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The Best Cat Carriers Of 2021 For Airline & Everyday Travel

My cat Paul loves cars. Of course, he doesn't like the process of getting into them: me (gently and lovingly) shoving his butt into his carrier far enough to get the zipper closed before he (or his claws) realize what's happening; the loud and confusing shuffle of the elevator; the honking cacophany of New York City... any day of the week, at any time. But once we slide into the backseat of the car and into the rhythmic flow of (someone else) driving, his eyes get heavier and he starts his deep, steady purr.

Taking Paul along for the ride wasn't always so simple. It took many trials and many errors before I found the perfect carrier for us. My favorite part of Paul's cat carrier is the second zipper it has on top. Because when we're in these occasional, but lovely car rides, I can slide my hand inside and pet his pliant, purring form without fear of him escaping. My second favorite part of my cat carrier is how soft, but firm the bottom is, so when I put him on my lap, he feels secure. It took me a while to find the perfect cat carrier, and I certainly did my research. That's why I wanted to share my findings on the best cat carriers of 2020 with you from my many purchases and exchanges, and all the info I learned from page 12 of Amazon comments.

Which Type Of Cat Carrier Do You Need?

Everyone is looking for different things in a cat carrier — whether it's soft or hard; airport or commute ready; slung over your shoulder or on your back. Different people have different cat carrier needs, and cats themselves (as we all know!) have their own preferences. When choosing a cat carrier, consider the following:


How small or large your cat is can help determine which type of carrier you need. If your cat is quite large (meaning in length, height, and weight), they may get uncomfortable in a bubble backpack; or if your cat is quite small, they may not be able to reach the hole of a bubble backpack, defeating its purpose.

The same goes for a soft-sided carrier: if your cat is too heavy and the bottom isn't firm enough, it may give way, forcing the cat into an uncomfortable divet. On the other hand, some cats find a hard-shelled carrier more restrictive and cage-like.

Read the size suggestions on each product carefully so that you don't purchase something too big or small. Don't just pay attention to weight requirements, also consider your cat's height and length. You should also think about your cat's personality; soft-sided cases can be provide a more soothing environment, but they also offer less stability. Which matters most to your feline friend?

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How and where you use your cat carrier will help determine which type is most ideal for your unique needs. How are you planning to use this carrier? Will it be for an occasional trip to the vet or will you be regularly commuting on a train? Do you need something that will fit under an airline seat or do you want something with wheels so you don't have to continuously carry it?

Are there any other features you think would make your cat's time easier, like an attachable water bowl or a heated pad? Do you want something that collapses for easy storage? There are so many different options, so don't settle for the first cat carrier you see. Consider every occasion you'll use this and work from there.

Overall Best Cat Carrier

Wild One Air Travel Carrier$125

This luxurious airline-compliant pet carrier combines comfort for your cat and convenience for you. Win-win! It has breathable mesh walls, a shoulder strap that also functions as a leash, and a trolley pocket so you can keep it in place on your rolling luggage. It also happens to fold out to create a comfortable bed.

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Best Budget Cat Carrier

AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Mesh Travel Carrier Kennel$31.24

As its name implies, this carrier is all about the basics. That means no tricked-out secret beds or hidden compartments. This carrier is designed to get your pet from A to B, and it does its job. With four mesh panels and two-side loading options, it uses a spring wire frame that will allow it to fit under the seat in front of you in most planes. It's simple but effective.

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The Best Soft-Sided Cat Carriers

Mr. Peanut's Diamond Series Double Expandable Soft Sided Pet Carrier$55

This open-air mesh carrier is like a mansion for your cat. It zips up into a standard-size bag so that it's airline compliant and convenient for general travel. Its double expandable feature allows your cat to spread out and feel less cramped, which is ideal for more anxiety-prone felines. It has a leash tether, a faux-fleece insert, and zippered pockets.

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Madison Pet Carrier$169

If you're looking for a cat carrier, but make it fashion, then look no further. This discreet and luxurient soft-shell cat carrier, made from recycled plastic bottles, has breathable mesh, a double zip top, and a velcro side opening.

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The Best Hard Shell Cat Carriers

Pet Magasin Hard Cover Collapsible Cat Carrier$25.99

This hardcover carrier provides the stability and durability of a firmer case while keeping the storage convenience of a soft carrier. While its top and bottom are firm, its sides are softer and collapse. It has a mesh window for people watching and plenty of ventilation holes. Its soft mat inside provides extra comfort as well as a no-slip surface so your cat won't be tossed around.

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This hybrid carrier contains the best of both worlds, combining the perks of both a hard- and soft-shell carrier. It functions as a pet bed, pet carrier, and pet car seat all in one. Its breathable mesh dome can be removed to reveal an everyday pet bed. It also has removable plush bedding for ease of cleaning and, like all Sleepypod products, it is crash-tested to ensure your pet's safety.

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Ferplast Atlas 10 Top Opening Cat and Dog Carrier$39.99

Made of sturdy plastic, this no-frills hard-shell cat carrier is as durable as it is breathable. With plenty of ventilation holes and spaces for your cat to look out, it also may not feel as cage-like to your kitty. With a handle at the top for easy moving and two separate holes for easy loading, this cat carrier will fit your travel plans and your budget.

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The Best Backpack Cat Carriers

Barbosa Bubble Backpack Pet Carrier$176.99

Bring your cat on a spaceship ride all over town with this bubble backpack carrier. With strong mesh sides and more holes for ventilation, your cat will enjoy the choice of peering out the bubble window or lying low, unseen. It has a removable mat and adjustable straps so it stays clean and comfortable for you and your kitty.

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JesPet Dog & Cat Carrier Backpack$39.99

If you're looking for a backpack that breathability and structure, this airline-approved topload backpack might do the trick. Made of durable polyester with mesh pockets for ventilation, this cat backpack also has padded straps and a shoulder strap for comfort. It has a removable padded mat to make it more comfortable and easier to clean. Added bonus: it gives your cat ample room to turn around so they can feel a little safer no matter where you are.

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Mr. Peanut's Aspen Series Backpack Pet Carrier$60

This soft-sided backpack tote (which also happens to be airline-approved) is perfect for adventures big and small — from a trip to the vet to mountain biking. Durable and waterproof, this lightweight backpack has four mesh sides for ventilation, a removable fleece travel bed, and storage compartments.

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The Best Airline-Friendly Cat Carriers

Sleepypod Air$179.99

Designed specifically for air travel, this durable and crash-tested pet carrier reduces in size to fit under the airplane seat and then expands for a little extra room when you reach cruising altitude. It comes with a trolley pocket so you can slide it easily onto luggage, three mesh panels for ventilation, and ultra plush bedding for all the naps.

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SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier$47.99

This hard-shelled cat carrier features a unique design that opens at the widest point of the carrier, making it easy to get your cat out and in — and making them feel comfortable enough to walk in themselves. Its plush bed adds to its comfort and it collapses flat for easy storage. Its distinct shape also makes it easier to fit into more spaces, so it doesn't lose out on convenience but still offers complete support.

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Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe$39.94

When compared to a lot of travel carriers, Sherpa's Original Deluxe is relatively inexpensive — but that doesn't mean it's lacking. It has an on-board guarantee for seven different airlines, ensuring you and your cat will have no problems at the airport. Its spring wire frame allows the back-end of the carrier to be pushed down several inches to fit the underseat dimensions. It has two points of entry, mesh panels for ventilation, and a rear pocket.

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