How to choose the best cat carrier for your cat

Cat carriers or crates - an informational guide which is the best cat carrier

Find out what type of carrier works best for your unique cat.

Choosing a carrier for your cat can feel a bit hit and miss. As all cat parents know, cats can be quite particular and a little picky about the items they like.

Add to this that there are so many cat carriers available these days. How do you even begin to choose what the best cat carrier is? You want to know what the best style to go for is, taking into account the unique temperament of your cat. You want comfort, durability, value for money and also good looks!

With all those gleaming 5* reviews, how do you whittle it down?

In this guide, we’ll show you exactly what to expect with each other different types of cat crates and carriers on the market today. With this knowledge you’ll be able to make an informed decision about that crate will work best for your kitty.

 I’ll take you through some points to bear in mind and even some specific examples of what cat carrier to buy! 

Ready? Let’s go!

explaining how to choose the best cat carrier for your unique cat
Help! I need a new cat carrier and I don’t know which one to buy!

Understanding the pros and cons

You’ll see that with this list below, often the exact same point is listed as both a pro and a con! For example, a small size might mean ‘cozy and comforting’ or ‘cramped and uncomfortable’! This is intentional because each cat is different and responds in his own way to adverse situations.

Some of the pros or cons will not be relevant to each cat owner. For example, we live in a small San Francisco apartment where space is at a premium. A cat crate that folds up very small when not being used is absolutely paramount. If you have a lot of storage space, that won’t be an issue at all.

Common types of cat carrier

Soft-sided cat carriers 

Pros

  • Made with robust but flexible materials
  • Usually have multiple openings
  • Folds flat, easy to store
  • Lightweight
  • Does not look like a typical cat carrier

Cons

  • Not as sturdy
  • Usually smaller – cat cannot stand up
  • May not be claw-proof
  • Harder to clean in case of messes
  • Some clever cats can open zippers!

Click to discover more awesome soft-sided carriers (all with 4* and above on Amazon)

Hard plastic cat carriers

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable (typically high-density polypropylene)
  • Roomier for the cat to turn and stretch
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Many have 2 openings
  • Protects cat if carrier is struck

Cons

  • Adds extra weight making it unwieldy to carry
  • Sound of door snaps can be loud
  • Takes up lot of storage space
  • Cat can slide around
  • Cat can back into corner if only one door

Click to discover more awesome hard plastic cat carriers (all with 4* and above on Amazon)

Cage-type cat crates

Pros

  • Expansive view & maximum space
  • Secure and sturdy depending on clasp
  • Includes divider panel for any configuration
  • Folds flat for storage
  • Can attach water bottle

Cons

  • May be too large for cat
  • Users report runaway pets and even a fatality
  • Has sharp corners and edges
  • Metal can get twisted easily
  • Cat can feel exposed

Click to discover more awesome wire cages (all with 4* and above on Amazon)

Expandable cat carriers (can be hard or soft)

Pros

  • Maximum space
  • Soft and comfy interior
  • Expandable mesh part allows cat to see out
  • Allows versatility for different environments
  • Great for air travel

Cons

  • Can be fiddly to expand
  • Mesh part can be scratched through
  • Lacking structure
  • Usable size may be smaller
  • May not be suitable for all airlines

Click to discover more awesome expandable cat crates all with 4* and above on Amazon)

Rolling cat carriers

Pros

  • Spacious size with multiple entries
  • Allow cat to see surroundings
  • No arm strain
  • Stores away flat
  • Extendable handle so even kids can use

Cons

  • Hard to clean if soiled
  • Cats can be frightened by noise and motion
  • Usually the most expensive option
  • May be too large to fit under airline seat
  • Users report shoddy construction

Click to discover more awesome rolling cat carriers all with 4* and above on Amazon)

Cardboard (disposable) cat carriers

Pros

  • Temporary transport solution
  • Secure enough for short trip home
  • Opaque so provides security for cat
  • Provided free by shelter
  • Disposable so doesn’t matter if soiled

Cons

  • Cat cannot turn around
  • Difficult to secure – cat may jump out
  • Cannot see outside
  • Some cats can chew or claw through it
  • Cat can slide around easily

Click to discover more awesome cardboard disposable cat carriers all with 4* and above on Amazon)

Ingenious ‘out of the crate’ solutions

We touched on hard crates in the list above, but this one merits a special mention! Pam, a writer on Wizzley, traveled cross-country with her two cats and swore by this dog crate from Amazon. What made that dog crate such an ideal choice for her? It collapses down completely flat for easy storage. Plus, it allowed ample room for her cats to stand up and move around. She found it sturdy enough to withstand cat clawing!

