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Taking your cat to the veterinarian or kennel is often a negative experience for your pet, taking them away from their familiar environment and routines. Proper preparation can help reduce your cat's stress before and during travel.
With the right cat carrier, an adventurous cat might even enjoy the opportunity to see and smell new things. Backpack cat carriers allow for more versatile travel arrangements than traditional, boxy cat carriers. Some are even comfortable enough for hiking and other extended journeys.
We sought guidance from a veterinarian and researched dozens of products to find backpack cat carriers with the best combination of size, fit, safety, and features, such as attachment points for your cat's harness. For more on how to pick the backpack cat carrier that's best for you and your cat, check out the What To Look For section following our product recommendations.
Here are the best backpack cat carriers.
Best Overall: Mancro Cat Backpack
Plenty of room
Will stand upright on its own
Only one color
Doesn’t sit well if worn on your front
Friends have tried three different cat backpacks. Although they liked the bubble-style backpack carriers that are popular, they say they couldn’t find one large enough for bigger cats, that the straps fell apart in only a couple of months, and that the plastic bubble gets too hot when in direct sunlight. Neither of their cats liked a second all-mesh pack that they tried because looking through mesh caused their cat to get motion sickness.
Their favorite of the three they tried was the Mancro Expandable Cat Backpack Carrier for a number of reasons. It’s suitable for large cats and small, even when it’s not expanded. The pack holds its form and sits upright when you set it down, so it’s easier to put your cat in and out. When opening the zippers and expanding the back, the interior size of the pack is doubled, which gives your cat more space to stretch out in the airport or plane, in the car, or in other circumstances when you’re not actually wearing the backpack.
Their cat loved being able to see out of the clear front and sides. The pack also has a built-in leash that can connect to your cat’s collar or harness, allowing you to open the top so your cat can ride with an unobstructed view (if your cat will stay in while it's open). This pack also has excellent ventilation with holes in the clear sides and a mesh top.
My friends like to carry the pack in the front so they can see their cat while strolling. But they noted that the pack is definitely designed to be worn on the back because it doesn’t sit well on the body when worn in the front. A bonus is that it folds flat when not in use.
Backpack Weight: 3.7 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 15 pounds | Colors: Gray/black
Best Budget: PetAmi Classic 1-Way Entry Pet Carrier Backpack
Includes a fleece lined bed and collapsible bowl
Two side storage pockets
Durable 600D high grade polyester
Not suitable for larger cats
Traveling in style doesn’t have to be expensive. The PetAmi Classic 1-Way Entry Pet Carrier Backpack can be had for around $25. The mesh top and front make for excellent airflow and visibility for you and your pet. An internal safety strap ensures secure, safe travel. The wicking mesh back panel and padded, adjustable shoulder straps, waist and chest straps, and buckles give you comfortable support.
Backpack Weight: 2 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 12 pounds | Colors: black, heather gray, heather charcoal, light blue, pink, purple, red, royal blue
Best Bubble-Style: Travel Cat’s Fat Cat Backpack Carrier
Great for large cats or two medium ones
Additional side pockets for treats, water and other storage
Scratch- and water-resistant
Easy to clean surface
Confirm dimensions before you buy or order
Specifically designed for pet owners who like to get their cat into the outdoors, Travel Cat’s Fat Cat Backpack Carrier is safe and sturdy. Their logic is that making it easy for your cat to explore also gives you more opportunities to be happy and healthy.
Travel Cat’s uses high-quality canvas and polyester materials to provide a safe experience that’s comfortable for both you and your cat. Customers confirm that this lightweight pack is sturdy and well-ventilated. The adjustable chest and shoulder straps ensure a comfortable fit. Cats like that the pack is spacious enough for them to lay down.
A clip and bungee allow you to attach a leash for added safety. If your cat likes an unencumbered view, there are two optional spots where they can pop their head out. The zippered top hatch can be fully closed, fully open, or closed with a breathable mesh. The bubble is also removable and can be open or replaced with a breathable mesh closure.
You’ll find an almost identical pack sold under other brand names. Arthemis Clothing and Anucher also offer the larger pack in three of the four colors. Lollimeow offers sizes medium and large (in two colors) and also includes an opaque and clear plastic bubble option and an additional zippered bottom. But some don’t like the zippered bottom as some cats can get it open, or their weight will force it open, allowing them to fall out of the pack.
All are versatile for use in hiking, visits to the vet, airline, car, and public transport.
