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The Best Cat Carrier for Airline Travel

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Cats might be territorial but us humans often have to be more flexible with where we work and where we live. 

We can drive long -distance with our cats in our cars and we can take epic bus or train journeys with our pets but sometimes we have no choice but to fly. It’s rarely an ideal situation. 

airline departure board airport

A quick word on ‘airline approved’ cat carriers

Airlines have strict regulations on carriers and breeds which can add to the amount of work you probably already have in arranging your own relocation.

Choosing the best cat carrier for airline travel is one way you can help make your trip as safe, stress-free and as comfortable as possible for both you and your pet.

It’s worth mentioning that all airlines have different requirements for cat carriers.

You should always check directly with the airline before you book. Information on the internet can be out-dated so don’t rely on blogs or websites when ordering a crate or carrier.  Some manufacturers will say theirs is an airline approved cat carrier but with so many airlines it’s really not possible for them to promise that without some risk of error.  The last thing you want is to turn up at the airport only to be told that your pet can’t fly.

That being said, in-cabin carriers are usually fine so long as they’re soft-sided and can be pushed under the seat in front of you.

If you’re just browsing before buying, then that should be enough of a guideline to give you some idea of what’s available.

Remember, too, that there are different requirements for traveling in the cabin of the aircraft and the hold.  We’d always advise that you try to get your cat into the cabin with you.  It’s more dangerous for pets in the hold.

In a Hurry? The Best Selling Cat Carriers for Airline Travel on Amazon

We’ve listed our top picks below but here are 2 of the best selling cat carriers on Amazon right now if you’re in a rush to get started.

We’ve added a mix of soft-sided carriers for in-cabin as well as plastic-sided carriers for the hold.  You’ll find details and links further into this post.  We’ve also included a short buyers guide to help you identify what to look for in a product.

If you click one of our links and make a purchase, we may make a small commission at no cost to you 😊

Last update on 2024-05-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How to choose the best cat carriers for planes

  • We said it earlier in this post but it’s worth repeating: check with the airline what size they accept.  For travel in the hold, you’ll also need to check about top-loading carriers and what kind of lock or latch system they’d like you to have.
  • If your cat is nervous or aggressive, then a soft-sided carrier can be tricky because it’s easier to damage.  Look for carriers made from durable fabric with zippers that can’t easily be undone.  Some cats prefer to be able to see what’s going on and others prefer to be covered over so bear in mind you may need to take a sweater to cover over it.
  • There are expandable cat carriers (we’ve included one below) which conform to in-cabin airline regulations but which can also be opened out slightly in the terminal or once onboard allowing the cat more room to move. This might but useful if your cat is slightly larger.
  • Carriers with pockets are useful for keeping documents and treats easily to hand.
  • We’d recommend adding a lease or harness if you don’t already have on.  At security, you’ll have to take your cat out of its carrier and it’s far easier if they’re already on a leash.  The added security when they’re in the carrier should help reassure you that they’re safe, too.
  • Before purchasing, it’s always a good idea to read the reviews from verified buyers. Many of them will have included photographs and experience of using that product.  This will give you a better idea of what to expect than product specifications alone.
  • There are additional requirements for pets traveling in the hold of an aircraft.  You’ll need to ensure you have ‘live animal’ stickers as well as drinking bowls.  Some carriers include these with the carrier but you’ll need to buy some if not.
  • Some owners add puppy training pads to the bottom of the carrier in case there’s an accident. This will help absorb any mess.  You’re unlikely to fit a litter tray inside a cat carrier for airline travel but most cats wouldn’t use it anyway.  You could pack disposable litter trays for use in a completely contained bathroom stall when you’re at the airport and when you arrive.
  •  We wouldn’t recommend buying sedatives for traveling by plane. Some airlines will insist that you don’t do it as the reduced oxygen at altitude can cause distress in pets.  If you’re worried about your cat getting anxious, then you could use a cat calming spray on the inside.

     

5 best cat carriers for air travel

The Best for Small Cats 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. 

No products found.

Pros:

Comes in different colors
Folds flat when not in use
Water-resistant
Collapsible

Cons:

 More suitable for small to medium cats than large ones


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Best under-seat cat carrier for planes – Sleepypod Air in-Cabin Pet Carrier

We love this carrier because it adapts to the under-seat requirements of most airlines.

It can compress from 22 inches down to 19 or 16 inches.

The dimensions are 22 x 10.5 x 10 inches, and you can open up both ends up, too.

It’s ideal for traveling by car, too, which makes it more versatile compared to other pet carriers.  It has tear-resistant mesh and is suitable for cats up to 18 pounds.  We all know going through the airport can be a big hassle but this has a pocket for documents or treats.  There’s also a safety tether to help prevent escapes.  

