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Whether you and your cat are traveling by plane, train, car, or foot, a good cat carrier is a must. The best cat carriers keep your kitty safe and secure without compromising their comfort or yours.
Cat carriers come in many styles, from soft-sided shoulder bags and backpacks to hard plastic kennels. Finding the right carrier for your cat depends on different factors, like how you plan on using it.
For advice on what makes a great cat carrier overall, we speak to Dr. Grant Little, DVM and pet expert on JustAnswer. With his insight, we’ve rounded up the best cat carriers on the market so you can find the perfect one for your kitty.
- Best Soft-Sided Cat Carrier: Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier
- Best Hard-Sided Cat Carrier: Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel
- Best Car Carrier: Pet Gear View 360 Pet Carrier & Car Seat
- Luxury Pick: Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed
- Best Airline Cat Carrier: EliteField Expandable Cat Carrier
- Best Large Cat Carrier: PetAmi Premium Soft Cat Carrier
- Budget Pick: Frisco Basic Cat Carrier
- Best Cat Backpack: The Fat Cat Backpack
- Best Cat Stroller: Ibiyaya Cat Carrier and Stroller
Best Soft-Sided Cat Carrier: Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier
According to Dr. Little, safety and functionality are the two features to weigh most carefully when choosing cat carriers. While hard-sided carriers are easy to use, they frequently lack systems to restrain your cat. Soft-sided carriers, on the other hand, often incorporate tethers to clip your cat’s harness. Many can also be strapped in via a seatbelt to ride securely in the car.
The Sherpa Original Deluxe is a soft-sided carrier that’s convenient, comfortable, and versatile. If flying, the flexible wire frame compresses to fit under a standard airline seat. For car travel, a seatbelt strap holds the carrier in place. Locking zippers keep your cat safe during transport, while mesh panels improve visibility and ventilation.
Dr. Little notes that soft-sided carriers like the Sherpa Deluxe are easier to store than hard-sided models because they fold down. You can also remove the faux lambskin liner to wash it between uses.
- A patented spring wire frame conforms to under-seat dimensions
- Mesh windows for visibility and ventilation
- A padded carrying strap is adjustable
- Faux lambskin liner is removable and washable
Best Hard-Sided Cat Carrier: Petmate Two-Door Top Load Kennel
Dr. Little points out that a good cat carrier can make the difference between a stressed or relaxed cat when moving between locations. That’s why easily getting your cat in and out of the carrier is a key factor to consider. Hard-sided carriers like the Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel offer two options for entry and exit. These double doors also make the carrier easier to clean—just reach in with a wet wipe or hose it down.
This Petmate hard-sided carrier comes in three sizes and several colors. It features a rigid plastic construction with metal doors and a sturdy carry handle. The ventilated sides help keep your cat from overheating, and the holes give them a 360-degree view—ideal for anxious cats who benefit from seeing what’s happening outside.
Since rigid carriers perform poorly in crash tests, Dr. Little suggests carriers with more cloth and padding on the inside to add soft protection. You’ll also want to secure the carrier in the car with a seatbelt strap or place it on the floor behind the seat.
- Rigid plastic construction keeps its shape
- Two metal doors for flexible entry and exit
- 360-degree view with plenty of ventilation
- Lightweight and easy to clean
Best Car Carrier: Pet Gear View 360 Pet Carrier & Car Seat
It’s equally important to secure your cat in the carrier as it is to secure the carrier itself, especially for extended periods of car travel. Dr. Little says carriers that clip into a seatbelt tend to be the safest in the event of a car accident. The Pet Gear View 360 travel system takes car safety one step further with a metal booster seat frame that buckles into your car’s seatbelt and locks it into place.
The carrier offers 360-degree visibility and ventilation and has a removable, washable fleece pad. It’s a little awkward to carry but will keep your cat comfortable during long hours on the road. This car carrier is roomy, and the rounded top gives your cat plenty of vertical space to sit upright.
- Generously sized with plenty of head space
- Sturdy design with a metal frame
- Offers 360-degree visibility and ventilation
Luxury Pick: Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed
While safety should be a top priority, there’s room for fashion in the world of cat carriers. The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed features premium materials and a stylish, modern design. It comes in a pod-like shape with a sturdy round base and a convex mesh top for breathability.
This carrier is ideal for frequent travelers and has a top that zips off, turning the base into a cozy cat bed. With durable luggage-grade nylon and a plush polyester interior, this model comes in various colors and sizes to accommodate cats up to 15 pounds.
- Stylish design made from premium materials
- Top zips off to create a travel bed
- Durable luggage-grade nylon exterior
- Accommodates cats up to 15 pounds
Best Airline Cat Carrier: EliteField Expandable Cat Carrier
When traveling by plane, it’s best to keep your cat in the cabin with you. Look for a soft-sided carrier with a flexible frame that collapses enough to fit under the seat in front of you. (If in-cabin travel is not possible, Dr. Little recommends a hard carrier to protect your cat during transport.)
