With the help of real cats (and kittens!) we tested 30 pet carriers—including hard-sided and soft-sided kennels, bags, totes, and backpacks—then selected 14 top performers. All of our recommendations provide great airflow and a secure environment.
The right carrier for you and your cat will depend on your travel needs—by foot, by car, or by plane—the size of your cat, and your budget. Features like an entry door on top of the carrier can make it easier to get your cat safely inside, plus it's preferred by most veterinarians, who are more easily able to access your pet for care. We also found several carriers that have the ability to limit outside distractions, which can calm a nervous cat.
After hundreds of hours of combined testing, our favorite cat carriers are the Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel—which is about as lightweight and well-ventilated as hard-sided carriers get—and the soft-sided Petseek Cat Carrier, which has a strong, steel frame structure, but can still fold up for storage. Both carriers have multiple points of access, with doors on the front and top.
Best Overall, Hard-Sided
Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel
Useful top-loading door
Made with recycled materials
Easy to wipe clean
Lightweight and airy design
Not recommended for pets over 20 pounds
Top latch sometimes misaligns
The best cat carrier for most is one with a rigid design because it provides a cat with a defined interior space. Our top choice among the hard-sided options we tested is the Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel, which has a traditional front door plus a top-loading door, both with gates that securely shut with a dual-spring-loaded latch.
The unwavering structure provided by this carrier will help your cat feel secure—a top priority—but only if you can first get your cat inside. The top door simplifies the obstacle of getting a cat into a carrier by limiting their opportunity to wriggle out before the door is fully shut. And from our experience, we've learned that most vets prefer a cat carrier with a top door because it makes their job easier. Here are more ways you can reduce stress on your cat while traveling.
Like any hard-sided cat carrier, the Petmate Two-Door is big and boxy, making it cumbersome to lug around, but it's also surprisingly light, thanks to thin plastic—though it never feels flimsy—and lots of ventilation holes, which keep it airy inside. The larger 24-inch model weighs 6.4 pounds and the 19-inch version weighs 3.8 pounds, without cats inside. And even with an adult cat inside, we found it relatively easy to take in and out of cars or walk short distances.
Our only structural concern is the handle, which is attached to the top door, meaning the weight of the carrier puts pressure on the hinges and steel latch. But while we noted it as a potential design flaw, the door has been reliably secure through more than a year of use. The steel wire latch to the top door is sometimes a little hard to align, but it's also easy to tell when you've securely closed it.
The Petmate Two-Door is made from recycled materials, with surfaces that are easy to wipe clean. The larger option is designed to carry cats up to 20 pounds, making it appropriate for use with most adult cats. Though it's not recommended, in a pinch we were able to safely use the carrier with two adult cats for a quick trip to the vet. Another of our testers used the Petmate carrier as a temporary den for a foster cat.
Price at time of publish: $86
Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.8 x 14.5 inches | Weight Limit: Pets up to 20 pounds | Weight of Carrier: 3.8 pounds
Best Overall, Soft-Sided
Petseek Extra Large Cat Carrier
Suitable for larger cats
Foldable for storage
Lockable zippers to prevent cat from opening from the inside
Top, side, and front door entry
Machine washable floor cover
Includes exterior pocket and seatbelt loop
Fabric sides are vulnerable to cat claws
If you have a large cat, like a Maine Coon or a Ragamuffin, or more than one adult cat in your care, the Petseek Extra Large Cat Carrier will help you keep your kitty comfortable while in transit. The interior is big enough to hold and support up to 55 pounds, and then easily fold up and put away until the next time you need to move your cat. We found the carrier easy to carry using the included shoulder strap.
Similar to a traditional hard-sided kennel, this carrier has a rectangular shape, but unlike the traditional cat carrier, this one can be collapsed and folded almost completely flat. The soft-sided carrier has a steel frame, with two cross beams that come apart in the middle for folding.
There are three doors, one on top, one on the side, and another on the front, which has a mesh screen that can be rolled up so that the carrier can be used as a little cat house. The double zippers at each entrance are accompanied by an additional little clip that lets you lock the zippers together so that they can't be opened—a thoughtful feature that helps keep the multiple access points easy to secure. There is also a leash tether inside for further security.