The magic of Pam’s plan was to install a wooden perch. There’s more info on that in her article, with pictures. Basically, it’s a great way of elevating the cat from the bottom level which transforms the cat’s viewpoint. He can now watch the world go by – instant cat TV. Seeing scenery out of the window can also help with motion sickness just as it does for humans.

This Sparefoot article about moving cross-country with cats suggests the same 36-inch dog crate with a different small modification. Sam Gooch, who has transported 30 cats in her time, suggests turning the divider horizontally to make a shelf. “It makes more space, and the cat can get up higher,” she says. It’s a mezzanine level for your cat. Ingenious! 

Figure out placement of crate and secure fastening 

Be sure to figure out how your carrier will fit and attach to the car. Some crates fit perfectly in a station wagon – you can even put two side-by-side. If that isn’t going to work for your kind of vehicle, you’ll need to attach the carrier securely to the back seat.

Some carriers have fastenings that connect to the seatbelt. Other cat owners place the carrier in the back foot-well where it is firmly wedged in. Smaller cars may not have enough room for that, especially if there is someone in the front passenger seat. It might take a little trial and error, but it’s worth considering before you buy.

The benefits of a multi-opening carrier

Multiple entry points are essential especially for a more skittish cat. This makes crate-training a breeze, because there are so many options and the cat doesn’t feel as boxed in. With the carrier I have, I can open both sides, the front and the top – so 4 entry/ exit points means much less scary! Plus more to see as each door is made of mesh.

When you take the cat to the vet, a top-entry carrier is a must. Why? If the cat freaks out, the vet can still perform at least some of the examination while the cat’s in the carrier.

What size cat carrier to buy?

A good, general rule of thumb is to choose a carrier that’s 1.5 X bigger than your cat, according to Wikihow. As that can be hard to calculate, I advise a size in which the cat can lie down and turn around in the carrier. Most standard-sized carriers designed for cats will be fine as cats hunker down anyway during travel.

If you do have a smaller carrier, do make sure to take regular kitty stops for your cat to stretch his legs. As most folks only use the carrier to drive a short distance to the vet’s office, a super spacious one usually isn’t necessary.

Cats love to feel comforted and secure, and they seek refuge in dark, cozy places where they feel out of harm’s way. We humans would find such an environment pretty claustrophobic! But that’s exactly what your cat needs to feel safe and secure.

What helps them to feel safe is having their back up against something, according to Animal Hospital of North Asheville. In new environments, you’ll see this tendency come out even more. And you can understand why – no one likes to be ambushed from behind! Cats are always one step ahead!

For more information about buying the correct-sized cat carrier, check out this article from catspatrol.com.

What kind of cat carrier should you buy?
Your cat doesn’t know it yet… but he’s about to become a crate champ : )

Introduce cat to crate in advance 

Introducing your cat to her crate (in advance of traveling) is called crate training. Though this term is most commonly associated with dogs, cats hugely benefit from crate-training too.

Looking for info about how to crate-train your cat? Check out my guide linked below:

READ MORE  How to crate-train your cat for travel: a step-by-step guide

Pack a covering for the carrier

Some cats love to be able to see out of the window and look into the distance. There’s a theory it may help with carsickness (I definitely have experienced this myself!). Other cats want to feel invisible during the car ride, and may be comforted by creating a dark and cozy space.

The first few times, you may not know which camp your cat falls into, but you’ll figure it out after he’s acclimated! A blanket or towel can be draped over the carrier, ensuring that the setup remains well-ventilated.

