Cats are much more than just furry animals that hog the bed at night. Nor are they just temperamental and mischievous little things that makes us wonder who is the pet and who is the owner. Cats, for many of us, are a member of the family.
And, like the rest of the family, they are going to need to be taken to the vet from time to time – or maybe you just want to bring them along on a family vacation. For these situations, you’re going to want to make sure you have the best cat carrier.
What is a Cat Carrier?
As the name would suggest, a cat carrier is something that you use to transport your cat (or other small animals like small dogs, guinea pigs, ferrets, tiny pigs and the like) from one place to another. There are several different types of carrier that you could choose from. These include:
A homemade carrier is basically anything that you grab from around the house and put your cat in. Some people will use a cardboard box, laundry basket, and even a tote bag or pillow case. These carriers (especially the pillow case and tote bag) aren’t safe for your cat because they could get hurt or escape when you are taking them from point A to point B.
A cardboard carrier is primarily given to people who just adopted or bought a newborn kitten. These carriers are typically designed for temporary transport and are not recommended for long-term use because they can get damaged, either by general wear and tear, or the cat may scratch a hole into the carrier.
Also, these carriers are basically useless if they get wet, whether it is because of the weather or because the cat urinated or spilled their water.
A soft sided carrier is going to be made from either nylon or ballistic nylon. The carrier will be lightweight and are usually pretty easy to carry, even with the cat in tow. There are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind if you decide to go the soft carrier route: These carriers are very popular for travel but they are best suited for cats who travel well and remain calm.
If a feisty or anxious cat is in one of these carriers, they could easily tear a hole in the nylon material and possibly escape. If you’re driving, this could be a very dangerous situation to be in. Not only that, but if your cat is determined to get out, they could catch their nail in the material which would lead to a vet visit.
When choosing a soft carrier, you want to make sure that it is going to be large enough for your cat to comfortably move around in it. If you plan on going on long trips, you will also want to add another several inches so that you can include a food dish and water dish, too.
With that said, cats prefer small spaces, so you don’t want to get them a massive carrier. We’ll talk more about how to choose the appropriate size a little later.
Soft carriers are going to be easier to clean than a cardboard carrier, but it is important that you choose a soft carrier that has something in the bottom to prevent the carrier from sagging while you’re carrying it. In most cases, the carrier will have lightweight framework that will prevent this.
A hard sided carrier is going to provide you with the most support for transporting your cat. They will also be more durable and easy to clean. It’s important to note that if you are flying with an airline approved hard carrier, they may not fit under your seat very well, but if something should fall onto the case, your cat will be safe.
Hard sided carriers will have a steel wire or steel mesh door that is going to be much more durable than plastic and any hardware on the case should be metal.
The handle for your carrier should be stout enough for you to comfortably carry your cat, but it should also be strong enough to support the weight of the carrier and the cat. Most cat rucksacks also come in both a soft and hard option so make sure that you consider them as part of your buying decision.
How to Find the Right Size Carrier for Your Cat
When you know what kind of carrier you want to go with, you need to make sure that you are choosing the correct size for them. But how do you do that? It’s actually pretty simpleand it only requires a bit of measuring.
For the first measurement, you will want to measure your cat from the base of their tail to the tip of their nose. You will want to make sure they are standing when you do this. Once you have that measurement, you will want to add four inches. This will be the length of the carrier.
For the second measurement, you will want to measure the top of their head (when standing) to the floor. After you found this measurement, you will want to add four inches. This will be the height of the carrier.
In a properly sized carrier, your cat will be able to stand up comfortably and will be able to peer out at the world without having to duck their head. They should also have enough space inside the crate for them to turn around comfortably and be able to lay down with their paws extended.
Airline Regulations for Cat Carriers
If you plan on going on a plane with your cat, you have to make sure that your desired airline even allows for pet travelers, but you will also want to be mindful of the regulations set in place for the carrier you use. Some airline companies will have varying requirements and what may work with one company may not work with the next.