The carrier is available in blue or grey, and can be used as a car seat for your cat with straps designed to attach to a seatbelt. A fleece bed is also included which is easy to remove for cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $70
Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 16.5 inches | Weight Limit: Pets up to 55 pounds | Weight of Carrier: 6.4 pounds
Away The Pet Carrier
Removable and washable bed
Crash test certified by the Center for Pet Safety for use as a pet car seat and approved for use in-cabin on most commercial airlines
Durable, water resistant construction
Top door and side door entry
Does not provide sufficient space for larger cats
Does not collapse for storage
The Away Pet Carrier is the most expensive cat carrier on our list, but this multi-use bag will serve you well for years, especially if you fly or travel often with your cat. Plus, there's a 100-day trial period, so you can test out the Away Pet Carrier for yourself.
The Away carrier meets the requirements for use in-cabin on most commercial flights (since requirements can vary from airline to airline, always check with your flight provider in advance). While suitable for flights the Away carrier is also safe for car travel. It received a five-star crash test rating certification from the Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit that conducts independent crash tests on travel products designed for cats and dogs.
This carrier is a structured soft-sided bag that holds its shape when empty and does not collapse for storage. It offers two zippered entry points, one on top and one on the side, and the doors are made of dark mesh. There is also an optional privacy panel to isolate your cat from outside distractions if they're too nervous.
Inside you'll find a plush, padded bed that can be removed and machine washed. It has a water resistant lining, making it easy to wipe the interior clean. There's also a built-in safety collar clip, a key clip in the external pocket, and even a removable name card.
The Away carrier also has a variety of features for carrying and securing, including dual hand straps, a removable shoulder strap, a trolley sleeve for rolled luggage, and latches for attaching to a car seatbelt.
Away's The Pet Carrier is available in two colors, black or coast (a grayish shade of blue).
Price at time of publish: $225
Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.8 x 10.8 inches | Weight Limit: Pets up to 18 pounds | Weight of Carrier: 3.9 pounds
Frisco Two Door Top Load Plastic Pet Kennel
Two doors (front and top) for easy entry
Made with 95% pre-consumer recycled plastic content
Lightweight with ventilation throughout
The top door does not stay propped open on its own
The Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Plastic Pet Kennel is an excellent choice for anyone in search of a classic hard-sided cat carrier at an approachable price.
Similar to our pick for Best Overall, Hard-Sided, (the Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel) this carrier can be awkward to carry, but it will provide your cat with a secure mobile den for any essential trips, like visits to the vet. This carrier offers the convenience of top door entry too. Our cat tester for this carrier, a 15-pound Maine Coon, opted to take a few naps inside, so we think the trips they took in this carrier were enjoyable.
The lightweight case comes in two sizes, Extra-Small and Small, and is made with 95 percent pre-consumer recycled plastic. There are ventilation slits throughout and you can easily add a blanket to make the inside a bit cozier for your cat. It's available exclusively at Chewy.
Price at time of publish: $38 (Small)
Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.8 x 14.5 inches (small) | Weight Limit: Pets up to 20 pounds (small) | Weight of Carrier: 6.4 pounds (small)
Best Budget Airline-Approved
Maskeyon Airline Approved Pet Carrier
Top and side entry through zippered panels
Expandable mesh covered sides
Padded shoulder strap and padded mat included
We found the carrier difficult to move with the extensions open and a cat inside
The Maskeyon Airline Approved Carrier can be used on most commercial flights to keep your cat cozy and secure while they ride under a seat (always check with your flight provider). It may look like other duffle bag style carriers, but on two sides, this carrier has expandable mesh panels that can be unzipped to give your cat room to stretch while you wait to board. These built-in sections will nearly double the amount of space your cat has to move around without adding any bulk or weight.
We found the carrier easy to carry with the padded shoulder strap, and a removable padded mat inside kept our cat comfortable. The carrier's interior and exterior are very breathable and easy to wipe clean. It also offers entry through a zippered top panel and side panel making it easier to get your cat in and out.
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 19.5 x 12 x 12 inches and with expansion 43.5 x 32 x 12 inches | Weight Limit: Pets up to 20 pounds | Weight of Carrier: 3.6 pounds
Best Backpack Carrier
Halinfer Expandable Space Capsule Cat Backpack
Easy to carry as a backpack with mesh pocket on the side for storage of small items
Bubble viewing window on the front with expandable mesh encasement on the back
Leash tether inside to keep cat securely contained
Air holes throughout for air circulation
Difficult to get adult cats to use the small side door
With the Halinfer Expandable Space Capsule Cat Backpack, you'll keep your hands free while you comfortably transport your cat on your back. As a backpack, most adult cats will have to sit upright, but with the expansion open, a full-grown cat will have room to spread out. The front viewing window is made out of plastic and resembles a bubble. It's clear with air holes to allow your paw-ssenger to see and smell the environment around them.
