best way to move cats across country in a car
Pet Carriers

Our Favorite Cat Carriers for Car Travel (Long and Short Journeys)

A top-quality pet carrier can make your life much easier when traveling with your feline friend. And, once your cat gets used to it, they can start to enjoy being in their crate or carrier on short and long car trips!

It’s essential to secure your cat in a carrier when you’re in the car. You might think it’s okay just to let them ‘roam free’ throughout the vehicle, but you’re taking a significant risk in doing that. If you had to stop suddenly, the cat could tumble around and get injured. They may also run out if you make a pit stop and open the car door.

So, while keeping your cat in a carrier in the car is the safer choice, it’s still necessary to choose the right one. Your cat will be just as comfortable on a short trip as a long one if you select the right crate for them.

Table of Contents:

Cat Carriers for Short and Long Car Journeys

It’s a good idea to keep your cat in a carrier while you’re in the car. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a quick trip to the vet or traveling across the country. Your cat will be safer, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’re secure.

Many cat carriers have extra features that will keep your kitty comfortable on long car rides.

Best Soft-Sided Carrier for Cats

When you’re choosing a carrier for the car, your primary options will be either hard-sided or soft-sided.

There are different benefits to both. A soft-sided carrier is an excellent option if your cat seems more comfortable in a soft environment with support. Our favorite soft-sided cat carrier is the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier.

The Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier has several features that help it to stand out in the world of soft-sided carriers. First, it’s one of the only carriers that is recommended by several notable organizations. This includes the ASPCA and the Humane Society.

It’s also recommended by many veterinarians. But, you don’t have to take anyone else’s word for it. When you see the features this carrier offers, you’ll know for yourself that it can be an excellent fit for your feline friend.

tips for moving across the country with cats

One of the best features the Sherpa carrier for cats is a dual-entry feature. Cats are notorious for not wanting to go in the front of a carrier. Most of the time, it’s just because they’re nervous. You should never force a cat into a carrier, as it can become a traumatic experience.

Thankfully, the Sherpa carrier has a top-loading option. You can gently lower your cat down into the carrier and close it up with the zipper (see also ‘Best Cat Carrier For Two Cats‘). This usually helps them to stay calm, and you’ll never have to fight with them or struggle to get them inside.

Safety is another critical component to any soft-sided carrier, and the Sherpa Original Deluxe delivers there, too!

Some of the most notable safety features include:

  • Mesh sides: Having mesh sides on a soft-sided carrier is essential. It allows for proper ventilation, which serves several purposes. First, it will keep your cat from overheating. Soft-sided cat carriers are usually lined with a plush material on the bottom. This adds comfort, but without ventilation, it could get hot quickly. The mesh sides also allow your cat to look out at their surroundings. Knowing they’re with you and being able to see out can also keep them calm (see also ‘Best Ideas For A Dog Window Perch: Product Recommendations & DIY Solutions‘).
  • Seat belt strap: If you’re taking your cat on either a short or long car trip, having safety features that are made for the car is essential! The Sherpa model features a nylon strap that attaches easily to any standard seatbelt in the car. It helps to ensure the carrier doesn’t get jostled or slide around during your trip. That way, it won’t fall off the seat, and your cat will remain safely inside.
  • Locking zippers: Cats can be curious creatures, and they may try to paw or claw at the zippers that keep the mesh siding closed around the carrier. This carrier, though, features locking zippers that your kitty won’t be able to break through. So, you don’t have to worry about them escaping.

The Sherpa is safe, comfortable, and well-respected by many in the pet industry. It’s one of the top soft-sided options for car travel and is also an airline-approved carrier that can go with you across the country on a plane! Whether you’re making a trip to the park, the vet, or visiting friends, you’ll love the convenience of taking this carrier in the car.

Best Hard Carrier for Cats

The other major type of carrier for cats is a hard-sided carrier. As you might expect, these are made of hard plastic material. You might immediately think they wouldn’t be as comfortable for your cat, but that isn’t necessarily true. In fact, hard carriers are quite popular with cat owners because of their durability and security.

One of the best hard-sided carriers for cats is the Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel. In the name alone you’ll notice one of the key features of this carrier. It’s another top-loading option. Again, this can make it easier to get your cat comfortably and safely inside the carrier, while keeping them calm.

