Cats, by their very nature, are not usually excited about being moved from one location to the next against their will. Every cat I’ve ever owned was not particularly fond of car rides and certainly didn’t love trips to the vet. Usually, this meant trying to corral my cats, hold them just so they couldn’t scratch me and lower them into a hard plastic carrier standing upright. It usually didn’t go so well.
Of course, those types of single-door carriers still exist. Indeed, they’re still the classic choice that most people think of when it comes to cat carriers. Now, though, there are quite a few more innovative designs which can make life for both you and your cat easier. Almost all of these newer styles are airline approved pet carriers, so you don’t have to worry about your cat even when flying. Many are fabric rather than plastic, and many of them fold up to conserve space when not in use.
Before your next trip, either vacation or to the vet, consider our list of the top ten best cat carriers for maximum cat comfort and owner convenience.
1. AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
If all you need is the most basic of carriers, but are beyond the old plastic ones, AmazonBasics has you covered. This particular unit is about the size of your average duffel bag, meaning it’s just as easy to carry using either the handles or the adjustable strap. This opens on both the top and the sides for easy loading.
It also includes a fleece mat that is machine washable so your cat has something comfortable to lay on en route. This one also has excellent ventilation for pets who overheat easily. Choose this one if you need something quick and easy.
Price: $21.99 – 24.99
- Well ventilated
- Easy to carry
- Top and front loading
- Fits under most airline seats
- Not very rugged
- Cat may be able to escape
- Might run small
- Only available in black
2. OxGord Airline Approved Cat Carrier
A slight step up from the AmazonBasics model, this one offers a few more bells and whistles for the pet owner on the go. In addition to similarly good ventilation and handy straps, this one offers pockets for treats and medications. It’s also designed to fit most airline carryon policies with the added convenience of being tapered at the top so it takes up somewhat less space.
You still get fleece bedding and the whole unit is machine washable. It’s available in either medium or large in the following colors: Crimson Red, Juicy Hot Pink, Lavender Purple, Mineral Blue, Onyx Black, Rose Wine, Sapphire Blue, Shamrock Green, Spinach Green, and Sunshine Yellow. Good as a slight upgrade for only a few dollars more.
- Convenient storage pouches
- Available in multiple colors
- Zippers lock shut with plastic buckles
- Safety belt straps
- Reviews complain of a strong odor
- Terrified cats may claw their way out
- Top may contract when carrying with shoulder strap
- Some units have quality control issues
3. Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel
Of course, there’s a reason hard plastic carriers tend to be the standard. If you aren’t carrying your pet on and instead will check them into the pet hold, you’ll need one of these. Similarly, if you’re taking a long trip, these bulkier carriers provide more space for your cat to stretch out. The advantage of this unit is the two-door design. Don’t settle for only the front loading ones when you can have the convenience of the top door. (Note: Some airlines don’t allow the top-loading carriers, so check before you fly.)
This sturdy Petmate version is easy to assemble and comes in Metallic Pearl Ash Blue, Metallic Pearl Tan, Pearl Honey Rose, and Pearl White. You can pick up the missing fleece bed separately. If the colors don’t matter much to you, you can get a carrier like this from AmazonBasics for $10 less, too. This one is the best seller on Amazon, however.
- Provides better protection than soft-sided cases
- Two doors for easy loading
- Four color choices
- Bigger capacity
- Doesn’t fold down completely for storage
- No sleeping pad included
- Top loading may not be allowed on some airlines
4. Pet Magasin Hard Cover Collapsible Cat Carrier
Taking design inspiration from a few other options on this list, this carrier combines features from the different styles of carriers. The top and bottom are both hard, but the sides can be folded up so the carrier can be stored flat. When closed, there’s a simple clip to keep the zipper locked.
Ventilation is provided by ample cut outs that cover three quarters of the unit. A single, generous viewing window allows your cat to see what’s going on outside. It measures 17 by 13 by 14 inches and has a padded mat on the floor for comfort.
- Hard base and top
- Foldable for storage
- Simple latching zipper lock
- Good ventilation
- Somewhat tricky to get the zippers to align perfectly
- Tough to zip quickly for cats scrambling to get out
- Viewing window may not stand up to a ton of abuse
- Not great for air travel
5. Petsfit Expandable Travel Carrier
Building on the duffel bag design, this carrier offers a novel feature to improve pet comforts over long trips. One side of this carrier folds out to give your pet added room to move around and stretch out while also increasing ventilation.
While this may not work on planes depending on the airline, it’s still a neat feature for long car rides. This one comes in three sizes for cats up to 20 pounds, and includes a pocket and cozy sleeping mat. When not in use, it can be folded down completely flat to slide into a closet and out of sight.
Price: $39.99 – $49.99 (51 percent off MSRP)
- Expandable addition offers more space
- Includes pocket and removable mat
- Folds down completely for storage
- Two door design
- Only available in black and dark gray
- Pricier than other options
- May not fit under airline seats
- Pet may be able to open the zipper
6. Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System
Advancing the design of the plastic carrier, this version is a modern take on the old classic. The entire top half of this carrier hinges open, making it as easy as possible to put your cat inside. The heavy ergonomic snaps on the side hold the assembly together, eliminating the need for screws.