Backpack Weight: 2.6 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 25 pounds | Colors: Charcoal, aqua, pink, gold
Best for Large Cats: Pet Gear I-GO Plus Traveler
Made in the USA
Largest cat backpack
Heavier than some other cat backpacks
Carrying capacity not given
The five-in-one I-GO Plus Traveler can be used as a backpack, tote, carrier, or car seat. The telescoping handle and wheels allow it to function as a rolling case when your back gets tired.
The removable plush fleece pad is machine washable. Included is an internal tether to secure your cat and two external pockets for extra storage.
Pet Gear is a division of Vermont Juvenile Furniture, which has been making baby furniture and other items since 1936. They are committed to making safe, useful products that are comfortable and affordable.
Backpack Weight: 6 pounds | Carrying Capacity: Not given | Colors: Black, Ocean Blue, Sage
Best Clear: Halinfer Expandable Cat Backpack Space Capsule
Fun modern design
Can heat up too much internally in direct sunlight
Plastic can scratch
Hand wash only
Not a fit for larger cats
Pet parents like the clear visibility offered by the Halinfer Expandable Cat Backpack Space Capsule. The entire front panel is a clear, durable plastic that is removable. Your cat can enjoy an unobstructed view while riding safely on your back. Nine vent holes and two mesh side windows allow for good air circulation.
This model also comes in four variations—the classic and expandable front, expandable back, or both front and back expandable—so your cat can stretch out when you get to the park, campsite, or trailhead. The pack is commonly bought with an optional portable fan for increased air flow.
You’ll also find very similar versions of this backpack sold under a variety of other brand names. Be sure to check dimensions and reviews before buying.
Backpack Weight: 3 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 13 pounds | Colors: black, blue, green, gray, pink, printed puppies, printed space, Pokemon
Best with Privacy Windows/Flaps: Kurgo K9 Rucksack
Pocket for a laptop or tablet, too.
Zip-down top mesh
Includes a bottle openers
Limited color options
If your cat is fearful when out of doors, they might appreciate the protection of the stylish Kurgo K9 Rucksack. Its design is inspired by modern commuter-style backpacks. Your kitty will get plenty of ventilation from the top and side panels. The top panel can be completely closed or a zip-down mesh that offers some protection and extra ventilation.
An inner tether keeps your cat secure on any commute or outing. The patented Armorsole bottom is 100 percent waterproof and easy to clean. It’s topped by a fluffy pad that can be removed for machine washing.
You’ll love the stylish faux leather buckles and comfortable chest and shoulder straps. The tasteful yet durable heathered polyester fabric is water-resistant and easy to spot clean.
Backpack Weight: 4 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 25 pounds | Color: Heather gray
Best Splurge: Ibiyaya Eva 5-in-1 Pet Carrier
Five functions in one purchase
Easy conversion between forms
Stroller folds flat for easy storage
Not a fit for large cats
If you like to take your fur baby everywhere with you, consider the Ibiyaya 5-in-1 Pet Carrier. Not just a backpack, this durable combination includes the option to convert it to a shoulder carrier, a pet car seat, a pet carrier with wheels, and easy attachment to a stroller.
The backpack carrier has a large opening for getting them in and out, plus a tether with a snap hook to keep them secure. The sturdy mesh window and perforated holes ensure ventilation while your kitty enjoys the view. You’ll appreciate the roll-up flap for privacy and the machine-washable padding.
The pet carrier has passed environmental stress-cracking resistance and SGS quality tests, making it safe as a car seat and airline carrier.
The stroller is a bonus for longer strolls and saving your back. The Ibiyaya has been manufactured according to baby stroller standards, and customers like the sturdy wheels and one-handed fold mechanism.
When not in use, pieces can be disassembled quickly with smooth zippers and flattened for space-saving storage and transportation.
Backpack Weight: 4 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 16 pounds | Colors: blue, brown, green, orange and pink
We like the Mancro Expandable Cat Backpack Carrier because it's spacious, well ventilated, and has great visibility. If you consider yourself (and your cat) an adventurer or have a larger cat, you might enjoy Travel Cat’s Fat Cat Backpack Carrier, which holds up to 25 pounds and comes in four cute colors.
What to Look for in Backpack Cat Carriers
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a backpack cat carrier, including size, materials, style, ventilation, safety, and comfort.