There are additional air holes along the perimeter with a mesh pocket for storage on one side and a zippered door on the other side. Ideally, your cat will have no issue with entry through the side door, which was the case with our two kittens, but our two adult cats were not as easy to get inside. If needed, the front clear bubble portion of the carrier can be unzipped giving you more space to calmly get your cat inside.
When you arrive at your destination, you can unzip the mesh expansion to let your cat spread out while keeping them safely contained. There is also a built-in tether to attach to your cat's collar or harness to keep them securely inside. Some cats are excellent escape artists, so better to be cautious.
Price at time of publish: $57
Dimensions: 15 x 10 x 7 inches | Weight Limit: 12 pounds
Best Electronic Backpack Carrier
PETKIT Pet Backpack Carrier
One year warranty from manufacturer
Built-in LED light makes it easier for your cat to see at night
Side pocket designed to carry a power bank
Fan and ventilation system help to regulate your cat's temperature
Power bank not included
The back of the backpack is soft so on occasion movement would push and disturb the cat inside
Give your cat a tech-powered transport with the Petkit Pet Backpack Carrier. Designed for ultimate comfort, this bubble backpack has a built-in fan and ventilation system to facilitate airflow. There is also an LED light inside that gradually gets brighter as the environment gets darker to help your cat see. These advanced features require a power bank which is not included, but there is a built-in pocket to hold the power bank of your choice (we recommended the Anker Slim 1000 Portable Charger).
The outward-facing bubble-viewing window is made of durable plastic and the outer shell is available in three colors—white, blue, and green. The build of the exterior feels substantial but may get scuffed over time with use. The back of the satchel, the part that connects with the shoulder straps, is padded and soft. We found it comfortable to wear with our participating cat inside. However, the pad is pliable so your cat will be able to feel your movement which we found would occasionally disrupt our cat during our journey.
The backpack is recommended for cats up to 17 pounds and weighs three pounds on its own. It also comes with a one-year warranty from PetKit.
Price at time of publish: $99
Dimensions: 13 x 12 x 18 inches | Weight Limit: Pets up to 17 pounds | Weight of Carrier: 3 pounds
Best Budget Backpack Carrier
Henkelion Cat Backpack Carrier Bubble Bag
Available in seven colors
Padded shoulder straps and chest strap for weight distribution of carrier
Zippered entry through side mesh door or front bubble
Leash tether and removal pad inside
Too small for larger cats (maximum weight of 10 pounds)
The Henkenlion Cat Backpack Carrier Bubble Bag is affordable and comfortable to wear, but if you have a bigger cat (ten pounds or more), this carrier might not offer enough space. We wore the carrier with a nine-pound feline inside and they seemed comfortable, but we would not want to keep a cat that size inside this backpack for a long excursion.
The front of the backpack is made of clear, round plastic so you can see your cat and they can see the world around them. There are holes for air ventilation on the front and on the sides of the carrier along with a mesh pocket. Inside you'll find a removal pad and a leash tether to keep your cat securely attached to the carrier. The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable, and there is also a chest strap for extra support and weight distribution.
Price at time of publish: $40
Dimensions: 12.2 x 11.4 x 16.5 inches | Weight Limit: Pets up to 10 pounds
SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier
Folds and unfolds easily for travel and storage
Extra large sized carrier can accommodate more than one cat, up to 40 pounds
Easy to wipe clean
Extra large carrier sold out at time of publish
If you are looking for a reliable cat carrier that doesn't take up a lot of storage space, the SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier is the one for you. This hard-sided carrier offers the stability of a classic rectangular kennel without having to dedicate as much closet space.
The triangular shape of this carrier reminds us of a classic A-frame house, but the sides are not perfectly symmetrical. With this unique shape, the carrier is able to offer a sturdy yet comfortable space for a cat, but it's also easy to collapse and fold when it is not in use. For safety, the frame of the carrier locks in place with two latches and two red-colored clips. The carrier is made out of steel and plastic for durability and is available in two sizes, extra large and large. The biggest version of the carrier can support more than one cat with a maximum weight of 40 pounds.
