What's the Best Top Loading Cat Carrier?
Pet Carriers

Top Opening Carrier for Large Cats (Hard and Soft-Sided Options)

Many cats become nervous if they aren’t used to entering a pet carrier. Top-opening carriers for large cats can be more comfortable to enter, and the process can be much less stressful for you!

A top-loading cat carrier is a perfect solution for cats that are anxious or who won’t enter front-loading carriers without considerable ‘encouragement.’ When you lower a cat into a crate, it tends to keep them calm. Once inside, they’re less likely to lash out or attempt to escape.

Large cats need enough space to move around and lay down inside their carrier, but they also need to be safe and comfortable on long trips by car or domestic and international flights.

Table of Contents:

What is the Best Cat Carrier for Large Cats?

It’s true that some cats hate traveling, but the right carrier can make it easier. This guide will explore the best large cat carriers for nervous cats, and how you can get the right size.

Consider these characteristics when you’re looking at different crates or carriers:

  • Proper ventilation: It should either have mesh sidings or bars that allow enough air flow to pass through it.
  • Safety harnesses: Some carriers have clips that can attach to your cat’s harness once they’re inside. This helps to keep them from getting tossed around if you’re on a car or plane.
  • Convenience: Choose something that’s easy to carry and easy to store.
  • Comfort: There’s usually a difference in comfort levels when it comes to hard or soft-sided carriers. Take your cat’s personality in mind when you think about what they might prefer.
  • Durability: Traveling can take its toll on a carrier over time. Where soft carriers might be more comfortable, hard ones can be more durable and longer-lasting.

What Are the Best Hard Carrier for Cats?

Our pick for the best hard-sided cat carrier is the Petmate Two Door Top-Load Pet Kennel.

It comes in two sizes:

  • Small: 19.25″ x 12.8″ x 10″ and carries up to 8lbs.
  • Large: 24.1″ x 16.7″ x 14.5″ and carries between 10-20lbs.

Many features make the Petmate Two Door Top-Load Pet Kennel stand out. It has two openings, including one on the top. As stated above, having a top opening for your cat can help them to remain calm when you’re putting them in the crate.

It’s suitable for all forms of travel. You can take it on a quick trip to the vet. It also meets airline approval standards. So, no matter where you have to go, your cat can come with you.

Our guide to the Petmate Pet Kennel

It’s ideal for travel is because of its durability. It’s made of a strong, hard plastic. Both of the doors are made from steel, so your cat can’t claw or scratch their way out, keeping them safe and secure inside. This allows for plenty of ventilation. That will ensure your cat doesn’t get overheated and can look out at their surroundings.

It’s also an easy and convenient carrier for you. It has an ergonomic handle that makes it comfortable to hold for longer periods of time. If you have a heavy cat, that can be a huge benefit.

When you choose the large size, it can even be used as a cat travel cage with a litter box. Or, you can add your own food or water dish. The idea is to make this crate feel as much like ‘home’ as possible for your kitty, so they feel comfortable no matter how long their traveling experience might be.

What’s the Best Top-Loading Soft-Sided Carrier?

Cats are creatures of comfort. They love curling up in something soft and warm. So, it’s no surprise that many cats prefer the comfort of a soft-sided carrier. Thankfully, there are top-loading options for your cat when it comes to softer carriers, too.

Our pick for the best top-loading soft-sided carrier is the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier. It is recommended by the ASPCA and Humane Society for both dogs and cats. It has superior safety features to make sure your cat will stay secure. But, it’s soft and comfortable enough that you don’t have to worry about them on long trips.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe features a top loading option that makes it easy to lower your large cat into it safely. It comes in three different sizes. The largest size can hold a cat up to 22lbs, making it a great Maine coon cat carrier. If you have another large breed of cat and want a soft carrier, you should take it into consideration.

A look at the Sherpa Pet Carrier

Aside from being a soft-sided carrier, this bag has other features that will keep your cat safe and comfortable while you’re traveling.

Some of the best extra features include:

  • Mesh sides for proper ventilation
  • Locking zippers so your cat can’t claw their way out
  • Reinforced handles
  • Reinforced bottom
  • Seat belt strap

This is an excellent carrier for both car and air travel. It’s one of the best in-cabin carriers you can get for your cat. Even if you have a larger kitty, the carrier should be able to fit underneath your seat comfortably. This is so your cat won’t feel confined or have to be put in the cargo area of the plane.

This carrier is its faux lambskin liner. That will keep your cat comfortable on long plane rides or in the car. It’s also leak-proof, so you’ll never have to worry about an accident or a mess while you’re traveling.

The reinforced handles and bottom of this soft-sided carrier make it a perfect solution for heavier cats. You won’t feel a strain from holding them, and the carrier is durable enough to withstand a heavier weight. It can also serve as a makeshift kennel for your cat. Though it isn’t technically advertised as one, the shape and size make it the perfect ‘living space’ for your cat while you’re traveling.

What is the Best Cat Carrier for Long Car Travel?

