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Veterinarian & Trainer Recommended Carriers for Cats

Cat Carriers for Shorter Trips and Vet Visits

It's best to choose a carrier that has an opening at the top, as this often makes it easier and less stressful for everybody when getting your cat in and out when traveling or visiting the vet. The options below all have easy "top access," including the air-travel carriers in the next section.

Sleepypod takes pet travel safety very seriously. They do their own crash testing (at the standard set for child safety restraints) on their products and also received excellent marks in the Center for Pet Safety's crash testing studies. They're pricey but one of the few crash-test certified carriers available for cats.

Their mobile beds' tops come off completely so that they can double as a pet bed when not used as a carrier. This feature actually helps cats feel more comfortable with their carrier as they use it on a daily basis.

Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed
Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed

The Amazon Basics two-door, top-load pet kennel is a hard-sided carrier that has easy open and close latches (rather than nuts and bolts) to secure top to bottom, as well as a top access door.

Amazon Basics Pet Kennel
Amazon Basics Pet Kennel


Cat Carriers for In-Cabin Air Travel

If you want to use your carrier for flying, make sure the size of your hard carrier fits within your airline's under-seat regulations. Hard carriers aren't as "flexible" as soft-sided carriers when going under the seat. The carriers below claim they are appropriate for in-cabin use, but it's best to double-check the measurements with your airline.

Like all of Sleepypod's carriers, these two are crash-test certified for car travel.

SleepyPod Air In-Cabin Carrier
SleepyPod Air In-Cabin Carrier

The Sleepypod Mimi Mobile Pet Bed will fit in the cabin under your seat but only holds pets up to 7 lbs. 

Sleepypod Mini Mobile Pet Bed
Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed

The Sherpa carrier is another good choice with a long track record of being an excellent and versatile cat carrier, both in the car and when flying.

Sherpa Airline Approved Carrier
Sherpa Airline Approved Carrier

The Siivton expandable carrier, featured in the section below, is also airline-approved.

Cat Carriers for Longer Car Travel

dog and cat traveling in car securelyPreventive Vet team members Mazel and Marshall when they were on a cross-country road trip.
Mazel adapted to his carrier and integrated litter box right away. The carrier is featured below.

If your cat is going to be in the car for more than a few hours, you may want to use a larger carrier or kennel. This gives them room to stretch and move. You may be able to incorporate a small hiding spot, food, a non-spill water bowl, and a small litter box. There is a safety trade-off, though. Many of the mid-size options are soft-sided, and you may not be able to buckle them in, or the seatbelt may smash the soft sides. They’re not designed to withstand an impact or sudden stop. If you have room, consider a crash-tested dog kennel that can be anchored or is large enough that it won’t move around as much during an accident or sudden stop.

The Necoichi portable cat cage is more of a playpen/kennel style. It is soft-sided but has straps for securing it in the car, and it can fit a litter box, which is sold separately. Featured in the photo above – Preventive Vet’s Mazel enjoying his Necoichi hangout on a long road trip.

Necoichi Portable Stress-Free Cat Cage
Necoichi Portable Stress Free Cat Cage

Portable Foldable Pet Kennel + Carrying Case
foldable travel pet pen

The Siivton 4-sided carrier has expandable sides, making this soft-sided carrier a little more spacious for your kitty than a traditional carrier. It doesn't really have enough room for you to include a litter box for your kitty within the carrier, so something to consider. But many cats will choose to hold it until you settle into your overnight accommodations. They may not feel safe or stable enough to use the box in the car. Read more about this in the travel litter box section below.

Siivton Airline Approved 4-Sided Expandable Pet Carrier
Siivton Airline Approved 4-Sided Expandable Pet Carrier


orange cat lying in a hammock

If you’ve got a lot more room in your car or SUV and really want to do right by your kitty, you can turn a large dog crate (like either of these: wire dog crate or plastic dog crate) into a kitty condo by including a soft mat, hammock, several of their toys, a nice hiding spot, and a small litter box. 


Recommended Litter Travel Boxes

Car Ride Logistics With Cats. Will They Use a Litter Box?

Jumping right down to “business,” … depending on the duration of your travel adventures with kitty and where you’re winding up, you’re going to have to deal with litter box accommodations. This is the case both when you’re on the road and when you get to your hotel or destination. 

Just because you give your cat access to a box doesn’t mean they’ll use it, especially if they’re nervous. 

If they’re willing, you can help your cat take care of business on the road in a few different ways.

PetIsFam Portable Cat Travel Litter Box

First, get them a good travel litter box. You’ll use the same litter they use at home and (perhaps) even a litter attractant. Set the travel box up in your home as an alternate option before your trip so your cat can get used to it. Don’t replace your regular boxes with the travel box, though. Have both available.

A good travel litter box will be large enough for your cat to fit in and comfortably do their business in, yet small enough to fit in their carrier (see recommended larger car cat carriers above). It will also be waterproof and sturdy.

You can use a small plastic litter box or there are also disposable litter box options available. The travel litter box featured in the photo is handy with its zip-up feature and leak-proof design.

See our article on traveling with cats for more advice on using a litter box on the road and other helpful travel tips.