Price at time of publish: $48 (Extra Large)
Dimensions: 25 x 20.2 x 19 inches (extra large) | Weight Limit: Pets up to 40 pounds (extra large) | Weight of Carrier: 6.4 pounds (extra large)
Gen7Pets Geometric Roller with Smart-Level Pet Carrier Backpack
The telescopic handle and wheels make this carrier easy to transport
Can also be carried as a backpack with adjustable padded shoulder straps
Leash tether inside along with removable cushion for cleaning
When used as a roller, some cats may find the tilt of the carrier unsettling
One of humanity's greatest inventions, the wheel, can be put to good use by helping you transport your cat with the Gen7Pets Geometric Roller with SmartLevel Pet Carrier Backpack.
This roller bag has a telescopic handlebar that is easy to pull up and put down. The carrier is also equipped with adjustable shoulder straps for use as a backpack keeping your hands free. There are two zippered panels made of mesh that can be used for entry or as windows. If you do want to give your cat a taste of freedom while they stroll, there is a leash tether inside that can be latched to a collar or harness. This will keep them securely attached to the carrier while they poke their head out of an unzipped window.
The carrier comes in two sizes, large can hold up to 20 pounds while medium maxes out at 10 pounds. We found the medium-sized carrier easy to use as a roller and a backpack, but when we tried to pull the carrier like a suitcase, our cat was startled by the tilt of the carriage.
Price at time of publish: $134
Dimensions: 11.5 x 19 x 18.5 inches (medium) | Weight Limit: Pets up to 10 pounds (medium) | Weight of Carrier: 6.8 pounds
Sturdi Products Bag Pet Carrier
Very lightweight, a little over two pounds without a cat inside
Available in a variety of colors
Keeps pet hidden and limits exposure to potential triggers
The flexible structure might make it challenging to get some cats inside the bag
If you prefer to keep your cat incognito while traveling, which may help keep them calm, the Sturdi Products Bag Carrier is the one to get. The breathable exterior is opaque for the most part while the top and side mesh panel entry points come equipped with optional privacy panels. The bag is loosely structured so it can adjust to fit under the seat on most commercial flights, but you should always check with your flight provider.
The bag is offered in a wide range of colors and comes with a removable fleece pad held in place with a hook and loop strap. The bag is very lightweight, weighing only two and a half pounds, and has lockable zippers to prevent your cat from figuring out how to unzip it from the inside.
Price at time of publish: $80 (Small)
Dimensions: 18 x 10 x 10 inches (small) | Weight Limit: Pets up to 25 pounds (small) | Weight of Carrier: 2.5 pounds (small)
Ibiyaya 5-in-1 Pet Carrier
Five options for use: shoulder carrier, backpack, stroller, roller bag with telescoping handle, and car seat
Zippered mesh windows and air holes for air circulation
Easily folds for storage
Padded interior can be removed and machine washed
The design of the carriage is bulky which makes it difficult to use as a shoulder bag or a backpack
The Ibiyaya Eva 5-in-1 Pet Carrier comes with straps and wheels so you can transform it into a shoulder bag, a backpack, a car seat, a stroller, and a roller bag with a telescoping handle (similar to a suitcase). The carrier offers versatility but we found the design of the main carriage to be most advantageous in the form of a roller bag. The small wheels provide a smooth ride and the telescoping handle makes it easy to cruise with a cat.
The main compartment, where your cat will ride, offers more room than other carriers that made our list. But the spaciousness your cat will experience comes with a bulkier build which makes it challenging to wear as a backpack or carry as a shoulder bag. Outfitted with zippered mesh windows and air holes, the carrier allows for airflow and easy access to your cat. Inside you'll find a tethered leash with a clasp to connect to a D-ring on your cat's collar or harness. The carrier comes in five colors—pink, blue, orange, green, and brown—and is designed to support cats up to 16 pounds. Plus, the carrier can be unzipped and folded down for optimized storage.
Price at time of publish: $236
Dimensions: 38 x 19 x 36 inches | Recommended Weight Limit: Pets up to 16 pounds
Our best overall, hard-sided cat carrier is the Petmate Two-Door Small Dog & Cat Kennel, which offers structured support, excellent ventilation, and two entry doors—including one on top. Our favorite soft-sided carrier is the Petseek Extra Large Cat Carrier, which provides a stable yet mobile den for a cat and can be folded for storage.
How We Tested Cat Carriers
In total, we tested 30 different cat carriers, including hard-sided and soft-sided kennels, bags, totes, and backpacks. We purchased each cat carrier and sent it to a volunteer's home, along with a written methodology that guided them from setup through long-term testing.
