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11 Cat Carriers for a Quiet Ride

It’s the journey, not the destination.

by Katherine Tolford | expert review by Cristin Tamburo, CFTBS, CAFTP
Updated February 23, 2022
one white cat in a black carrier next to two other cats looking up

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Mason jars. Tea kettles. Tissue boxes. Cats love contorting themselves into impossibly small spaces, but present them with a carrier and, Oh hell no. Clearly the self-imposed claustrophobia is allowed on their terms only. And can you blame them? A trip to the vet, especially if in a cab or on the subway, is a bumpy one, rife with strangers’ shrill coos and wet dog noses up close and personal.

How to Choose a Cat Carrier

“There are so many things coming at them and they can’t go anywhere,” explains Cristin Tamburo, a certified feline behavior consultant. “The experience leaves them feeling vulnerable, like a human swimming with sharks.” While you’re probably never going to convince your cat that curling up in a carrier will lead to good things, the least you can do is make them feel comfortable in one that’s the right size, well ventilated, sturdy, and safe. “I see people use the same carrier that they bought for their kitten. Your cat shouldn’t be squished into the carrier and unable to move. They should have room to twist themselves around from one side of the carrier to the other.”

Veterinarian Dr. Tammy Hunter agrees, adding, “The ideal carrier is strong, lightweight, and waterproof, with a large opening to allow easy access to the cat, and an easy to remove top with ‘quick release’ fasteners. If you have a carrier with a removable top, your cat may be able to remain nestled in the bottom of the carrier while your veterinarian performs some parts of the routine physical examination. The most important criteria for a carrier: It should be easy to clean and you should be able to get your cat in and out of it without a struggle.”

Acclimating Your Cat to a New Carrier

Speaking of struggles... Whichever carrier best suits your cat, Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behaviorist and author of Naughty No More!, recommends leaving it out in your home for at least a week before a vet appointment or travel plans to desensitize your cat to it: “Leave the door open and put a bed or towel inside. Play with your cat near it. Throw treats and toys inside. This will help take away their fear of it.”

Veterinarian Dr. Cheryl Yuill adds, “Another way to prepare for your visit to the vet is to spritz the carrier with three to four squirts of Feliway®, a synthetic copy of the cat’s facial pheromone, which may help create a sense of familiarity or security in the cat’s environment. If your cat already has negative associations with the current carrier that you are using, consider purchasing a new carrier that does not resemble the old one.”

Best Cat Carriers

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

the pet carrier in orange and camo

There’s a reason this Roverlund travel carrier is Wired Mag’s favorite from 2020. Its three-in-one design (airline compliant pet carrier, everyday travel bag, and mobile dog or cat bed) makes it the perfect versatile addition to any pet parent’s travel arsenal. Plus, it’s constructed from marine and mountaineering grade materials so even the most determined pet won’t be able to Breakaway like Kelly Clarkson circa 2004.

$159 at Roverlund
the pet carrier in beige faux leather

If you’ve ever wondered why modern cat carriers often look like their original plastic boxy prototypes without much room for innovation or contemporary flare, wonder no more. This vegan leather perforated tote makes for a stylish addition to any travel day. It features a water-resistant interior with a removable insert for maximum support, opposing zippers for secure travel, and a collapsible design so it won’t take up any more space than you need it to.

$180 at Noots
the pet carrier in black with a brown leather handle

Looking for a no-frills minimalist design at an unbeatable price? You’ve come to the right place. Italic’s portable pet carrier has all the essentials without sacrificing style. It has mesh entrances at the sides that provide maximum ventilation for your pet, while still having a leather top handle, shoulder strap, and luggage sleeve, so it’s just as comfortable for you during your travels — whether it’s by land, air, or sea.

$42 at Italic
the pet carrier in black with a shearling bed

This sleek carrier features 360 degree ventilation so you and your pet can breathe easy on your new journey together. It features a memory foam mattress that will give your cat their most luxurious sleep to date and will help create a fondness for their carrier as a place of comfort. Plus, it’s removable and washing machine friendly incase any accidents occur en route to your destination.

$250 at Arlo Skye

Katherine Tolford

Katherine Tolford writes about the pet industry and veterinary medicine. Her work, which has appeared on PetMD, Chewy, and Floof, has helped pet parents better understand their pets’ health. She’s also a pet parent to Milo, a loud-mouthed tuxedo cat, who likes to attempt backwards somersaults on the couch.