Use a calming spray or collar

There is a wide range of cat calming products available these days. You can try Feliway spray which mimics natural cat pheromones synthetically. Or for a more natural product, there’s Rescue Remedy for Pets or Relaxivet (Amazon link) which has a large range products from sprays to droppers to collars. Natural calming agents help to release that tension which can manifest as howling, compulsive scratching, nausea, spraying or defecation.

Particularly anxious cat? I have you covered.

READ MORE  Travel with a super anxious cat: 11 tips to relieve your cat's stress

Add a towel, worn clothing and fave toys

Smells of home will help calm your kitty! A t-shirt you’ve worn will remind him of you. A towel will stop your cat sliding around. Furthermore, it has the benefit of absorbing urine in the case of an accident. If the cat feels like he’s on solid footing, he’ll be less likely to have nausea or to vomit.

Favorite toys (including a kicker toy like this one) will provide a little stimulation and help keep stress at bay. If your cat’s anything like mine, he loves to cuddle up with a stuffed toy, much like little kids do, to fall asleep.

If it’s the first time in the crate, a little deposit is entirely possible! That happened with my cat, Friday, when we brought him home from the SPCA shelter. It was only a mile-long walk but we were greeted with quite a stench when we got home 20 minutes later. A, extra-smelly stress-poop awaited us!

In hindsight I would have used a different crate rather than the generic cardboard one, and I would’ve brought some old towels with us – but we weren’t actually planning on adopting a cat!

My personal favorite cat carrier

I have this carrier myself. It has soft sides and multiple mesh openings plus a removable, washable base layer. This one is suitable for medium cats of up to 16lbs, but there’s also one made for larger cats here.

As I mentioned, one of my absolutely favorite features about it is that it folds up SO slim. It has excellent build quality, which I can personally vouch for. So many Amazon pet products have been met with disappointment from discerning customers. Not this one! 5 stars on Amazon out of currently around 800 reviews! That’s pretty remarkable, and very well-deserved.

A cat being crate trained in a soft-sided cat carrier
Friday (my cat) getting used to his Petisfam soft-sided cat carrier! Follow him here

One of the other amazing features is that it has an amazing 4 openings! This made crate-training easy, because when all doors are open, it doesn’t feel as intimidating for my cat to go inside.

For longer trips, I may need to get something bigger, but for our current needs this one is perfect! This item made the list of Friday’s faves!

READ MORE  Shop Friday's favorite items!

To conclude

A good cat carrier allows ample room for the cat – not too much or too little. It should be easy to use and secure. A little careful shopping around before you buy will pay dividends. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy carrier, just make sure you purchase one with good reviews. Make sure you understand the features and functions of the carriers that make the shortlist.  

Get a carrier that both you and your cat really like – and that doesn’t cause unnecessary stress! The best cat carrier for you will be something that sparks joy, something that will bring you happiness when you are getting your cat used to the item. Cats are like sponges when it comes to absorbing the emotions around them, so you want to be in control and able to take charge.

READ MORE  Traveling by car with multiple cats? 8 things you probably overlooked

Unless you have an adventure cat on your hands, or move around quite a bit, chances are the only place you’ll regularly go with your feline companion is to the vet. So, you’ll want to make sure it’s easily accessible by veterinarian staff with a top opening.

I wish there were one carrier that works for all cats. This would be a much easier article to write! Every cat is a little different, and gets used to new situations at their own pace. Getting your cat to love and not fear her travel crate is a delicate dance as cats are so intelligent, and are quick to make associations! A little time investment is required for proper crate training for cats, but it’s well worth saving the cat stress for the rest of her life!.


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Finally, a cat carrier buying guide! You don't just want to know which cat carriers other cat-owners have liked. You also need to take into consideration the unique temperament of your cat when selecting the type of crate. With so many cat carriers on the market these days, we take you through the pros and cons of every type of crate.  From hard plastic carriers, to a soft, plush carrier, extendable cat carriers wire dog crates! We have you covered. #petblog #cats #catcare | catsandtravel.com
How to find the cat carrier that’s right for your cat | catsandtravel.com

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