However, most airline’s will allow only one pet carrier per passenger, and one pet per carrier. There may be an exception for small puppies, but there is a limit of a maximum of up to three pets per flight.
For the pet themselves, most airlines require that the pet is no longer than 18 inches and does not exceed 12 pounds in weight. Of course, this could be different for each airline. Basic requirements for the carrier includes:
- The carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you
- The carrier must have a waterproof bottom (also invest in good pee pads)
- The carrier must have adequate ventilation – at least two sides should have ventilation
- The carrier must use zippers to secure your pet in the carrying case
- You must keep your pet enclosed in the carrier at all times
- The carrier must be made of a hard material like hard plastic, metal, or wood
- The carrier’s door must be made of metal and have a metal locking mechanism
- You should have two water dishes attached to the carrier and should be accessible from outside
In order to find the right carrier for your pet, you will want to measure your cat. When they are standing, measure from the tip of the head down to the floor, then add about 4 inches. This will indicate the height of the carrier. Next, measure the tip of the cat’s nose to the base of the tail, then add 4 inches. This will indicate the length of the carrier.
How to Use a Cat Carrier
Every cat owner knows that cats have a mind of their own and they aren’t always going to be cooperative. While many cats love to be in enclosed places (seriously, what is with their fascination with boxes?), when they are locked into a carrying case, it’s like they go crazy and they will fight tooth and (sharp) nail to get out.
You can make the task of loading the cat into the carrier a little easier for both of you by acclimating your cat to the carrier way before they actually need to be in it. How do you do that, you ask?
To do this, you will want to leave the carrier out and easily accessible. Cats are suspicious and when the crate comes out of nowhere, they feel like something bad is going to happen – like a visit to the vet. By leaving the carrier out and open, she will be more likely to go in, explore, and not be so afraid of it.
You can do other things that will help your cat feel less afraid of the carrier, such as:
- Leave the carrier in their favorite place with the door open. If you put the carrier just anywhere, chances are the cat may not even pay it any mind. However, when it is in their favorite spot (likely a spot that gets a lot of sun), their curiosity will be piqued.
- Put a favorite blanket and toy in the carrier. The blanket will help your cat to feel comfortable, not just because of the softness of the blanket itself, but the familiar scents will help them feel like the carrier is “theirs.”
- When your cat is relaxed inside the carrier, practice closing the door. With the door closed, give the cat a treat and then open the door and let the cat out.
How to Get a Reluctant Cat Inside the Carrier
Unfortunately, no matter what you try to do, your cat just may not want anything to do with the carrier. The problem is you are still going to have to get them inside without hurting them and getting scratched up in the process. But how?
- Use a towel or blanket that your cat sleeps on and put it inside the carrier
- If you do not have a two-door carrier, put the carrier on the end with the open door facing up
- If you do have a two-door carrier, open the top door
- Pick up your cat and hold their back paws in one hand while using the other hand to support the chest
- Gently place the cat’s backend into the crate first so they aren’t able to see where he is going
If your cat puts up a fight, you can wrap him in said blanket or towel and then place him in using step 4.
Traveling with Your Cat
When you are transporting your cat, you want to avoid feeding them up to an hour before you leave. This will reduce the possibility of your cat getting sick. You will also want to cover the carrier so the motion outside the vehicle doesn’t make them nauseous and sick.
Another important tip is to avoid putting your cat on the ground if there are dogs around, but also if the area is overly crowded with people. All the commotion could cause your kitty to feel distressed and become anxious.
Before going on long trips in the car, consider taking your cat on short jaunts, like around the block or just up and down the street (make sure you buckle the carrier securely in the backseat!). This will help your cat get used to the movement of the car. As soon as you get him back into the house, be sure to give him a treat for being good.
If you have tried traveling with your cat before and they get sick or they just cannot relax, you will want to talk to your vet to see if they can give your cat some kind of medication so that the trip isn’t so stressful for them.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Traveling with Your Cat
If you’ve never traveled with your cat before, it’s going to be a new experience for both you and your feline friend. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for you trip:
Before leaving on your trip, make sure your cat has been examined by the vet to ensure they are in good health and that they have been treated for fleas and ticks. You will also want to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines and they’ve been microchipped just in case they do get away from you.
