The best airline-friendly cat carriers you can buy

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best airline friendly cat carrier

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Shutterstock / Zossia / Business Insider

  • Flying with your cat? An airline-friendly carrier is a must.
  • The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier offers an unbeatable combination of quality, durability, pet comfort, and features you’d appreciate.

Are you planning to bring your cat along on your next trip? If you are traveling by plane, then you’ll need to purchase a carrier that meets a particular airline’s regulations, both in terms of size and design. Many cat carriers are too large to be allowed in airplane cabins, so you may need to purchase a carrier specifically for the flight.

We evaluated cat carriers that are suitable for carrying onto a plane and narrowed the list down to the five best options. We assessed these carriers based on a number of factors, including durability, size, ventilation, security, and comfort, as well as feedback from experts and customers.

These carriers are intended to fit underneath the seat in front of you. You do sacrifice some comfort, but your cat will be nearby. If you intend to have your cat ride in the plane’s cargo hold, you should consult the airline for guidance on heavier-duty carriers suitable for the job.

While these cat carriers are generally acceptable for use in airplane cabins, do consult your airline before purchasing. Different airlines have different rules and regulations, especially regarding the size of a cat carrier. For instance, United Airlines requires that a hard-sided carrier be no larger than 17.5-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 7.5-inches high. However, Southwest Airlines allows a slightly larger maximum size of 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches high, and 13.5-inches wide, while Delta Airlines has varying requirements according to the specific flight that you’re on. It’s best to make sure that any pet carrier you’re considering meets the airlines’ individual requirements for pet travel.

You should also research an airline’s general rules for pets before you book, and be sure to have documentation that the airline might require. Your pet may need a veterinary examination and particular vaccines to fly, so check these regulations early and, if necessary, schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure your travel plans go smoothly.

Here are our top picks for the best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2019:

Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.


The best airline-friendly cat carrier overall

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Amazon

Why you’ll love it: The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier is a high-quality carrier that offers the durability and comfort your cat needs for frequent travel.

If you plan to travel with your cat frequently, then you’d want to invest in a high-quality carrier that is durable. The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier offers an ideal blend of a highly durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior to keep your cat both comfortable and safe during travel. The exterior is made of luggage-grade ballistic nylon for strength, and tear-resistant mesh makes this carrier a long-lasting choice.

The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier’s unique design allows you to expand or compress the carrier’s size. When fully expanded, the carrier measures 22-inches long, 10.5-inches wide, and 10.5-inches high, but it compresses down to 16-inches long, 10.5-inches wide, and 8-inches high. When you’re in the car or the airport, your pet can enjoy increased space. Then, compress the carrier when you board so it meets your airline’s requirements and fits underneath a seat.

The carrier accommodates cats up to 18 pounds, and a large opening provides easy entry. There are large zipper pockets on both sides for ample storage. Straps on both sides of the carrier can secure to a car seat-belt for increased travel safety.

The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier has a 4 out of 5-star rating on Amazon, based on 305 reviews. The carrier can handle smaller dogs too.

Pros: Compresses to fit under plane seats, highly durable construction, straps can anchor to a car seat-belt

Cons: Higher price point

Buy the Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier on Amazon from $157.24 to $217.91


The best airline-friendly cat carrier for your cat’s comfort

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Amazon

Why you’ll love it: The Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier is compact enough to meet most airlines’ size regulations, but also expands to offer your pet extra space.

To comply with airline regulations, most pet carriers are small and offer limited space. The Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier solves the issue with a side flap that folds out – just unzip and, voila, your pet has extra space to stretch out while staying securely inside the carrier.

When not in use, the Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier folds completely flat for space-saving storage, and if you need to reduce its height for a trip, the ceiling supports can be removed. Weighing just 3 pounds, this carrier won’t add excess weight, which is particularly beneficial when you have to carry your pet long distances through the airport. The interior fleece padding is removable for machine washing. Dual handles and a shoulder strap make for easier handling, especially when you have your hands full.

You can order this carrier in three sizes. The medium version measures 18-inches long, 11-inches wide, and 11-inches high, and expands to 20.5-inches wide when you unzip the side flap. It’s large enough to accommodate most cats but is suitable for animals up to 13 pounds.

The Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier has a 4.6 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on 1,031 reviews. K. Nichols, a customer who took the carrier on a 22-hour flight, said, “It feels sturdy and well-made, and all the zippers worked smoothly and stayed in place. The shoulder strap was handy for keeping my hands free, and the carrier held its shape well. Most of my fellow travelers didn’t realize I had an animal because this looks like a duffel bag.”

Pros: Expandable panel for extra room, height can be reduced, folds flat for storage

Cons: Zipper quality could be better

Buy the Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier (medium) on Amazon for $35.99


The best hard shell airline-friendly cat carrier

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Amazon

Why you’ll love it: Affordable and easy to assemble, the Petmate Ruffmaxx Kennel‘s hard-shell adds extra protection.

The Petmate Ruffmaxx Kennel offers your cat the extra protection of a hard-shell carrier, in a size that meets most airlines’ regulations. Measuring 19-inches long, 12.6-inches wide, and 10-inches high, this compact kennel can accommodate cats up to 10 pounds.

Assembling this kennel is fast and easy. Thanks to the durable construction, you don’t have to worry about the occasional bump or nudge to your cat, as you would when using a soft-shell carrier.

I have owned this carrier for about six years and use it for my small cat. There are ventilation openings on all sides and I find that my cat enjoys being able to see what’s going on around her. The door latches securely and the top-mounted handle is strong.

The Ruffmaxx Kennel has a 3.9 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on 349 reviews. Rob R. appreciated the design of this carrier: “I especially like the fact that it is secured together by snaps and screws, so it cannot accidentally come open.”

The Ruffmaxx Kennel is available in larger sizes, but it’s likely they won’t meet airlines’ regulations.

Pros: Sturdy hard-shell, ventilation on all sides, easy assembly

Cons: Larger sizes likely won’t meet regulations for in-cabin use

Buy the Petmate Ruffmaxx Kennel (19 inch) on Amazon for $28.99


The best wheeled airline-friendly cat carrier

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Amazon

Why you’ll love it: The Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier lets your cat roll in style, while removable wheels to ensure it meets size regulations.

When you’re juggling luggage and trying to manage your cat carrier at the same time, your cat can get jostled around a bit. With the Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier (also listed on Amazon as Katziela Airline Approved Pet Carrier with Wheels for Small Dogs and Cats), you can pull the carrier with a telescopic handle, or opt for the handle or shoulder strap. Whichever way you choose to transport your cat, this carrier makes traveling with pets easier.

Six wheels give the carrier extra support, but they’re also quickly removable to keep the carrier within the size limit of most airlines. Without the wheels, this carrier measures 22-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 16-inches high. You can also squish down the top of the carrier to make it fit under a plane seat.

A mesh top and mesh windows give your cat plenty of ventilation. Pockets let you store small supplies, a name tag (attached to a handle) is a must-have identification form, and zippers can be locked to prevent your cat from opening the side flap and escaping (just make sure you can unlock it, in case of an emergency).

The Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier has a 4 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on 58 reviews. The carrier accommodates other small animals too.

Pros: Removable wheels, mesh top can be compressed to fit under a seat, carrying handle and shoulder strap for convenience

Cons: Can tip over if wheels aren’t properly centered

Buy the Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier from Bed Bath & Beyond for $129.99


The best budget airline-friendly cat carrier

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Amazon

Why you’ll love it: Affordable and appropriately sized, the Bencmate Soft Sided Cat Carrier is a practical option for the occasional trip.

For an affordable option, the Bencmate Soft Sided Cat Carrier offers a combination of comfort, durability, and features to make traveling with a pet easier. The small version of this carrier measures 17.3-inches long, 7.5-inches wide, and 11.4-inches tall, so it should be within most airlines’ size restrictions. It can accommodate cats up to 8 pounds. This lightweight carrier weighs only 1.2 pounds.

This carrier is water-resistant and has four mesh panels for optimal ventilation. A hardened insert gives support to the carrier, and you can use either the carry handle or the shoulder strap to transport this carrier. Additionally, the carrier has a full zipper opening on one end for entry, and a half-zip opening on the other end so you can reach in and pet your cat without the worry of escaping.

The Bencmate Soft Sided Pet Carrier has a 3.9 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on 389 reviews. LibbyListener liked the “pocket where I put his vaccine info and rabies tag.” Customers also commented that the smallest version fits underneath an airplane seat.

Pros: Compact design, mesh panels for excellent ventilation, handles and shoulder strap

Cons: Smallest size may be too small for some pets

Buy the Bencmate Soft Sided Pet Carrier (small) on Amazon for $16.99