“Of course, there are all the basics like proper ventilation, sturdy materials, durable construction, and everything else you’d look for in a cat carrier of any kind,” says Dr. Georgina Ushi-Phillips, a practicing veterinarian and veterinary writer for BetterWithCats.net. “But when it comes to backpack carriers, you’ll also need to pay special attention to the entry points (top entry is a requirement), comfort (for both you and your cat), and some additional features like a hitch or tether to attach your cat’s leash.”
Carrying Capacity, Spaciousness and Entry
The size and capacity of backpacks vary widely, with weight limits between just 10 pounds up to 25 pounds. The same goes for spaciousness. Measure your cat’s standing height and compare it to interior dimensions. Choose a pack that is big enough so your cat can easily turn around and change positions.
“Opting for a backpack with a sturdy base is usually a good start, and while this may mean that the backpack doesn't fold down quite as small, it also means your cat will have more room without having to adjust to the shifting shape of the backpack,” explains Dr. Ushi-Phillips.
Also, consider entry points. Some pet parents like a pack that opens from both the top and side for versatility when getting your cat into the pack. Some cats prefer one entry method over another. With a removable top and door, your cat can remain in the pack during veterinary examinations. You want zippers that open easily when you need them, but not so easily that your cat’s weight or paws will open them.
Style and Materials
You can choose from a range of styles and materials, and no one type is best because our cats vary in their preferences too. Some cats like the high visibility of clear and bubble-style backpacks, while others feel too exposed and instead prefer the added perceived privacy and protection of mesh.
Most packs use at least some mesh for ventilation. Depending on the pack, mesh can be fully covered by additional zippered fabric or fully opened so that your cat can pop their head out into the fresh air.
Many of the backpacks are made of durable, easy-to-clean polyester fabrics, while a few also incorporate canvas elements. Carefully check the care instructions for your pack. Some include bottom cushions that are removable and machine washable. Most should only be spot cleaned by hand. Many are meant to only be line-dried as the dryer heat could damage plastic and polyester parts.
Safety and Comfort
Whenever taking your cat outside of your home, be mindful of the safety features your cat backpack offers. Be sure to first test the safety of the pack inside your home to ensure that your cat cannot escape. Make sure your cat is microchipped or is wearing an identification tag just in case before venturing outside of the home.
“Some backpack carriers come with an attachment point for your cat's leash,” adds Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “Depending on how you plan to use your backpack, this can be extremely helpful as it allows your cat to easily hang out around the backpack.”
Ensure that your cat backpack has adequate ventilation to help regulate both temperature and fresh air. Packs with large clear sections can heat up quickly in direct sunlight, in the same way as a hot car. If you see condensation on the inside of the pack, it is likely that air is not moving through adequately, and adjustments should be made. Check that there are ventilation holes and mesh on at least three sides of the pack to ensure proper air movement. For similar reasons, consider the outside ambient temperature before heading out on warm days.
“Just as important, but often overlooked, is your own comfort while wearing the backpack,” says Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “It can already be a bumpy ride for your cat, but if you’re constantly adjusting and shifting the backpack to find a comfortable spot for you, it’s going to make things even bumpier for your cat.”
Are backpack cat carriers safe in cars?
“I’m not aware of any backpack cat carriers that have been crash tested (this is one group that does pet carrier crash testing),” says Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “It's safe to say that in the event of a crash unless the backpack carrier is secured to the car in some way, it’s not much safer than any other soft-sided carrier. However, if the carrier is secured to the car, that could improve the overall safety while in a car.”
How can I help my cat feel comfortable in a backpack carrier?
“Start slow,” says Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “Even if your cat has already gotten used to their traditional carrier, a backpack carrier is different enough that you don’t want to jump right into running around the city with your cat on your back. Introduce your cat to the backpack carrier while in your home and give them plenty of positive reinforcement for using it. That could be treats, petting, or anything that your cat enjoys. Start with short trips in the backpack, and over time your cat will become more and more comfortable.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
The Spruce Pets uses a combination of research, expert insights, and testing to determine the best pet products in a wide range of categories. This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde, who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years, including some special needs kitties. Two of her cats lived happily and healthily into their early 20s. Lorraine also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.
Dr. Georgina Ushi-Phillips is a practicing veterinarian and veterinary writer for BetterWithCats.net. She grew up in Wisconsin and earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida. Her professional interests include nutrition, soft tissue surgery, and emergency care. In her free time, Dr. Ushi-Phillips enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and her hound mix, Pearle.