This expandable carrier from EliteField offers numerous features that work well for air travel. Its flexible polyester frame is lightweight and durable, with mesh panels on the ends that provide ventilation and optional privacy flaps. Both sides fold out into enclosed compartments, giving your cat space to stretch out safely during long layovers. The adjustable shoulder strap also makes it comfortable to carry.
Available in three colors and two sizes, this carrier accommodates cats up to 20 pounds.
- Lightweight but durable construction
- Collapsible to fit under plane seats
- Sides fold out into enclosed compartments
- Adjustable padded shoulder strap
Best Large Cat Carrier: PetAmi Premium Soft Cat Carrier
A cat travel carrier should be proportional to your cat’s size. Dr. Little recommends a carrier large enough so your cat can turn around if needed. You’ll still need to be able to carry it, though, so keeping the size manageable is ideal.
This PetAmi soft-sided airline cat carrier features a tapered shape, providing more headspace than the typical rectangular cat carrier. Made from high-grade polyester, it has two zippered openings on either end to easily access your cat.
Mesh panels on all four sides and the top of this carrier give your cat full visibility and provide ventilation to keep them from overheating. Though this carrier has a shoulder strap, it also features two sturdy handles for carrying heavier cats. Available in a wide range of colors, the PetAmi comes in two sizes for cats up to 18 pounds.
- The tapered shape offers additional headspace
- Accommodates cats up to 18 pounds
- Two sturdy handles for carrying heavy cats
- Made from durable high-grade polyester
Budget Pick: Frisco Basic Cat Carrier
Dr. Little points out that many pet parents only use a carrier when they take their cats to the vet. If this is you, and you only need a carrier for annual checkups, a budget-friendly option like the Frisco Basic might be all you need.
Similar to the PetAmi, this carrier features a tapered shape that offers ample headspace for your cat. It comes in two sizes and three colors to accommodate cats up to 22 pounds. Keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t come with a solid base and may sag under the weight of heavier cats.
This carrier includes a machine-washable Sherpa pad and auto-locking zippers for security. It only opens completely on one side but offers ventilation all around.
- Tapered shape for additional headspace
- Available in two sizes and three colors
- Auto-locking zippers for security
- Only opens fully on one end
Best Cat Backpack: The Fat Cat Backpack (Verified Review)
Traditional cat carriers are great for travel, but a cat backpack might be a better choice if you plan to take your cat on outdoor adventures. Dr. Little also points out that cat backpacks may offer a more comfortable travel alternative for pet parents who struggle with standard options—cat backpacks distribute your kitty’s weight across your back instead of concentrating it on one side.
The Fat Cat backpack is one of the most charming options, but we found in our testing that its value extends beyond style. In particular, we liked that its durable design keeps heftier cats in mind, and the stretch pockets on the side provide plenty of storage. The interior also has snag-resistant material and comes with a removable, washable liner.
Dr. Little recommends carriers that provide visibility so your cat can monitor things around them. With its space capsule-style bubble, the Fat Cat backpack gives your cat a full view. It also offers several mesh panels and air holes for ventilation to keep your adventurous cat comfortable.
- The backpack design distributes your cat’s weight comfortably
- Durably constructed with heavier cats in mind
- Bubble-like front gives your cat plenty of visibility
- Stretch pockets on the side for storage
Best Cat Stroller: Ibiyaya Cat Carrier and Stroller (Verified Review)
While many pet parents find cat backpacks more comfortable than traditional carriers, some prefer not to carry their cats at all. A cat stroller takes your cat’s weight entirely off your shoulders and distributes it over a set of wheels instead.
The Ibiyaya stroller features a tripod shape that we found easy to maneuver. Its metal frame is lightweight but sturdy, and the carrier detaches for car travel or to be worn as a backpack. The shell also disassembles quickly for easy storage.
This cat stroller offers several safety features, including a tether with a snap hook and a roll-up privacy flap for cats who get anxious during travel. The shell also has three mesh panels for both visibility and ventilation for cats who like to keep an eye on things.
- A five-in-one design for versatile travel options
- The tripod design is easy to maneuver on rough terrain
- Mesh panels have a roll-up privacy flap
- Safety tether includes a snap hook
How We Chose
We selected the products featured here based on a combination of our own hands-on testing, comprehensive analysis of customer reviews across a wide variety of retail platforms, and interviews with veterinary experts. We prioritized cat carriers with durable, safe, and comfortable materials for cats as well as convenience and functionality for their humans. Our picks are also influenced by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated cats, who are never stingy with their feedback.