If you are going on a road trip, you will want to make sure your car is in good working condition as well. You may not realize it but a preventative check will save you and your cat a lot of headaches because you will be less likely to break down.
Make sure you have a suitable carrier for your cat. You want to make sure your cat, their blanket, water and food dishes will fit comfortably inside the carrier. You also want to make sure the carrier has plenty of ventilation so they have fresh air, too.
While you are driving, you want to try to be as calm as you can. If you get too excited, one way or another, your cat will pick up on this and they too will get excited or agitated.
If you have multiple cats, avoid trying to put them both into a single crate. Not only will it be heavier for you to carry once you arrive to your destination, but the cats need their own space. The only acceptable time to put multiple cats into one carrier is if they are small kittens.
Always make sure that your car is at a good temperature. If it’s cold outside, crank up the heat so that the cats can feel it in the back. If it’s hot, put a light colored sheet over part of the crate and turn on the air conditioning. Also, you should never leave your pets alone in a hot car! Windows up and no air conditioning is a very dangerous situation for any living thing!
Check out our cat travel checklist for more tips.
How to Clean and Maintain Your Cat Carrier
For the most part, cats are pretty good at keeping themselves nice and clean. So it would make sense that a dirty carrier is not the best situation for your kitty. A clean carrier is going to help keep your cat comfortable, but also keep the car from stinking.
If you have a hard sided carrier, you will want to remove the blanket and put it in the laundry to get washed. When the blanket has been dried, put it back in your cat’s bed so they can get their scent on it.
For the carrier, you will want to wipe it out with warm sudsy water made from a mild soap. You’ll want to make sure you get out any crumbs from food and other things. You’ll then want to rinse the carrier thoroughly and then let it air dry (or wipe it down with a towel) before putting everything back in.
If you have a soft carrier, you will want to remove everything from the inside and run it through the wash. This includes the padded portion of the carrier – just make sure you read the care instructions on this part for temperature settings and drying instructions.
With an empty carrier, you will want to fill a sink or bathtub with warm sudsy water (again, using a mild detergent) and dip the carrier into the solution. Wipe the interior of the carrier down with a sponge and then rinse the carrier with clean water. Finally, lay the carrier in the sun so it can dry thoroughly.
Throughout the course of using the carrier, it will get some wear and tear. After each trip, you will want to look over the carrier to ensure everything is in good order, such as:
|Soft Carriers||Hard Carriers|
|Zippers work easily and do not get stuck||Make sure there are no cracks anywhere on the walls or floor of the carrier|
|The handles are firmly attached to the carrier||Check the hardware to ensure everything is good and tight – if not, tighten as necessary|
|No loose threads, especially around the mesh which could allow your cat to escape||Check the hinges and locks on the door(s) to ensure they work properly|
|There aren’t any holes in the pad or the carrier itself|
Traveling is a wonderful experience for the whole family! However, if you have a cat, you may be hesitant to travel because you don’t want to put your kitty in a kennel or find a house sitter. Instead of foregoing traveling all together, why not bring your kitty along?
A cat carrier will let you pack your furry friend up and bring them along with you! Not only can you use the carrier to travel, but it will also be very handy when you have to take your cat to the vet.
Many people will skip spending money on a carrier and opt for a box with some holes, or a basket. But neither of these options are going to be very safe or comfortable for your kitty to travel in.
That’s why it is important that you have the highest quality carrier that your money can buy. The best part is, cat carriers aren’t very expensive! Head on over to our buying guide to see for yourself!
In our buying guide, we provide you with five reviews on cat carriers that we believe are worth looking at. There are a few hard-sided carriers and a few soft-sided, so you can decide which will work best for your needs. We also provide you with a list of important features you should look for when choosing a carrier, just in case you want to keep looking!
Leave us a comment and tell us about your experiences with cat travel. We’d love to hear from you!