Testers first documented the ease of setup and their cat's initial reaction to the carrier, taking photos along the way. Testers then evaluated each carrier's quality for themselves, exploring features and functionality, recording their thoughts, and answering a bevy of questions.
After three weeks of use incorporating the carrier into their routine, each tester provided detailed feedback and numerical scores across four categories: performance, portability, quality, and value. Additionally, each cat carrier will remain with the tester for ongoing insights.
Equipped with this first-hand information, we ranked and categorized our top picks to simplify your search for the purr-fect cat carrier to suit your needs, habits, and preferences.
What To Look for In A Cat Carrier
Look for easy-to-clean surfaces, recommends Registered Veterinary Technician and professional dog trainer (KPA-CTP) Jaime Lyn Bast. "Lingering odors will be offensive to your cat," she says. Check to see if any removable fabric or foam padding is machine-washable.
“The safest carrier is made of sturdy plastic with access doors on the top and the side. A rigid carrier protects your cat from any external impact,” Bast told The Spruce Pets. “Cats are easily stressed by jostling and disturbances during transport, and hard-sided cat carriers make it easier to maintain consistent, level support."
The carrier must be large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around comfortably, but small enough that they feel secure and avoid excessive movement during the ride she says.
The ideal cat carrier should also have easy-to-use latches or zippers, according to Bast. "You should be able to open the crate easily with one hand."
"A visual barrier helps your cat feel protected from outside threats," says Bast. If you have a rigid carrier cage with a lot of places to look out, can also try covering it with a sheet or towel to help your cat feel secure.
What is the best way to put a cat into a carrier?
“Ideally, you should train your cat to become comfortable with their carrier by leaving it out and placing blankets, toys, and treats inside. Once your cat forms a positive association with the carrier, you can entice them with treats to willingly enter,” suggests Bast. “However, if you have not had a chance to train your cat, or they do not voluntarily enter their carrier, you will have to place them inside."
Cats commonly resent their carriers due to pain and fear associated with improper loading she says. Always handle your cat gently and calmly to prevent panic. "When lifting your cat, support their body to avoid causing fear or discomfort. Gently lower your cat inside the carrier from above or, if using the side door, guide them in backwards (i.e., rear-end first). If your cat struggles, you can wrap them snugly in a towel, slide them inside like a swaddled baby, and then unwrap them.”
How can I help my cat stay calm in their carrier?
“Your cat will be comfortable in their carrier if they identify it as an extension of their territory,” notes Bast. “To achieve this, the carrier must be a predictable part of the home and an attractive hangout for your cat." Here are her training tips:
• Place the crate near your cat’s favorite resting spot.
• Remove the top and door initially, if necessary.
• Place a cozy blanket inside the carrier, sprayed with a synthetic feline pheromone to attract and calm your cat.
• Periodically place toys and treats inside the carrier for your cat to discover.
• Feed your cat near, and then inside the carrier.
• Close the door briefly with your cat inside, then open the door.
“Gradually increase the time your cat spends in the carrier, so long as they remain calm,” says Bast. “If your cat panics, take a step back and progress more slowly.”
To help your cat remain calm during veterinary visits:
• Do not feed your cat in the hours preceding a car ride to prevent nausea.
• Drape a towel misted with feline pheromones over the carrier to create a visual barrier.
• Keep the carrier elevated on a chair or counter, and away from curious dogs.
What is the safest way for a cat to travel in a car?
“Cats should never travel loose in the car," explains Bast. "Unrestrained cats may distract the driver, impede driving, and risk severe injury, escape, or death in an accident." For car travel, keep your cat in a secure carrier on the floor behind the driver's seat. This location provides better security and stability during a sudden stop, turn, or collision, she says. “Carriers placed on the backseat may be tossed about on the ride or fall off the seat, distressing and potentially injuring the cat.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets
This roundup was written by Anna Mejorada, a writer for The Spruce Pets, with hundreds of hours of experience testing pet products, both in our labs and at home. Before researching and writing about pet products for a living, Mejorada embarked on a self-mandated, ongoing quest to find the optimal items for her dog, a happy pomeranian named Gidget. She is now delightfully devoted to helping humans discover and select the most favorable products for their pets.
A previous version 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.
We also consulted with Jaime Lyn Bast, a Registered Veterinary Technician and professional dog trainer (KPA-CTP) with over 10 years of technician experience.