Cat Carriers

Carriers are Essential for Cats

by Margaret Schill


Cat safely in carrier for car trip

A cat carrier is essential when transporting a cat. Your cat may accept and even love to be held, but in a strange place, a cat will get scared and then will not behave in a predictable manner. Scared cats most always run and hide. If carrying a cat outdoors, the cat might jump from your arms in a panic, and run into traffic, or run off somewhere and become lost. Since cats can sprint at 30 miles per hour, a person can never catch a cat racing away because people cannot run that fast.


See below for my carrier recommendations.

Always have your cat in a carrier when taking it to the veterinarian's. Your cat might stay still in your arms- until someone with a dog on a leash sits next to you and the dog decides to sniff you and your cat. Or, your cat might feel threatened by the other animals in the waiting room, even those across the room, and go on the offensive. I was at the vet's office once where a person did not have her cat in a carrier. In the waiting area, there was a large dog lying down, minding it's own business. The unrestrained cat suddenly leapt out of the women's arms and started to attack the dog! The vet tech who got the cat off the dog suffered a deep bite from the cat. Fortunately, that dog did not react aggressively towards the cat, or the cat might have been severely injured or killed. It only takes one hard shake of a cat in a dog's mouth for the neck of the cat to be snapped. In addition, all the barking, cat yowling and people yelling got my cat so upset, the vet could not do the full treatment my cat was supposed to have. So, not containing your cat in public can have adverse affects on others, as well as on your cat.

The vet tech told me that another time, a person was carrying their cat in their arms from the car towards the office door, when the cat got spooked, jumped out of the person's arms in the parking lot, ran off, and could not be found.

Cat on dashboard- not a safe way to travel

In a vehicle, it is very important for cats to be contained in a sturdy carrier. Cats can wind up under the brake pedal, jump up on the dashboard blocking your view, or crawl up on your head while digging in their claws for balance, leading to an accident. Even if the cat does not climb around the car, should there be an accident, an unrestrained cat will go flying, and can be severely injured. If the accident causes a door to open, or a window to break, the cat might run out, getting lost or hit by oncoming traffic.

For car travel when going on the highway or more than a mile on local streets, a hard carrier should be used. Cat carriers come in hard and soft versions. Soft carriers can be fine for short trips on local streets, but they are not a good choice for long trips or when the car is on the highway going at a fast speed. Hard carriers offer more protection for a cat in case of an automobile accident. Hard carriers also tend to weigh more, so won't shift around as much as a soft carrier, though even hard carriers will slide around on a car seat. Hard carriers can be seat belted to keep the carrier from sliding around or falling on the floor of the vehicle. Some soft carriers might be able to be secured, but generally, a seat belt will squish the soft carrier, and the cat inside it, when the car stops short and the seat belt tightens.

Top opening carriers are the easiest type to get a cat in and out of. But, if you don't have one and can't manage to stuff the cat in the door, set the carrier on end and lower the cat in through the door.

Get a carrier a size larger than you think you need, or measure your cat before buying a carrier. The small sized cat carriers are too small for all but kittens or very petite cats. A kitten will outgrow the small sized carriers quickly, so if you get a small carrier for a kitten, expect that you will need to buy a larger carrier by the time the kitten is around 8 months old. Almost no adult cats fit in the small size. A cat should be able to stretch out it's body in a carrier, be able to turn around, and not hit it's head on the top when sitting up. In some stores, you might need to shop in the dog section for a carrier large enough for your cat, especially if getting a carrier for a large breed cat such as a Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cat, or Ragdoll. However, you don't want a carrier a great deal larger than the size of the cat, because if overly large, the cat can wind up slung around inside during sharp turns when you are driving.

Everyone with a cat needs to have a carrier in the home at all times in case of an emergency. Don't rely on borrowing one from a friend or relative. In case of an emergency, there often isn't time to borrow a carrier from someone, or if the person lives next door where there might be time, that person might not be home. People with several cats need to have enough carriers to be able to transport all the cats at once should it be needed, such as due to flooding, fire, tornado, earthquake, chemical spill, a gas leak, etc. If you find yourself short of a carrier, for an emergency, a cardboard box with small air holes punched in it, with the cat then taped shut inside with strong tape such as duct tape, can do for an immediate transport to a safe location. Plan ahead for how you will transport all your cats at once if it becomes necessary.

Keep the cat carrier in an easily accessible place at all times. You need to be able get the carrier and go at a moment's notice in case of an emergency, such as a fire or some event where you must get out of the house immediately. It is best to keep it out in a room all the time, with the side door propped opened to make a small hide away. Some cats like to nap inside carriers. But also, by being out in the room all the time, the cat comes to consider it a familiar item, and should more readily accept being put in it when needed.

When buying a carrier, get a kind where the cat is somewhat hidden from view, while still having adequate ventilation. When in a strange place, or where other animals are around, such as at the vet's office, most cats don't want to be on view. They feel safer if they feel hidden. So avoid a carrier with all the sides being all wire grill like a cage where the cat is easily on view. In addition, you don't want a lot of draft on a sick cat you are taking to the vet, especially in cold weather. So, a carrier where the bottom half is solid, with the vent spaces towards the top, is best so the cat can snuggle towards the back to avoid drafts.

Hard Carriers

Hard carriers are the sturdiest and safest kind of carrier, provided the hard carrier is well made where the door can't accidentally open. The type with a top door is best for getting cats in and out.

Our favorite hard carrier is made from high impact plastic that looks like metal at first glance, has both top and side openings and measures 16 inches wide and 21 inches long. It is the Nylabone Fold-Away Pet Carrier, But, of course we leave it intact and ready for use at any time. This is a good size as large cats fit well in it. A great feature about this carrier is that the side door can be removed without having to take the carrier apart. Then it is available for use by cats as a cozy hide-away den. We put a pillow on the flat top and our cats nap on the top. Unfortunately, this style doesn't seem to be made anymore, but you still might find it in a store. Otherwise, I suggest getting the Nylabone Cozytime Pet Home and Carrier, discussed below.


Nylabone Cozytime Pet Home and Carrier

Nylabone has a new style of top and side opening carrier named the Cozytime Pet Home and Carrier. The top entry is a clear domed shaped solid plastic. This is good when taking a cat out in the rain. Many of the other top entry carriers have a metal grill. This carrier is a very good size, measuring 21" L X 16" W X 15" H, with enough headroom for an average adult cat to sit up, and wide enough for fat cats. It can fold up for storage, but it is best to not do that, as discussed in my article above. The Cozytime is made from sturdy, durable ABS plastic. The front door can be removed to allow the carrier to be easily used indoors as a cozy sleeping spot. Or, you can stuff a rolled up pair of socks under the opened door to keep it open, but at the ready to use for transport at a moment's notice. The side vent holes are cute paw print shaped. If I didn't already have the older model listed above, I would buy this one.


Petmate Double Door Deluxe Pet Carrier, Medium, Color:Assorted has front and top doors, and measures 23"L x 14.5"W x 12"H. It has spring-loaded latches to keep doors firmly closed. The dial side latches make connecting the top to the bottom easy. This carrier comes in assorted colors. Since it is only 12 inches high, it won't be the best choice since many adult cats won't be able to sit up in it, but it is a good length. For a short adult cat not needing more headroom, it would work well. icon



The Aran 2 Double-Door Pet Carrier has metal grill top and side entries. It measures 22.2" L x 13.5" W x 14.2" H. This size gives enough head room for most adult cats, and is long enough for most adult cats to stretch out. It could stand to be a bit wider, but if your cat is not portly, it will be fine. For a fat cat, it would be better to get a carrier that is wider.