Best Cat Carrier

best cat carrier for airplane

Best Cat Carrier

There’s no such thing as “best” cat carrier because that’s subjective, but after having spent literally hundreds of dollars on cat carriers, I know what to look for.

I’ve had soft-sided cat carriers rip on me. I still have multiple hard-sided cases in different sizes. I even have a cat carrier backpack and a wheely. (When you have the pleasure of coming across a cat lady like myself, you just don’t ask why.)

Here are my recommended cat carriers for:

  1. Airplane
  2. Long Car Trips
  3. Walking 

Best Cat Carrier for Airplane

Some airlines are more cat friendly than others. But regardless of how accommodating to cats an airline is, their pet policy around how big a cat carrier can be differs because of how much stow-away space there is under the seat in front of you.

If you do happen to book with one of the cat friendly airlines who ensure the comfort and smoothness of air travel with your pet, then you might get away with your cat carrier being slightly too big. However, the reality is that if you don’t follow the rules, then it’s a gamble as to whether you meet an understanding and friendly check-in agent and flight attendant or not.

There are a number of stressful hurdles to overcome in each step of traveling with your cat on an airplane. So, you don’t want any trouble right off the bat when it comes to your cat carrier meeting the dimension requirements.

Beware of buying a cat carrier simply because it has a tag that says “Airline-Approved”.

As you can see in the table below of major US and Canada airlines, the maximum size of cat carrier allowed is different for each airline. So just buying any “airline-approved” cat carrier is very misleading and you can be rejected at check-in.

US/Canada Airline Cat Carrier Max Size Allowed
Air Canada 17in x 15in x 8.25in
Alaska Airlines 17in x 11in x 9.5in
Allegiant Air 19in x 16in x 9in
American Airlines 19in x 13in x 9in
Delta Air Lines Not specified on their website.
Frontier Airlines 18in x 14in x 8in
Hawaiian Airlines 16in x 10in x 9.5in

(Must not exceed 25lb)

JetBlue 17in x 12.5in x 8.5in

(Must not exceed 20lb)

Porter Airlines 22in x 16in x 9in

(Must not exceed 20lb)

Southwest Airlines 17in x 10in x 10.5in

(Southwest Airlines pet carrier)

18.5in x 13.5in x 8.5in

(For all other pet carriers)

Spirit Airlines 18in x 14in x 9in

(Must not exceed 40lb)

United Airlines 18in x 11in x 11in
WestJet 16in x 10in x 8.5in

Now, let’s look at cat carriers that do meet the requirements above.

Extra Small Cat Carrier Approved by ALL Airlines

If you want the flexibility of using the carrier for any of the airlines mentioned above, then you have to get an extra small cat carrier.  The dimensions of cat carrier that meet the size requirement of all the airlines above has to be no larger than: 16in (L) x 10in (W) x 8in (H).

But let me tell you now, that gives you very limited options. Your cat better be a kitten (but at least 12 weeks old. See my post on cat friendly airlines) or really tiny. My 18 pounder Charlie surely will not fit in this size requirement.

But if you do have a small kitty and want the smallest available kennel that is approved by all the airlines, then I highly recommend the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier available on in size SMALL. This cat carrier only holds up to 8 pounds.

It measures 15” L x 10” W x 8.5” H which fits all of the airline approved dimensions except Air Canada and Frontier Airlines by 0.25” and 0.5”, respectively. But because it is a soft-sided kennel, you can squish it down by a half an inch.

Amazon’s basic cat carrier in Medium is also a great and affordable carrier for traveling in cabin if  your cat is under 10 pounds. This is what Nala was in on JetBlue when we traveled a month ago across country. Nala is about 9 pounds and she fit just fine in it. I also like that all sides have mesh, so you can peer in from all angles.

*NOTE* DO NOT get the Extra Small size in the Amazon basic cat carrier. It is far too small to fit any self-respecting adult cat. I ordered it and returned it immediately. It’s only good for tiny chihuahuas and large guinea pigs.

Large Cat Carrier for Large Cat

If you have a large cat, unfortunately, you don’t have the option to fly with any airline, because many are restrictive in the size of cat carrier allowed.

Also, choose a cat carrier of quality that won’t rip easily when you lift it up with your large cat.

With those 2 things in mind, I recommend either of these 2:

The height for both of these exceed the restriction for basically all the airlines except United Airlines, but this is the recommended for your large cat.

If you can squish the top then the airline will typically allow it. But if you don’t want to risk it, you’ll have to stick to the SMALL.

What I did to the Sherpa was I cut the lining that held the wire and took out one wire length-wise and one wire height-wise. That way, Charlie wasn’t squished in some tiny carrier. But when the flight attendants came around to check for bags tucked under the seat in front of you, I was able to fit the carrier underneath.

Best Cat Carrier for Long Car Trips

For long car trips, I recommend the hard-sided kennel, because they are more secure with the seat belt around the handle when your car jerks. If your cat absolutely hates being inside the kennel during car rides, then you can have your cat in the car without a carrier as long as you follow the legal driving rules.

Since there is no restriction on the size of a kennel for car trips (hallelujah!), the large is better. My selection is also based on it being high quality and sturdy, so it doesn’t collapse or sway when the car jerks. And very importantly, I have the carrier with the handle, so that it can be secured with a seat bealt. With those qualities, I highly recommend the:

For a short car ride (less than 3 hours) when I drove back and forth from LA and San Diego almost every weekend, I used the Petmate hard-cased kennel for Charlie and alternated between the Sherpa Original Deluxe and the TopPets soft-sided kennels for Nala. And then after a while, Charlie drove without a carrier.

For a long car ride (i.e. driving across the country with the 2 cats), it was the other way around.

First of all, I had this super useful Pet Car Hammock in the backseat of the minivan. Nala was in a harness and her leash was tied to the backseat headrest. She sat on the hammock and slept or looked out the window. Charlie was in the Sherpa cat carrier under the hammock on the floor of the van.

It was pretty much torture, guys, I’m not gonna lie. Charlie was so upset the entire flight, although I did calm him down throughout the day over the 5 day road trip.

*I cannot stress this enough: Make sure to secure the cat carrier (hard or soft-sided) with the seat belt by looping the seat belt in the handle at the top and securing with the strap in the front.*

Best Cat Carrier for Walking

I can’t believe how long this post has become. But bear with me. We’re almost there.

I don’t have many instances to bring the cats around for a walk except when I take them to the vet (my vet is a block away, so I walk there) or walk to the car with them.

They got so heavy for me to have to carry both, so I bought a carrier that acted as both a backpack and could be wheeled around. It’s proved to be very very useful. I definitely recommend the Snoozer Wheel Around 4-in-1 Pet Travel Carrier available on (you guessed it!)

For when I walk to the vet, I use the wheels since Charlie and Nala go to the vet separately. For when I have to carry both to the car, I use the Snoozer as a backpack with Charlie inside and Nala in the Sherpa carrier over my shoulder. The things I do for these cats.

You can also use this bad boy to introduce your cat to the outside world, although it might just be stressful for your cat with so much stimuli in the environment.

You made it! Thanks for making it all the way to the bottom. I hope you found these recommendations helpful. I know how stressful it can be to look for the best products for your cat. After hours of research and going through so many cat carriers, I’ve gained the knowledge of good ones I use thusfar. This knowledge won’t take me far in life, but if it helps other cat owners, then it was worth it. Good luck!