Sometimes you just want to get away from it all – all of it except your cat. Just because you’re going on vacation doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave your cat behind. With an airline approved cat carrier, you can bring your feline friend with you when you travel by plane.
Keep reading to learn more about choosing a cat carrier for plane travel and to see our top five picks for the best airline approved cat carriers.
Quick Links: The 5 Best Airline Approved Cat Carriers
What to Look for in a Cat Carrier for Plane Travel
While you’re riding in comfort in the plane’s cabin, your cat will most likely be traveling in the cargo area. The cargo area is bound to be full of luggage and other items that could shift during travel, putting your cat at risk if it’s not properly protected by an airline approved cat carrier.
To keep your cat safe, here are some things to look for in a cat carrier for plane travel:
Size – It’s important to choose a cat carrier that is large enough for your cat to stay comfortable throughout the trip, but it shouldn’t be so large that it is difficult to carry.
Type – The two main types of cat carrier are soft-sided or hard-sided. Hard-sided carriers offer protection in the cargo area, but soft-sided carriers can be stored under a set in the cabin.
Materials – An airline approved cat carrier should be made from durable but lightweight materials, so your cat is protected, but the carrier is not too heavy to lift.
Features – In addition to durable materials, look for a carrier that is properly ventilated with locking zippers to keep your cat secure and pockets for storage.
Your cat’s safety is your number-1 priority, so take the time to do your research when shopping for cat carriers. You’ll need to consider everything from size to materials as well as the type of carrier. Keep reading to see our top 5 picks and how they compare on various specs.
Though most airlines have similar requirements when it comes to pet carriers, that doesn’t mean that all cat carriers are created equal. You want to make sure that the carrier you choose will keep your cat comfortable and safe throughout your trip.
Here are our top 5 picks for the best airline approved cat carriers:
The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier is durably constructed from luggage-grade, ballistic nylon but is still lightweight enough to carry easily. It is uniquely designed to adapt to under-seat storage requirements, compressing down to a 19- or 16-inch length. Once the plane is in the air, however, the carrier expands to give your cat a little extra room for comfort.
This carrier has a 5-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety and comes with a trolley pocket so you can attach it directly to your luggage.
Made from ultra-durable ballistic nylon
Compresses from 22 inches long to 19 or 16 inches
Adapts to under-seat storage requirements
More expensive than most cat carriers on the market
Not for cats over 18 pounds
2. Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier
Affordably priced under $40, the Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier is a great option if you’re looking for something simple but effective. This soft-sided carrier offers excellent ventilation and visibility to keep your cat comfortable, but its patented spring wire frame provides some structure.
This carrier features rear pockets for convenient storage and locking zippers for safety. It also comes with a non-slip carrying strap as well as a seat belt/luggage strap for easy transport.
Spring wire frame compresses for under-seat storage
Mesh windows provide ventilation and visibility
Comes in three sizes for different cats (up to 22 pounds)
Soft-sided frame doesn’t provide impact resistance
When traveling by plane, you’re likely to be spending a great deal of time waiting at the gate. With the Petsfit Expandable Travel Carrier, you can keep your cat contained while allowing it to stretch out and be a little more comfortable. This carrier zips down to 19x12x12 inches but also expands to nearly double the size.
In addition to the expandable feature, this cat carrier features a removable mat for comfort, a large pocket for storage, and it folds completely flat when you’re not using it.
Fits under-seat requirements but expands to 22.5 inches
Durable fabric materials with mesh panels for ventilation
Lockable zippers for added security
No side ventilation panels when the carrier is zipped up
May not be sturdy enough for very large/heavy cats
Available in small and large sizes as well as several colors, the Bergan Comfort Soft-Sided Pet Carrier is a lightweight but durable option in airline approved cat carriers. This soft-sided carrier is designed for cats up to 22 pounds, and it features mesh top and side panels for ventilation and visibility.
The carrier also has a side zipper opening so you can comfort your cat during travel if needed. It also comes with locking zippers and reflective strips for safety as well as pockets for convenience.
Stylish and lightweight design for comfortable travel
Two sizes for large and small cats up to 22 pounds
Exclusive Pet Connect side zipper opening for pet interaction
Mesh may not stand up to scratching or chewing
Small size is very small, may not be comfortable for even small cats
Ideal for cargo area travel, this hard-sided kennel offers maximum protection for your cat. The Amazon Basics Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel features two doors, including a top-load door so you can easily get your cat in and out. The kennel comes in 19- and 23-inch sizes and is durably constructed from plastic and steel wire.
It may not offer additional features like pockets or a carrying strap, but it will keep your cat safe when it has to travel in the cargo area.
Durable plastic and steel wire construction
Convenient two-door design for easy in and out
Comes in two sizes – 19-inch and 23-inch lengths
Not designed for under-seat storage in the cabin
May be more awkward to carry than soft-sided carriers
Simple Tips for Flying with Your Cat
Traveling with a cat is not quite as easy as traveling with a dog because you can’t just hook your cat to a leash and let it walk beside you. Travel is also likely to be very stressful or scary for a cat, so what can you do to make the experience a little better?
Here are some tips:
Choose an airline approved carrier that is comfortable for your cat – it should be lined with something soft, like a blanket your cat is familiar with from home.
Get your cat used to the carrier before you fly- You can use treats to help your cat form a positive rather than a negative association with the carrier.
If your cat experiences anxiety or is particularly susceptible to stress, talk to your vet about potentially using a tranquilizer to keep your cat calm during the trip.
Be prepared to take your cat out of the carrier for security checks – it is a good idea to swaddle the cat in a blanket to keep it secure.
Consider having your cat fly in the cargo area rather than the cabin – there will be more space in the cargo area and your cat may not be as stressed with fewer people around.
The best way to ensure that your cat stays calm and comfortable during your trip is to plan ahead. Make sure you choose a cat carrier that will keep your cat comfortable and safe then spend some time getting your cat used to the carrier before you travel.
When choosing a cat carrier for airline travel, you need to consider your cat’s comfort as well as its safety.
Choose a carrier made from durable materials and double-check that it is airline approved before you buy. As long as those two requirements are met, you have some freedom when it comes to choosing optional features and the actual design of the carrier.
If you’re not sure which cat carrier is best, try one of our top 5 recommendations for the best airline approved cat carrier reviewed above.