If you’re heading out on a road trip and want to take your cat along, then choosing the best carrier for the car is vital. The two carriers already listed in this guide would be ideal options for car travel. But, our pick for the best car carrier is the Pet Gear I-GO2 Escort Roller Backpack.

Pet Gear Escort Roller Backpack

You may not think a backpack would have what it takes to be a suitable car carrier. But, this product by Pet Gear is a 4-in-1 solution for traveling with your cat. It serves as a traditional carrier, a roller, a backpack, and a car seat.

The straps help to evenly-distribute your cat’s weight on your shoulders. So, you can wear it for long periods of time without getting tired or feeling strained.

It’s also a great airline-approved backpack that will fit underneath your seat. You can even easily roll it through the airport with you thanks to the telescoping handle.

The Pet Gear I-GO2 can be strapped to your car with a seatbelt clip. It also has an inside tether to keep your cat from getting jostled around if you were to hit a bump in the road.

Some people might think it’s okay to let their cat roam around the car instead of being in a carrier. Unfortunately, this isn’t true and could be dangerous. If you had to stop suddenly, a loose cat could be jerked forward and get seriously injured. A cat out of a crate could also walk underneath the brake/gas pedals, making them impossible to push. Or, they could climb up into the windshield and distract you.

What Size Carrier Should I Get for My Cat?

Most carriers will have a weight limit suggestion. You might think that’s good enough to decide on the right size, but this isn’t always true. Some cats are longer or taller than others, but they may be the same weight. That’s why you should never go by weight alone when choosing the right carrier.

double door pet carrier

To measure your cat’s height, start at the floor and measure to the base of their ears. To measure their length, go from their nose to their tail. Many types of cats have long tails, so it’s vital to take that into consideration. You don’t want your cat’s tail to be cramped inside of a carrier.

When a carrier or crate advertises its size, they may be talking about the external measurements. Be sure to look for the internal ones, too, as they are usually smaller and what you should be considering for how much space your cat will have.

The best ‘fit’ will ensure that your cat can turn around within the carrier and lay down comfortably. If you get a crate that’s too big, your cat could easily get jostled around and may end up getting hurt.

How to Get Your Cat in a Pet Carrier

Not all cats dislike carriers! It all depends on your cat’s personality and their past experiences.

If you have a nervous or anxious cat, they might not warm up to a crate or carrier right away. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help them get used to it. With a little patience and practice, your cat can learn to love their carrier and different types of travel.

  • Start by making the carrier a part of your cat’s daily life. Leave it out in the house for them to explore and investigate. It may take several days for them to get used to it. But, before long they should get curious enough to step inside and investigate it further.
  • If your kitty doesn’t seem interested in going into the carrier on their own, try tossing in a catnip toy or a couple of their favorite treats. Then, leave the carrier alone for them to explore. You never want to force your cat inside. Associating things that they like with it will help them to become more comfortable.
  • Show your cat that their crate isn’t a trap or a punishment. Sure, you need to get them used to staying indoors, but also let them know that they’ll eventually be let out. After they’re comfortable in the carrier at home, close or zip up the door and walk out of the room. After a few minutes, come back and open it. This will help them to realize they won’t be stuck there forever.
  • Once your cat has gotten used to being in the closed carrier for a while at home, it’s time to start making trips. Start small with a drive around the block and add more time every once in a while. This will give you a feel for how long your cat can comfortably be in the carrier.

How to Help a Nervous Cat When Traveling

Traveling with a cat isn’t easy, especially if they’re large and strong. But, there are also tips you can use to help when it comes to keeping your cat at ease.

wire cat carrier top opening

Keep these tips in mind before your next adventure:

  • Stay in sight: It’s amazing what your presence alone can do for your cat when you’re traveling. When they’re in a new place, it’s understandable that they might feel anxious or afraid. Being able to see you and hear your voice can make a significant difference. That’s why carriers with mesh siding or bars are so helpful.
  • A gentle touch: If your cat can see and hear you but still seems anxious, give them a friendly scratch on the head. You can do this by carefully opening their carrier. If it’s a hard carrier with steel bars, you may even be able to do it without opening the crate at all. Your touch can instantly work as a soothing agent, giving your cat comfort and peace of mind.
  • Try stress remedies: There are many stress remedies people use for nervous cats. So much so, that some companies have started to manufacture products that do just that, such as Rescue Remedy. A few sprays of a product like this on one of your cat’s toys should suffice.

Many people choose sedatives as a last resort, and we tend to agree with that. You shouldn’t have to give your cat a sedative every time you travel. In the long run, it may be creating a dependency. Certain prescription sedatives also have side effects.

If your cat is panicked about traveling and you want them to come along, talk to their veterinarian about the possibility of introducing a sedative once. You should always get a doctor’s recommendation if you want to give your cat something strong to keep them calm (see also ‘The Best Over-The-Counter Treatments To Keep Your Cat Calm‘).

There are excellent hard and soft-sided carrier options for large cats who become anxious when traveling. These carriers play a crucial role in how easy it can be to travel with your cat.

Keeping your kitty safe and comfortable starts with the right carrier that fits their personality, size, and type of traveling you want to do.