But, that’s just the beginning when it comes to the safety features. The doors themselves are made of steel. When you have an active cat, soft-sided carriers with mesh sides can sometimes be tricky. Cats cat sometimes scratch through the mesh and tear it. With steel doors, there is no risk of your cat breaking through and ruining the carrier or escaping.

The steel doors also allow for proper ventilation. They will keep your cat cool and allow them to look out at their surroundings.

The smaller size of this kennel can hold a cat up to 8lbs. One of the greatest extra features about it is that it includes a small water dish. So, if you’re going on a long car ride, your cat can stay hydrated throughout the trip.

how to transport a cat by car

As the name suggests, the Petmate carrier works well as a kennel, too. If you’re traveling somewhere and taking your cat with you, you can use the kennel as a ‘home’ for them to stay safe if you’re in a hotel room, friend’s house, etc.

Though it doesn’t have any straps that secure it to the car seat, the plastic is highly durable. You can strap it in with a standard seat belt, and because of its weight and durability, it’s unlikely your cat will get jostled around. The durability means that it’s ideal for all types of travel.

Are Pet Backpacks Good for Car Travel?

Backpacks have become a popular choice for cats because they make it easy to carry your kitty around while keeping your hands free. While they are primarily used for things like long walks and hiking, some backpacks work just as well on car trips. If you’re on vacation and want to be able to hike with your cat, but need to get there first, why not choose a carrier that can do both for you!

One such backpack is the Pet Gear I-GO2 Travel Roller Backpack. This bag is unique because it’s five different things in one.

It can work as the following:

  • Backpack
  • Traditional carrier
  • Tote
  • Car seat
  • Rolling carrier

Whatever your needs may be with your feline friend, this backpack is bound to fit them! Not all pet backpacks are good for car travel if they can’t somehow be strapped to the car seat. The Pet Gear one, though, has adjustable straps that can work with a seatbelt. You can keep it in the back seat to keep an eye on your cat with your mirror.

The other safety features of this carrier include mesh windows and an internal tether. That can be attached to your cat’s collar or harness to keep them from getting jostled around inside the carrier while you’re on the road or taking a walk.

Choosing a backpack carrier that also works for car trips is a great option for cat owners who are active. It helps to balance out the weight of your cat, so you’re not just carrying them around over one shoulder like you might be with a regular carrier. That will make for a more comfortable experience for you.

Pet Gear Escort Roller Backpack

You can take your cat on a road trip and use the backpack on a hike with them! It’s a wonderful way to stay bonded with your cat and make sure you can truly take them wherever you want to go – even the great outdoors!

If you do want to choose a backpack carrier for your cat, make sure it’s one that will fit most of your needs, so you don’t end up having to buy another carrier just for the car (see also ‘How Long Can A Cat Be In A Cat Backpack?‘).

Are Cat Carriers Good for Other Types of Travel?

The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier and the Petmate carrier are both great options for different kinds of travel. They are both airline-approved, so you can take them on a plane as easily as taking them in the car.

This is another important factor to consider when you’re choosing a carrier. Most people do a majority of their traveling in a car, even if it’s just quick errands. So, having a carrier that works well in a car is great.

But, if you don’t want to leave your cat behind when you go on a business trip or on vacation, you’ll also want to make sure their carrier is accepted on planes. Again, the hard and soft carriers in this article are both acceptable for air travel.

Many carriers are, nowadays. If you want to be sure your carrier will work on an airplane, it’s always a good idea to call the airline you’re using and ask for their rules about traveling with pets.

Is a Hard or Soft Carrier Better for Traveling with a Cat?

Now that you’ve seen different options for hard and soft carriers, you may be wondering which one is better. For the most part, this depends on your preference as well as your cat’s preference. You may not know what they prefer until you get one. But, think about your cat’s personality and whether the features included of each carrier are suited to them.

For car travel, a hard carrier can help to protect your cat a bit more than a soft-sided pet carrier. They are also more durable. They can also be strapped into the seat with a seatbelt. But, some cats prefer the comfort and security of a soft-sided carrier (see also ‘How Do You Trick A Cat Into A Cat Carrier? – A Guide‘). The carrier listed in this article also features a strap that can attach to the seat belt.

So, there is no clear-cut answer about which type of carrier is better for traveling with a cat in the car. They both have pros and cons to consider. But, it’s all about what you think would be the best solution for your cat and the type of traveling you plan on doing.

Where Should a Cat Carrier be Place in the Car?