Sale
Sleepypod Air - Airline Approved Pet Carrier and Crash-Tested Car Seat for Cats and Dogs up to 18 lbs (Glacier Silver)
  • Airline Compliant & Space to Stretch: An innovative design provides the maximum amount of in-cabin space.
  • Crash-Tested Car Seat: Rigorously crash-tested at U.S., Canadian, and E.U. child safety standards, then independently tested & certified by the Center for Pet Safety.
  • Ample Air Flow & Easy Access: Mesh panels enable ample airflow on three sides. Quick access from top and side entry points.
  • Bed Away From Home: Ultra Plush bedding ensures a cozy space at home or on the road.
  • Less Travel Stress: Use as a napping spot before travels to reduce fear. A removable privacy panel blocks visual stressors. A stable base prevents pet from sagging when carried.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros:

Adjustable to different airlines

Luggage-grade nylon

Very attractive carrier

Easy to clean

Comes in a range of attractive colors

Cons:

More expensive than regular carriers


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Best Rolling Pet Carrier for the Airplane – Sherpa on Wheels

We like that this has a spring-frame that allows it to be pushed under the seat in front easily. 

It’s also part of Sherpa’s Guaranteed On Board scheme where the company will refund your flight if you’re refused boarding because of the carrier. 

It has castors for smooth and steady movement which won’t disturb your cat and it has a cute flag to make it easier to spot in a crowded terminal so your pet won’t be trampled on.

The carry handle is versatile, too, and can be switched from pull-along to luggage strap.  The zippers lock, too, for extra peace of mind.  It’s sized at 20.00 x 12.25 x 10.50 inches and comes in black. 

Sale
Sherpa on Wheels Indoor Pet Dog Carrier, Black Large for All Breed Sizes
  • AIRLINE APPROVED: The Sherpa On Wheels Pet Carrier is airline approved and part of our Guaranteed On Board program, which provides comfort and peace of mind to pets and their owners; it's perfect for traveling by air, bus, car, or train
  • IN-CABIN FRIENDLY: Designed to fit under most airplane seats in compliance with FAA regulations; also features mesh wall panels for ventilation, escape-proof locking zippers, waterproof interior base, and a removable machine washable cozy liner
  • EASY-GLIDE MOTION: The two front spinner wheels allow for smooth steering in any direction, with the two recessed wheels at the rear providing steady motion for safe and comfortable travel
  • USE AS A ROLLER OR A TOTE: The detachable pull handle can be converted into an adjustable shoulder strap, transforming the rolling carrier into a pet tote or a duffel bag for your comfort and convenience
  • MULTIFUNCTIONAL: The pet carrier can also function as a pet wagon or a portable soft-sided crate for regular outings and vet visits with cats and small dogs

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros: 

Guaranteed on board

Not bulky like other wheeled carriers

Secure zippers

Travel bed slides in and out for cleaning

Cons:

No storage space for supplies

 

The guaranteed onboard scheme could change at any time.


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Best hard cat carrier for airline travel 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.  

Sale
Petmate Sky Kennel, 28 Inch, IATA Compliant Dog Crate for Pets 15-30lbs, Made in USA
  • Meets Airline Standards: This travel dog crate conforms to IATA requirements for live animal transport, including door, side and back ventilation requirements. Meets most airline cargo specifications for safe travel; always check with airlines in advance
  • Includes Ready-to-Fly Essentials: It comes equipped with pet kennel essential items for airline travel, including 2 "LIVE ANIMAL" stickers, a food and water cup, ID stickers, and absorbent material to keep your pet comfortable during the journey
  • Small Dog Crate for pets 15-30 Pounds: Ideal choice for pets such as Pomeranians, Cocker Spaniels or similar. Interior dimension: 24.25"L x 18.25"W x 19.5"H. Pet should have just enough room to walk inside the dog kennel, turn around, lay down comfortably
  • Heavy-Duty Construction Keeps Pets Safe and Comfortable: Features durable construction, easy-squeeze latch wire door with interlocks for added security, 360-degree ventilation for airflow, and plastic covered wing-nuts and bolts, with folding top handle
  • Eco-Friendly Construction Made in the USA: This plastic dog cate is proudly made in the USA from EcoTEC(TM) Plastic, which contains a minimum of 90% pre-consumer recycled material engineered for strength and durability critical for a safe pet carrier

Last update on 2024-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros:


4-way vault door for extra security

Includes stickers and clip-on bowl

Comes in multiple sizes

 

Durable and robust design

Cons:


May need to switch plastic bolts for metal


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Best Airline Carrier for Expanding: PETS GO2

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 

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.  

