. Soft carriers are often approved for airline use, but we always recommend checking the dimensions accepted by individual airlines before making your purchase. Soft cat carriers have mesh sections to allow for ventilation and often have a loop inside to secure your cat’s harness to.
Hard cat carriers are made from plastic and have door openings on the top, side, or both. They’re more secure than soft cat carriers, so if your cat tends to scratch and claw at their carrier, this is the safest option. They are bulkier to carry and aren’t always accepted for use in the cabin of an aircraft. They take up more room when stored in the house but can be a useful place to keep your cat’s first-aid kit, so everyone knows exactly where it is!
Which is better — a hard or soft carrier?
The answer depends on which you and your cat prefer, as well as what kind of travel you do.
If you fly with your cat frequently, then investing in a high-quality soft carrier is probably your best bet, as you know that you’ll get a great deal of use from it. Soft carriers are easy to carry and can be folded up and stored flat when not in use. Some cats manage to claw their out through the mesh of a soft carrier, especially on a long journey.
Hard carriers are safest, and many cats prefer the feeling of security that they get from the hard, enclosed sides. But they’re cumbersome to carry, especially if your cat is heavy! Hard cat carriers take up more room to store, but if you use it frequently and your cat prefers it, then that’s a small price to pay.
If you’re not sure which one your cat would prefer, it’s a great idea to try one of each before you buy. Ask around, and see if you can borrow each type of carrier from friends or family. If your budget allows it, we recommend eventually investing in one of each. It’s great to have the flexibility of choosing between both types, especially if you have multiple cats and need carriers for both travel and veterinary trips.
Features to look out for when selecting the best car carrier
- Ventilation: Cats can overheat when traveling, especially in hotter climates. So, make sure to choose a carrier with ventilation. Hard cat carriers will usually have slots in the sides and sometimes the roof. Soft carriers will have mesh panels.
- Number and placement of doors: Hard carriers most often have one door on the side, but some also have a top opening. Soft carriers usually have at least two entry points. If your cat doesn’t like being placed in their carrier, a top opening can be much, much easier to negotiate than a side door!
- Airline approved: Most hard carriers are simply too big to be approved for airline travel in the cabin, but many soft carriers do state that they are approved for cabin use by airlines. Even if a carrier manufacturer states that their product is airline approved, we recommend double-checking this with the airline that you tend to use the most. Sometimes the dimensions that individual airlines use can vary, and there’s nothing worse than the stress of your carrier being turned down as oversized just as you’re trying to board the plane.
- Self-locking zips: If you’re using a soft carrier, make sure the zips are self-locking. Some users have reported that cheaper carriers haven’t used self-locking zips. The result is that an industrious cat can manage to slide the zip open from the inside.
- Internal leash loop: Some soft carriers have a small fabric loop inside that you can clip your cat’s leash onto. While this isn’t recommended for long trips when you can’t directly supervise your cat, it is a useful thing to have if your cat is an escape artist. Keeping your cat’s harness on and then attaching their leash to the loop means you can open the carrier door without worrying about your cat making a run for it.
- Seatbelt loops: If you plan on traveling in the car with your cat carrier, look out for seatbelt loops on the outside. This means you can secure the carrier to the seat of your car. This is usually only a feature of soft cat carriers, but you can use the handle on hard carriers to secure a seatbelt as well.
- Carry straps: Soft cat carriers usually have carry handles and a shoulder strap. The shoulder strap makes it easier to carry your cat. Some carriers even have backpack straps!
Measuring a cat carrier
You might think that you’ve found the perfect cat carrier, but if the dimensions are too small for your cat, then they won’t enjoy traveling in it at all. You want your cat to be able to lie down, stand up, and turn around in comfort. Most carriers come in a couple of sizes, and the manufacturer will usually mention the size of a cat that each is designed to fit. Here’s how to measure your cat:
- Height — Measure from the floor to the top of your cat’s shoulders.
- Length — Measure from the center of your cat’s chest to the bottom of their tail.
Soft cat carriers often have a weight limit as well, so either weigh your cat at home or make a note to ask your veterinarian to do so at your cat’s next regular check-up.
If your cat is a large breed, then it’s even more important to make sure the carrier is going to be big enough to accommodate them comfortably. You can head over to our review of the best cat carriers for large cats here.
As our overall best cat carrier, we selected the Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier. If you need to take your cat in the car, for their regular veterinarian trips, for even on an airplane, this is definitely our favorite carrier!
The best value for money carrier is the Petmate Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag. This is a great choice as well, offering brilliant value if you need a carrier but don’t want to spend big bucks.
We hope that we’ve made the decision of which cat carrier is going to be best for your furry friend a little easier. There’s so many to choose from, but by selecting one of the carriers on our list, you know you’re choosing the best of the best!
Featured Image: Sherpa Original Deluxe Cat Carrier, Chewy
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
- The 10 Best Cat Carriers
- 1. Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier — Best Overall
- 2. Petmate Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag — Best Value
- 3. Cat-in-the-bag E-Z-Zip Cat Carrier Bag — Premium Choice
- 4. Doc & Phoebe’s Sleep & Go Cat Carrier
- 5. K&H Pet Products Mod Capsule Cat Carrier
- 6. Pet Magasin Collapsible Cat Carrier Bag
- 7. Necoichi Ultra-Light Collapsible Cat Carrier
- 8. EliteField Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Cat Carrier
- 9. Pet Gear VIEW 360 Cat Carrier
- 10. JesPet Cat Carrier
- Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Cat Carriers