You might think that once your cat is safely in the carrier, the carrier itself can go anywhere in the car. But, much like an infant car seat, you should avoid putting the carrier in the front seat. Always keep your cat carrier in the back, secured with a seatbelt.

When you do have the carrier in the front, and the airbag goes off, you could risk seriously injuring your cat. If you get in an accident, the carrier could also lurch forward. If it’s a hard carrier, it may even go through the front window. By putting it in the back seat, it will only hit the seat in front of it if an accident were to happen. Just because your kitty is in a carrier doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra safety precautions while they’re in the car.

Can I Let My Cat Out of the Carrier Once They Are in the Car?

All cats have different personalities. Maybe your cat would sit on your lap through an entire car trip. But, that still isn’t safe. If your cat is out of their carrier and sits in a seat or on your lap, you could be putting them at risk to get hurt. If you have to stop suddenly, they could lurch forward when they aren’t secured in place.

Cats who are a bit more curious and energetic can pose a danger to themselves and to you as you drive. They could easily become a distraction by walking around. They could even walk underneath the gas or brake pedal, or push on one, putting everyone in danger.

Cat carriers are designed to keep your cat safe and comfortable. It can sometimes be hard to think about your kitty being confined. But, as long as they are calm, they will be much safer (and happier!) in their crate while you’re driving.

What if My Cat Doesn’t Like Their Carrier?

Whether you’ve decided on a hard or soft carrier or even a backpack, you might find that your cat doesn’t immediately take to it. Some cats will easily climb inside a carrier right away. Others may have a harder time getting used to it. Remember, you should never force your cat into a carrier. This will only make them more stressed and anxious and could be traumatic.

Instead, use these tips:

  • Take it slow: Not all cats will love their carrier immediately. That’s okay! Don’t expect them to change their opinion overnight. It’s a good idea to leave the carrier somewhere in your home where your cat can access it. This will give them a chance to check it out and step inside when they’re ready. This could take a few days or even a few weeks.
  • Lure them in: If your cat is still struggling to take to the carrier after a few weeks, you can try associating it with something positive. Put one of their favorite toys or a few treats inside. If they think the carrier is something good, they’re more likely to go in on their own.
  • Keep it short: Once your kitty seems comfortable with their carrier, go on a short car trip around the block. Next time, make it a bit longer. You can keep doing these shorter trips until you’re sure your cat will be comfortable on a long car ride.

where to put cat carrier in car

Tips for Cat Carriers in the Car

Whether you’re taking a trip to the vet or on a trip across the country, you should be prepared for just about anything when you have your kitty with you. Keep these tips in mind to make each car ride more enjoyable for the both of you.

  • Take breaks: While you shouldn’t let your cat out of the car when it’s moving, feel free to make pit stops on long trips. You’ll need them to stretch out your legs, and so does your cat! Make sure the car doors are closed and let them stretch out and roam around the car for a few minutes. This is also a good opportunity for them to use a litter box in the car!
  • Block the sun: Now that you know you should have your carrier in the back seat, it’s also important to consider where it’s positioned. You should never have your carrier in direct sunlight for long periods of time. If it can’t be avoided, try buying a shade for your car window. It doesn’t take much for your cat to overheat.
  • Tire them out: Dogs aren’t the only ones who need exercise before a long trip. Before you hit the road, have a play session with your cat. Engage with them by using some of their favorite toys. The more tired they are, the calmer they’ll be on the road.
  • Pack enough supplies: It’s imperative to pack enough supplies for your kitty when you’re taking a long car trip. This includes food, treats, litter, etc. Try to pack more than you think you might need so that you’re covered.

We hope the options listed here for different cat carriers will give you a better idea of what to choose for your cat. Not all cats enjoy going inside carriers, even if you go through training with them. Some cats also don’t like car trips. Again, it’s important not to force either situation on your kitty, or it could be a stressful situation for both of you.

It’s up to you to recognize your cat’s personality and keep it in mind as you choose the right carrier. The tips listed in this article can also help your cat to get used to the carrier over time. But, if your feline friend still doesn’t seem comfortable, they may not be suited for car travel.

But, by choosing the right carrier and taking the time to get your cat used to it, it’s more likely that you’ll both have an enjoyable experience. As a pet owner, we know how much your cat can mean to you. The right carrier can make it easier to take them with you almost anywhere, so use the options listed here to find the best one for your cat.

Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API