Jun 23, 2023

9 Best Cat Carriers of 2023

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Before you let your cat out of the bag, you have to get it inside one!

Getting a skittish cat into a carrier is probably one of the most daunting tasks known to pet owners. They somehow sense even the slightest intention and go into hiding. And once you manage to lure them out and get them into the carrier you have about five seconds in which to zip it before they make a run for it. So a cat carrier has to be sturdy, it has to be able to close up fast and it has to withstand the claws of an angry kitty.

Then, of course, we want our beloved pet to be comfortable in their carrier, and we want the actual toting to be easy. That's why we at the Good Housekeeping Institute Pets Lab tested the cat carriers in this story to ensure they can hold the weight of a cat without damage to their straps and shape. We also had consumer testers with pet cats test them in their homes to see how they held up to real-life use. Finally, we studied the dimensions and flexibility of each to determine which can ride with you in an airplane cabin and fit under the seat in front of you.

Whether you take your kitty on car trips, plane rides or just on a walk to and from the vet, we're confident that there's a great cat carrier for you among these nine choices.

Scroll to the bottom of this guide to read more about how we tested to find the best cat carriers. You'll also find some helpful tips for choosing a new cat carrier and using it successfully. Turns out, there are lots of ways to get your cat in a carrier with minimal stress! For more ways to pamper your pet, check out our recommendations for the best cat toys and pet cameras.

Away is a beloved luggage brand (we recently named them our best overall luggage pick) and its pet carrier is as carefully designed as its suitcases making it great for car or airplane travel. One strap helps you secure the cat carrier to the handle of your rolling luggage, and separate latches fit a seat belt to hold it securely onto a car's seat.

Some cat owners like that only two sides are mesh — if you have a scared cat, perhaps the less it sees the better. A privacy screen rolls down on the side if your cat wants to see even less making it a comfy little travel cave. The lack of visibility also works to your advantage as you sail through the airport without attracting a lot of attention from your kitty. Fewer curious faces peering at your cat equals a less nervous animal.

Other things we love: It's made of high-quality, durable materials, and little touches like an ID card, key clip and multiple pockets are appreciated. In fact, we also named this our best overall dog carrier, so it can pull double duty if you also have a small dog to tote. (Just no fitting two pets in at the same time!) Finally, we love that there's a lipped, sherpa-fabric pet bed inside which is an upgrade from most carriers that include only a flat fuzzy mat.

This bargain is one of the most popular cat carriers on Amazon. It features mesh on four sides and zippered entrances on the top and the front. The solid back side has a zippered pocket for holding treats and other essentials.

We like that it comes with two inserts. One is hard, smooth and wipeable and it can give the bag a steady "floor." The other insert has a zip-off, washable fuzzy cover for comfort. Several reviewers whose cats had accidents in this tote report that they washed the liners and put the entire carrier in the washing machine on delicate with cold water, then let the carrier air-dry — and the smell was gone.

Many reviewers use this to get their cat to and from the vet, but it also fits under the seat in many airplane cabins. Just a couple of notes: We found that the dimensions of the medium tote are smaller than the ones listed on Amazon. The buckle that attaches the shoulder strap to the bag is plastic, and so is the loop it hooks into, which likely helps keep the cost of this down but makes it less durable over time. (It's all good if you're only making occasional trips to the vet!) It also has no feet on the bottom, so it rests directly on the floor, which can wear the fabric down with lots of use.

The medium size of this carrier is quite roomy for a large cat, and it's still airline-approved. It has all you need: firm-but-flexible sides, two entrances and a fuzzy sherpa mat for comfort. Carry it by hand or use the shoulder strap that attaches with strong metal buckles (not pictured). Loading a cat in is easy: Both the side and the top can zip open nice and wide, so choose whichever you prefer. We had the most success getting our largest tester cat, Helen, in through the side. There are two zippers at each opening so you can find a way to close it quickly.

The polyester fabric is thick and lined. It holds its shape thanks to a springy wire frame, so it has some give if you need to fit it under an airline seat. With a little bit of work, it can be folded down almost flat for storage. We like that the feet on the bottom of the carrier are substantial and keep the bag off the floor to prevent wear and tear.