The food and water dish are integrated into the door. This is quite a heavy unit compared to others, but that should make it sturdier and less likely to tip during travel. Choose this one if the traditional hard-sided carriers don’t cut it for you, taking peace of mind from the five year warranty should anything go wrong.
- Top hinge lid makes it easy to load pet
- Built-in food and water trays
- Sturdy plastic design
- Five year warranty
- Clip-on construction may not meet some airline standards
- Does not fold down for storage
- Some reviewers describe trouble with assembly
7. Pet Gear I-GO2 Plus Traveler Rolling Backpack Carrier
If you need extreme flexibility in your pet carrier, consider this unit. Designed as a backpack, rolling bag, and car seat, this carrier can do it all. While the odd shape may mean it won’t work on airlines, the flexibility of the different transportation modes makes it useful for other trips, including hiking or camping.
This also has slightly more vertical space than other carriers so your pet can sit up during travel. It’s available in Black, Ocean Blue, and Sage. This is a good choice for a novel approach to cat carriers.
Price: $71.99 – $85.06 (23 percent off MSRP)
- Wheels and telescoping handle included for easy transport
- Backpack straps
- Fleece pad included
- Large size
- May not be airline approved
- Bulky and uncomfortable as a backpack
- Backpack straps may catch in the wheels and can’t be removed
- Some complaints about material quality
8. PetObedience Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier
When the priority is flying with your pet, you want to be sure that the carrier you select will fit as a carryon. Both for its compact size and its superior materials, this unit is a good option. The construction of this one is quite a bit better than some of the others on this list, which makes up for its lack of color and size options.
For cats under 18 pounds, this is a solid choice and has the advantage of not looking especially like a cat carrier, if that’s a need you have. It includes an external pocket for your cat’s needs, as well as a strap to slide over the telescoping handle of a rolling suitcase.
Price: $59.99 (40 percent off MSRP)
- Sturdy construction
- May be a better option for planes
- Waterproof canvas material
- Lifetime warranty
- Smaller windows than other units
- Lack of color options
- Small capacity
9. U-pet Innovative Patent Bubble Pet Carriers
Taking design to the next level, U-pet carriers all feature a unique semi-sphere window design that allow your cat to see everything going on outside. These high-quality designer carriers are on the smaller side, so larger cats won’t work in these. Still, they’re more akin to fashion accessories than cat carriers, so if the looks of some of the others on this list don’t impress, one of these options should do the job.
The soft sided bags are available in Oilve, Brown, and U.S. Flag, while the plastic-fronted units come in bright Green, Pink, and Yellow. You can also get a roller version for $149. Another variation on this concept is available from Texsens, if you want to contrast. This is out of the box thinking for a cat carrier, so choose this if you want something different.
- Novel, interesting solution
- Variety of cool designs
- Top and side openings for easy loading
- Carry as a messenger bag or backpack
- Only for pets up to 12 pounds
- Bubble design may not be strictly practical
10. SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier
This novel design reimagines cat carriers to be more like traditional wire dog crate design. In your average dog crate, you pull the sides up until they snap into place, thereby providing a secure structure. This works much the same way, with the triangular sides folding up and clicking into place, secured with locking sliders. When you want to store it, you collapse these and it folds mostly flat.
You have two options for opening it: Either the entire front panel can be opened using the latches or you can simply open the front door. This should allow very easy loading and unloading, especially compared to options that are just a single door on one side. This price includes a bed to make the ride comfy.
Price: $29.77 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Unique triangle design
- Folds flat for storage
- Large side door for easy loading and access
- Bundle includes a bed
- A touch cramped
- Some small gaps for paws to get stuck in, though unlikely
- Included bed isn’t machine washable
11. Paws & Pals City Walk N Stride Pet Stroller
If you’re ready to go full-on cat obsessive and treat your pet like a baby, you’ll want to take the concept of the best cat carrier to the next level. A stroller isn’t necessarily the ideal solution for trips to the vet if the voyage requires a car, but if you can walk your cat to your destination, this is superior to having to carry them. This is also a good solution if you just want your cat to get a little more fresh air.
The carriage part is quite spacious, measuring 21 by 14 by 19 inches with front and rear doors. Under the mat inside the carriage are two one foot leashes to keep your pet securely inside the vehicle during the ride. The waterproof hood is retractable and there’s both a large storage compartment in the bottom as well as a drink holder and key tray at the top.
This is definitely one of the least expensive options as things like this Pet Gear go for over $200. It’s a good value and worth a shot so you can decide if you want to commit yourself to this level of cat ownership. Choose from Rose Wine, Onyx Black, Plaid Blue, Rose Wine, or Scarlet Red.
Price: $34.90 to $46.90
- Folds up easily for storage
- Waterproof rain hood
- Undercarriage storage
- Available in five colors
- Not convenient for car travel
- Wheels on the cheap side
- Initial assembly may be tricky
- You might just get some weird looks