The Best Cat Carrier for Airline Travel

Passengers walking through airport terminal with suitcases

Most cats aren’t going to thank you for sending them 39,000 feet up into thin air.  Flying with a cat isn’t ideal but it’s sometimes unavoidable. Therefore, choosing the best cat carrier for airline travel is crucial to making trips as safe, stress-free and comfortable as possible for both you and your pet.

Flying with a Cat Carrier

Always try to book your cat a ticket for inside the cabin rather than in the hold of the aircraft. Many airlines make allowance for this so long as the carrier can easily be pushed under the seat in front of you. We recommend that you use a soft-sided carrier (some airlines will insist that you do).

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, you should avoid putting the cat in the aircraft’s hold. It’s far safer for them to be inside the cabin with you. If the cat needs to travel in the hold of the aircraft, then you’ll need to buy a hard carrier without a top-loading door. Something like the Sky Kennel that we’ve listed below is ideal.

Each airline has a different set of regulations for carrying animals. Always check before booking a ticket what’s required to fly. Double check before you go, too, just to be on the safe side. Some cat carriers will say they’re ‘airline approved’ but there’s no uniform approval with each airline having individual requirements that you’ll be expected to adhere to in order to fly.

If you were looking for a cat carrier for long car trips, then we’d suggest one in which the animal could stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably. This isn’t always possible when traveling inside an aircraft cabin. If the cat can lie down comfortably with enough room, then the cat should be fine. Check with the airline as to the maximum dimensions and measure your cat to make sure it’s enough.

You may be tempted to sedate your cat. You shouldn’t. Using medicine to calm cats for travel is relatively safe and common for car rides but it isn’t advisable if you’re flying. We wouldn’t even suggest Benadryl as drowsiness (one its side effects) can restrict an animal’s breathing making it dangerous for an environment with reduced air pressure. Spray synthetic pheromones such as Feliway into the carrier if you’re concerned that your cat might be nervous.

The Best for Most Airlines (cabin): Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe

This carrier is well ventilated with roll-down flaps providing privacy as well as reducing light to help your cat feel more safe and secure. It has a spring wire frame allowing the carrier to be pushed down by several inches in order to fit under the seat in front.  The top and side entry allows for easy access at all times.

There’s a carry strap, too, making it easy to hold and manoeuvre around the airport.  A faux lambskin liner will keep your cat warm and comfortable and it’s machine washable, too, in case of any messes. The handy side pocket allows for veterinarian notes to be kept close at hand as well as any special treats or toys.

You should always check with the airline before you fly about the requirements they have for transporting pets BUT Sherpa says this bag is approved for use on most airlines and that it’s included in their Guaranteed on Board Program.

The Best Hard Carrier for the Hold: Petmate Sky Kennel

If you’re putting your cat into the hold of an aircraft, then it’s even more important that you double-check the airline’s requirements and that you have a hard carrier.  

The Petmate Sky Kennel comes in 6 different sizes and is made from durable plastic and extra strong steel wire.  Its 4-way vault door gives additional security by helping to reduce the chance of a cat sliding or shifting the mechanism.  The ventilation is very good and it offers good visibility and fresh air on all sides.  Clip-on bowls are included as are 2 Live Animal stickers.  There’s a strong carry handle and its touted to meet most airline cargo specifications.

There’s no padding so you’d have to add your own blanket, towels or comforter to make this more comfortable for your animal.

In Amazon’s Q&A section are a ton of people who’ve flown domestically and internationally using the Petmate Sky Kennel without any problems but a few users have said that some airlines won’t accept latches or bolts that aren’t metal. Check before you fly. The latches can be replaced. One reviewer swapped them over for these.  

Aircraft wing as seen through window

The Best for Small Cats (in the cabin) Pet Magasin Luxury Soft-Sided Cat Carrier

This is one of the few carriers that seems specifically designed for cats rather than dogs. It’s small enough to be carry-on approved by major airlines – although, please double check before booking – its dimensions are 18″ x 11″ x 10″.

Empty it weighs only 2.2 pounds but benefits from durable material with mesh windows, plenty of ventilation and comfortable internal padding.  There’s a padded shoulder strap, too. This folds flat for storage and is easy to clean.  The material is waterproof. The packaging suggests it’s ‘resistant to animal bites’ which is very good news if your cat is anxious.