Three sides are mesh; the top and one end are not. The solid end features a deep, zippered pocket where you can stash vet records and other important documents. The sherpa-fabric mat inside holds to the bottom of the carrier with hook-and-loop strips so it doesn't shift around, which is a nice touch.

Hard-sided carriers aren't especially cute, and they aren't flexible. But they are a safe option if you'll be moving your cat around with a lot of luggage in the car because the cat is protected from anything knocking against it. This is also an easier carrier type to clean if your cat has an accident since you can wash or hose it clean.

The carrier is shown online, nicely fitting under an airplane seat, but the smallest carrier in this line is 10 inches high and some under-seat compartments are only 8 inches, so depending on your flight, it may not fit. We think this hard-sided carrier is better for car travel.

We tested the 24-inch large size which has plenty of room for a big cat. According to the manufacturer, the large model holds an animal up to 15 pounds, but we found that you could carry up to 20 pounds in the large carrier especially if you keep one hand under the carrier and use the other to hold the top handle. Online reviewers with big cats, including Maine Coons, attest to having success with this large carrier.

Unlike the other carriers in this story which are ready to be used out of the box, this hard-sided carrier requires about 8 minutes of assembly. You must put the metal door in place and use the included screws and washers to secure the top to the bottom.

Use this as your cat's plush bed at home, then zip on the domed top for easy travel. It's the most well-made pet carrier we tested, constructed with durable hardware, foam padding inside, a washable soft lining and a sturdy mesh top. It looks like a gorgeous little hatbox, and one of our tester cats, Helen, hopped right in and seemed to enjoy curling up into its round shape. To have it ready for travel, we partially zipped the top on and left it propped open so that once Helen was inside, we could close the top down and quickly zip it the rest of the way. The domed top itself also has a zippered opening, but we found it a little narrow for fitting a cat through, especially if the cat is resistant.

We tested the medium size, which will not fit under an airplane seat. The mini size, for pets up to 7 pounds, can fit. Save the directions that come with your Sleepypod for the instructions on how to secure this into a car using the seatbelt. It's ideal for car travel and has even been crash-tested.

Our favorite thing about the Sleepypod is how much privacy it provides. The domed top is mesh but the sides are solid, so a scared cat can nestle in and not deal with the outside world. But you can easily peer through the top and be sure all is well in there.

Jetsetting rockstar Taylor Swift totes one of her Scottish Fold cats in this faux-leather bubble-window backpack cat carrier, leading a lot of cat owners to seek it out. My college-age kid was thrilled at the possibility of toting their young cat inside of this when going to and from campus during school breaks. It's a tall carrier, but it's not especially wide. Loading a large, hefty cat into this proved to be impossible, as did loading a feisty little cat — she was able to spread her legs out and avoid going in. But we did have great success putting a slender, older tomcat, Buddy, inside and walking around with him; it held steady on our tester's back and Buddy seemed to enjoy peering out of the window.

This carrier has a luxe feel, quality hardware, very secure and adjustable backpack straps plus a tote handle on top. You can swap out the bubble window for a flat, mesh window if you prefer; that would perhaps make this easier to slide under an airplane set. One disappointment: The sherpa-fabric pad inside is not held down so it does slide around. But we like the open ventilation holes, a point of difference with this carrier — they help the cat breathe and also let you poke your finger in there to reassure your kitty or to slip it a treat.

Travel with your cat in a tote, then expand the two sides when you reach your destination so your cat can safely explore new surroundings. You wouldn't want to do that on an airplane, of course, but it is perfect if you bring your cat with you to a rental house, to visit relatives or if you're relocating. Instead of hiding somewhere and making the transition difficult, your kitty can get settled in this roomy contraption. It's also a way to bring your curious cat outdoors for some bird-watching without any danger of a dead bird or a lost cat.

While this carrier is not in Walmart stores, it is available on the website, and we were able to order it for one-day delivery. Note that there's no fuzzy little mat in this one, but you could include a towel or shirt from home to give your cat something soft and familiar to sit on while in the carrier.

Do you have a ways to walk to get to the vet? Or have a chonky cat? This cat carrier on wheels can be pulled along by the telescoping handle or worn as a backpack. In our tests, it was definitely easier to roll than wear, since the bag itself weighs 8 pounds. Putting a 12-pound cat in it gets you to 20 pounds which makes the rolling option much more appealing. If you have a lightweight cat or kitten, wearing it as a backpack would work just fine.

When you set it down with the handle against the floor, you can open the top hatch to form a little pet bed. One of our tester cats, Azula, climbed right in, apparently convinced it was a sanctuary. For this reason, it's a great carrier for a scared cat.

We also used this with a hefty male calico cat, Harry, and appreciated how easy it was to get him through the large side opening. The carrier itself is roomy and made a 30-mile car trip easy.

We also tested the durability by rolling this through the New York City subway system, up steps and down escalators and along the sidewalks of Brooklyn. It held up beautifully and because one set of wheels can spin 360 degrees, it's easy to nimbly switch directions while rolling this along. For those of us with fat cats (Sorry, Harry.), this can hold a pet up to 20 pounds.

When you can wear your cat on your back in a deluxe backpack, taking them on mass transit or walking to the vet is easy. Your hands stay free and your cat doesn't swing back and forth the way they might when toting a kennel or bag with your hands. A backpack also keeps your cat up high, where they can watch dogs and other creatures down beneath them.

Both the top door and the front door are too small to use to load a full-grown cat, but either could work to get a kitten into the backpack. Better to use the wide side doors for your grown cat. There's a nice plush lining, not just along the floor but along the back of the inside, keeping it soft and cozy.

One end has a cupholder and two small pockets, and the other has a zippered pocket and an identification tag. The back of the bag includes a strap to go over your luggage handle so it can ride on top of your suitcase. The black buckles on the front are for securing the bag to a seatbelt. With those features, it's another ideal bag for either car or plane travel.

Our team regularly reviews pet gear, and our experts had already tested more than a dozen pet totes when we covered the best dog carriers.

We sent some of those that could also work for cats to at-home testing with six cats over three households. Then we scoured online reviews to find another eight carriers that users say are specifically great for felines and tested those both in our Lab and in homes with consumer testers.

In the Lab, we used weights in each bag to make sure the straps could hold up to the stress, and we checked each bag's measurements against what is listed online to make sure the dimensions were accurate. Our final picks are the nine pet carriers that we feel are best for traveling with a cat.

As soon as you adopt a new cat or kitten you should also get a cat carrier so that you can safely transport your feline to the vet. Some families also want to travel with their cat if they're going away for any stretch of time. When you're thinking about buying a cat carrier, consider the following things:

✔️ Will your cat be in a crowded car? If your cat will be among a lot of luggage in your vehicle, a hard-sided carrier can prevent injury if the luggage shifts around. Also, if your cat is prone to peeing out of nervousness, a hard-sided carrier is easiest to wash or hose clean.

✔️ Will your cat be on a plane? Officially, a plane's under-seat storage should be able to fit anything that is 18" x 14" x 8" or smaller. Unofficially, space seems to vary by airline and plane size. If you're taking your cat in an airplane cabin, we recommend using a soft carrier with a wire frame that can be bent slightly to fit in case it is a bit of a squeeze. Any of the totes (without wheels) and backpacks in this story should work. While we were not able to fly-test the carriers in this story, we did study the manufacturer details and online reviews to understand which ones are made to successfully ride in an airplane cabin.

✔️ Do you carry your cat around your town? For city dwellers who might tote their cat on public transportation, via bike or who have a walk to the vet, we like the backpack-style cat carriers or those on wheels.

✔️ Do you have a large cat? A cat that weighs 12 pounds or less will fit into almost any cat carrier, including backpacks. Heftier cats in the 15-pound range should have a large, durable tote-style cat carrier that you can carry with a shoulder strap or move around on wheels. If your big cat is in a hard-sided carrier, keep one hand underneath it while you carry it with the other.