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. Dimensions are: 18 in. L x 12 in. W x 12 in. H and it expands to 30 inches.

 

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros:

Expandable sides make it roomier whilst still respecting airline regulations

Includes washable bedding

Four entry points for easy access

Safety leash included

Cons:

When zipped up the expandable sides take up some of the cat’s free space inside. 


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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 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 maneuver 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

Sherpa Delta Airlines Travel Pet Carrier, Airline Approved & Guaranteed On Board - Black, Medium
  • AIRLINE APPROVED: The Sherpa Delta Airlines Pet Carrier is airline approved and part of our Guaranteed On Board program, which provides comfort and peace of mind to pets and their owners; it's perfect for traveling by air, bus, car, or train
  • IN-CABIN FRIENDLY: Our patented spring wire frame allows the rear end of the carrier to be pushed down several inches to easily fit under airplane seats in compliance with most major airline requirements and FAA regulations
  • PERFECT FOR TRAVEL: Features mesh panels for ventilation, escape-proof locking zippers, top and side entries for easy and comfortable loading, waterproof interior base, and a removable machine washable cozy base liner
  • VERSATILE DESIGN: Can be carried by hand with the padded top handle, or over the shoulder using the included detachable carrying strap and integrated metal D-rings - whichever suits your comfort and convenience
  • MULTIFUNCTIONAL: The pet carrier can also be used as a soft-sided crate for regular outings and vet visits with cats and small dogs; includes a large storage pocket for treats, leashes, poop bags, and other small accessories

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros:

Side pocket for storage

Fake lambskin liner inside

Privacy flaps for cats prone to motion sickness

Top and side entry

Cons:

The guaranteed onboard program could change suddenly

Hard to clean


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Best Backpack for Planes: PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack

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 colors.

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.

PetAmi Dog Backpack Carrier for Small Large Cat, Pet, Puppy, Ventilated Pet Hiking Backpack Travel Bag, Airline Approved Cat Backpack Carrier, Camping Biking Dog Bag Up to 18lbs Pet, Grey
  • LARGE ROOMY DOG BACKPACK CARRIER: PetAmi Cat Carrier Backpack measured 12.5" x 10.2" x 16.3" (L x W x H) and is designed for maximum convenience and comfort for your pet and you while hiking, camping, and traveling, or taking your pet, cat to the vet, or dog walking. Easily fit large cats, small medium dogs, and other size pets with Max Weight limit 18 lbs. There are 2 ways to enter from both sides of the backpack carrier and it comes with ample room and bed so your pet travels in comfort.
  • VENTILATED CAT CARRIER BACKPACK: Our pet backpack has well ventilated design for optimal airflow, two-way entry for easy access, zip up mesh window for more headroom and visibility, and thick, cozy sherpa lined bedding so your pet can rest and relax. This dog backpack carrier is reinforced with firm structure, making this the perfect weekend dog backpack for hiking, camping, dog walking, pet traveling, road trip, airplane travel.
  • AIRLINE APPROVED PET BACKPACK: Designed with safety in mind, this puppy backpack, dog bookbag has firm structure that does not collapsed on your pet while traveling and hiking. Comes with safety strap and buckle to secure your pet to prevent escape. This dog backpack carrier is TSA approved so you can travel with peace of mind through the airport and plane. Additional pockets to hold all essentials, supplies and must have for your dog, cat, pet.
  • SUPERIOR COMFORT, FIT, AND CONVENIENCE: The back and shoulder straps of the dog carrier backpack are equipped with extra thick padding for more comfort during long trips. This cat backpack comes with both waist and chest buckles to give you extra support. We also added side pouches and a front pocket to store essential pet supplies and a collapsible pet bowl to keep your pet hydrated! This airline approved cat backpack carrier is a must have essentials for dog mom, dad, owner and trainer.
  • DOG BACKPACK CARRIER FOR SMALL MEDIUM DOGS: Made with durable 600D polyester, PetAmi pet backpack carrier fits most small medium dogs and medium large cats, rabbits and pets. This pet backpack is perfect for cycling, hiking, camping, walking and traveling while keeping your pet and you comfortable throughout travel. It makes a perfect gift for new dog owner, dog mom, dad, trainer and is available in multiple colors.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros:

Includes name ID tag and a collapsible bowl

Safety buckle and leash for security

It comes in multiple colors

Allows hands-free traveling

Cons:

 

Reviewers suggest the zipper isn’t very sturdy


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Finding the best cat carrier for airline travel isn’t easy, but we hope we’ve made it a little more straightforward for you and your pet – happy travels!

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