The 6 Best Airline-Approved Cat Carriers

Traveling with cats is no easy feat, especially if you're headed via plane to your destination. While there's plenty of preparation that goes into flying, period, one of the most crucial things you'll have to figure out is how to find the best airline-approved cat carriers, since using one is not only necessary for the safety and security of your pet, but for the success of your trip, too.

When you're flying with cats, it's important to do your homework before you even set foot in a terminal. For starters, most vets and pet experts recommend reaching out to your airline to figure out their requirements for pet travel, since these can vary widely. In addition to vaccination records and other paperwork, you may also want to bring along toys or a Thundershirt to help soothe your cat, especially those prone to anxiety.

Cat carriers come in all shapes and sizes, but ones that are TSA-approved for air travel tend to be more compact. Whether you prefer the lightweight flexibility of soft-sided carriers or the durability of a hard-sided option, there's definitely a carrier featured on this list that's priced to fit your budget. Others, like the Sherpa on Wheels, are designed to make your travel experience more comfortable while also guaranteeing your pet will appreciate the flight as well.

1Best Overall: A Budget-Friendly, Soft-Sided Carrier That's Easy To Store Under Your Seat

For the best overall pick when you're shopping on a budget, this soft-sided carrier from Bencmate really is a must-own. Designed to be lightweight yet still durable, it comes with four soft sides and mesh panels for better ventilation. Since this has a padded shoulder strap, you can carry it with you easily as a tote, but because of its slim size and enclosed D-rings, you can also store it easily under your seat or with a seat belt. While this carrier isn't ideal for all breeds since it can only carry pets up to 8 pounds, it's more than enough if you're traveling with kittens or a single average-sized cat. This also has a small zipper pocket on the side exterior, which makes for convenient additional storage.

2Most Rugged: An Innovative Backpack Carrier With A Window

Looking for a cat carrier that's as extraordinary as your favorite feline? With this innovative backpack, which comes with a semi-sphere window design, you'll get it. Its convenient style allows you to economize your carrying effort and take your pet literally anywhere. Ideal for cats up to 13 pounds, this comes with mesh panels and ventilation holes, plus a built-in leash and top and side entries that allow for maximum accessibility and comfort. It's even available in several colors, including light brown, blue, gray, and light pink. While the high price tag of this one can seem steep, what you're getting in return is a great long-term investment and total peace of mind when you're traveling with your pet.

3Best For Heavy Cats: A Hard-Sided Carrier That's Incredibly Sturdy And Durable

The distinct advantage of this hard-sided pet kennel is that it's incredibly supportive, especially if you're traveling with a heavy cat. Made from heavy-duty plastic and steel, this carrier is ultra-tough and has even been weight and safety tested to last. It can accommodate pets up to 25 pounds, which makes it perfect for larger breeds like Maine Coons, and comes with a removable plate at the bottom, so you can clean up messes as they occur in the air. Not only that, but ventilation holes on four sides and a quick-latching front door make this a versatile pick for any pet parent.

4Most Expansive: This Expandable Carrier That's Perfect For Cats Who Like To Stretch Out

With nearly 1,000 reviews on Amazon, this highly-rated carrier gives cats space to stretch out, even when they're in a packed cabin in the air. Made with mesh panels and a convenient wire frame that adds extra support to this carrier, it's definitely one of the most flexible options you can invest in before a long trip. It comes with a shoulder strap, two zipper doors, side pockets for storage, and a soft fleece pad for cuddling. Most importantly, this roomy carrier, which is available in two sizes, is good for pets up to 14 pounds and works especially well for longer international flights, since it gives cats a little opportunity to roam. While reviewers definitely recommend checking with your airline's rules and regulations before traveling with this, it's a terrific option that could help your pet feel less anxious during flights.

5Most Mobile: This Carrier With Wheels That's Guaranteed To Meet Every Airline's Flight Requirements

Does the thought of traveling with a weighty pet carrier on top of your normal luggage make you tense up? If so, then the Sherpa On Wheels carrier could be just what you really need. This carrier comes with recessed wheels and an adjustable shoulder strap that converts into a padded pull handle, so you can navigate crowded airport terminals with greater ease. Four mesh panels, plus a faux lambswool liner, make this carrier extra cozy for pets up to 22 pounds. It also comes with a cute 'Pet On Board' flag, which signals to folks passing by just how precious your cargo really is, and a patented spring wire frame, so the carrier fits under most airline seats while still maintaining its form. One major advantage that reviewers say this carrier has over all the rest is that it's part of the Guaranteed On-Board program, so the carrier is guaranteed to be compliant with each airline's specific rules and regulations. All you have to do is head to the company's website and provide flight information, then you'll receive a form guaranteeing you'll be able to bring your pet along, otherwise the company reimburses your flight costs.

6Most Luxurious: This Mobile Pet Bed That's Crash-Tested For Safety And Straps Directly Onto Your Luggage

Upgrade your cat to first class instantly with this amazingly welcoming mobile pet bed. Designed to function also as a car seat and in-cabin airline carrier for pets, it can fit cats up to 17.5 pounds and is one of the poshest options for traveling that you'll ever come across. Crash tested for car use and certified with a five-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety, this tear-resistant carrier also comes with a trolley pocket, so you can attach it to your luggage instead of having to carry it over your shoulder. Because the Sleepypod Air has such a unique design, it actually contracts in size to fit in the space below most airline seats during the restricted times of takeoff and landing. However, once your plane is actually in the air, it'll expand out, allowing pets more space below the seat. Once the plane is in the air, the Sleepypod Air can be expanded to allow a pet the largest possible space below an airline seat.

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