Veterinarians recommend these steps for making it easier to get your cat in a cat carrier and keep them calm:

✔️ Put the carrier out in the open well before you need to use it. This takes the terrifying mystery out of it and allows your cat to explore the inside of the carrier on their own time.

✔️ Put a favorite treat and/or toy inside. Use that as a lure and as a comfort object for the trip.

✔️ Add a blanket or towel inside that's been sprayed with a cat-calming scent. Many vets and experts recommend Feliway Pheromone Spray to help ease your kitty. You can also spray it directly on the carrier liner. Use the spray and then let the alcohol dissipate for about 20 minutes before you transport your cat.

✔️ Most pet carriers do have a tether inside. The soft carriers in this story all have a tether inside. These attach to your cat's collar so that when you open the carrier, the cat can't immediately leap out. Vets and experts recommend it. However, those of us with skittish cats know that getting the feline in there is enough of a battle, and if you open a panel to fuss with the tether, the cat might jump right back out. No judgment from us if getting your cat tethered is one step too many.

✔️ Consider throwing a blanket or towel over the carrier at the vet. Cats may not like to see dogs or other cats who are strange to them. If a vet's waiting room is full of other animals, use a towel to shield your cat from the view to keep them less stressed.

For more than 110 years our staff has evaluated consumer products in an effort to help consumers make sound purchases. A dedicated roster of engineers, scientists and journalists employed by Good Housekeeping regularly test product claims and recommend items that live up to their promise.

Lead author Jessica Hartshorn is a contributing writer and 30-year veteran of the magazine industry which began with her working as an intern at Good Housekeeping magazine during college. She was most recently a senior editor at Parents magazine where she covered pet products alongside kid products. She now has four cats in her house and has also tested the best cat litter and self-cleaning cat boxes.

Much of the Lab testing in this roundup was carried out by Parenting & Pets Reviews Analyst Jamie Spain, a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Spain owns a dog and has reviewed products such as healthy dog treats and dog car seats.

This review was overseen by Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and executive technical director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Rothman, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, has been with the Institute for more than 15 years and spearheads major initiatives such as the Family Travel Awards and Parenting Awards.

Jessica (she/her) is a freelance writer with several decades of experience writing lifestyle content and evaluating home and parenting products. A mom of two teens and two cats, her previous work can be seen in American Baby and Parents.

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we want our beloved pet to be comfortable in their carrier, and we want the actual toting to be easyOur top picks:One strap helps you secure the cat carrier to the handle of your rolling luggage, and separate latches fit a seat belt to hold it securely onto a car's of the most popular cat carriers on Amazonfirm-but-flexible sides, two entrances and a fuzzy sherpa mat for comfort safe option if you'll be moving your cat around with a lot of luggage in the carIt's ideal for car travel and has even been crash-tested.faux-leather bubble-window backpack cat carrierexpand the two sides when you reach your destination so your cat can safely explore new surroundings. This cat carrier on wheels can be pulled along by the telescoping handlewear your cat on your back in a deluxe backpack, taking them on mass transit or walking to the vet is easy✔️ Will your cat be in a crowded car?✔️ Will your cat be in a crowded car?✔️ Will your cat be on a plane?✔️ Will your cat be on a plane?✔️ Do you carry your cat around your town?✔️ Do you carry your cat around your town?✔️ ✔️ Do you have a large cat?✔️ Put the carrier out in the open well before you need to use it. ✔️ Put the carrier out in the open well before you need to use it. ✔️ Put a favorite treat and/or toy inside.✔️ Put a favorite treat and/or toy inside.✔️ Add a blanket or towel inside that's been sprayed with a cat-calming scent.✔️ Add a blanket or towel inside that's been sprayed with a cat-calming scent.✔️ Most pet carriers do have a tether inside.✔️ Most pet carriers do have a tether inside.✔️ Consider throwing a blanket or towel over the carrier at the vet.✔️ Consider throwing a blanket or towel over the carrier at the vet.