Best front Pet Rolling Pet Travel Carrier/Pet Carrier with Wheels/with Backpack

If you struggle to carry weight on your shoulder, then it’s worth thinking about getting a cat carrier on wheels.  FrontPet’s Rolling Pet Carrier allows you to pull it along like a regular bag on wheels.  There’s the option of switching it up to a backpack as well.

The dimensions are spacious: (12″ W x 14.5″ L x 19.5″ H) to give your small pet plenty of room to travel comfortably. It’s worth noting that this is only suitable for cats up to 15 pounds.

There mesh, fabric and zippers are all secure and made of durable materials. It’s well ventilated and has foam fleece inserts to keep them comfortable throughout the journey.

It’s approved by most major airlines. There are two large side-pockets for notes or treats and empty the carrier weighs around 6 pounds.

Having a carrier on wheels can make the journey to, from and through the airport much easier but you should also think about how well your cat will handle the noise and bumps of the sidewalks, terminal buildings and then out to the tarmac. A cat that’s anxious might be better in a hand carrier or a backpack.

Most Stylish for the Cabin: Mr Peanut’s Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Carrier

This carrier fits cats up to 16″ x10″ and up to 15lbs.  They strongly advise on the website that you measure your cat lying down to make sure it’s a good fit.

This weighs only 2.7 pounds empty, so it’s ideal if you’re not comfortable carrying heavy items. The shoulder strap is padded. There’s breathable mesh on all sides and very good ventilation.  There’s a fleece travel bed, too, which can be removed, but which will help your cat feel more comfortable.  There’s a compartment for any medication, vet notes or treats, and it’s seatbelt compatible so your cat will be safe to-and-from the airport, too.  You can fold the bag down, too, for easy storage.

The manufacturer advises that this carrier is best for animals under 14 pounds. There’s a leash ring inside, too, useful if your concerned that your pet may become overly anxious and chew through the carrier.  Its frameless soft-sided carrier will make it easy to position under the chair once on board the aircraft.

The exterior is waterproof and is easy to wipe clean.

As with all the carriers, we’d strongly suggest that you check with the airline before traveling, but the manufacturer says it’s compatible with Delta, Southwest, United, American, Virgin and others.

It also comes in a range of colours.

grey and white kitten sitting on blue bag

Best Backpack: PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack for Small Cats and Dogs, Puppies

Shoulder carriers aren’t always suitable for everyone, and it’s great to see that there’s the option for a backpack, too.  This is a versatile design and one that can be used to transport your cat on aeroplanes as well as taking a cat on a hike or to and from the vet.

It measures approximately 12.5″ x 10.2″ x 16.3″

This backpack is well-ventilated and has two-way entry to help get your cat in and out quickly and easily. There’s a zip-up mesh window that gives good visibility and additional headroom.

There’s comfortable bedding, a safety strap and a buckle, too.

For the human, the shoulder straps are well padded and come with waist and chest buckles. The side pouches and front pocket make storing vet notes, treats and supplies easy. There’s a collapsible pet bowl, too.  

This backpack comes in a range of colours.

It carries cats up to 18 pounds and weighs 3.4 pounds empty.

Many Amazon reviewers have taken this product onboard numerous aircraft and been fine but a few have suggested that it’s a bit tight under the seat although, this depends on the airline and class you’re seated in.  Again, it’s worth checking with the airline and then double checking the dimensions of the seat.

Best Carrier for Expanding:  PETS GO2 Pet Carrier for Dogs & Cats

One of this carrier’s best features is that you can expand the sides out to create a bigger space.   This would be so helpful in the terminal before your flight or during a connection.  Always check with the airline before you fly but the manufacturer says it’s been designed to fit under the seats of most major airlines including  Alaska, Allegiant Air, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United, and Virgin America.

The solid metal fasteners mean that the shoulder strap won’t pull on the seams – providing added security.  There’s good ventilation and it’ll give your cat a good view of the world outside. Although, these are easy to cover up if they become anxious.  There are dual zippers which will help make access easy and crucially, the cat won’t be able to get to the zip from the inside.

What we love too is that there’s a 100% money back guarantee.  It’s good to see a manufacturer putting its money where its reviews are.

It’s lightweight with a padded shoulder strap and velcro-closed handles. There’s comfortable padding on the bottom that is hand-washable and replaceable.

The carrier includes an outer pocket that’s handy for keeping notes, documents or treats. It’s approved for pets up to 20 pounds and folds down when not in use.

Flying with your cat often takes a little more planning and forethought than simply jumping into a car.  The foundation of a good flight starts with picking out the correct and best carrier for your cat — happy travels!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *