The best pet carrier varies depending on your needs, but the most important thing to look for is comfort for you and your four-legged friend. If you plan to wear your carrier or carry it by hand, it should be lightweight; if you’re going to take it on the road—as in, on a motorcycle— it needs to be extra secure with a hard shell; and if you’re flying with Toto in tow, it has to be an airline-approved pet carrier that meets TSA standards and guidelines.
This array of pet travel carriers—from budget options to slings to hard-pack knapsacks to soft-sided basics—is the pick of the litter.
- Best pet sling: YUDODO Pet Dog Sling Carrier
- Best cat backpack carrier: BEIKOTT Cat Backpack Carriers Bag
- Best airline-approved pet carrier: OKMEE Cat Carrier TSA Airline Approved with Ventilation
- Best soft-sided pet carrier: Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Mesh Pet Travel Carrier
- Best motorcycle pet carrier: Kuryakyn 5288 Grand Pet Palace
- Best budget pet carrier: Paws & Pals Airline Approved Pet Carrier
Features to consider when choosing the best pet carrier for your furry friend
Most of the time, pets can walk, run, prance, and strut (lookin’ at you, cats), but there are times when they need to be carried and coddled. Our pets are our family, and they deserve the best pet carrier money can buy. As their humans, you have to feel comfortable, too, and you also need to stay within your budget. The great news is that there are pet products out there that are the cat’s meow, no matter your needs or how much you want to spend.
Pet carriers not only allow you to get your best friend around safely, they also help calm your pet’s anxiety. If your pet likes their carrier, it becomes their sanctuary: a safe space where they are comfy and protected.
Whether you need something to schlep your pet around during the dog days of summer or the harsh winter months; on planes, trains, or automobiles; for long journeys or quick trips, there’s a pet carrier for you. (Fancy) feast your eyes on these picks.
I like carrying my pet like a baby—what are the pros and cons of a cat or dog sling?
If you’ve got a small-breed dog or cat and want to cradle instead of carry them around in a bag, you can do that! If you’re getting a papoose-like cat or dog sling, here’s what to consider.
For one, is the material breathable, and will it be comfortable on your furball’s skin (and yours, for that matter)? Are there additional comfort features, like pads, to make it softer for you and your pup or kitty? And what about safety: Are there any clips or straps to help make sure your pet is truly supported and snug?
Best pet sling: YUDODO Pet Dog Sling Carrier
Holds Up to 14 Pounds
This secure over-the-shoulder model made of breathable mesh and leather comes in multiple weight options and colors, and has a wide padded shoulder strap for your comfort. Amazon
A style like this one keeps your hands free, which makes it ultra convenient. An adjustable strap makes sure the human is pain-free, and features like reinforced zippers and buckles and a plug hook keep your pet safe and sound. The best part is that it’s hand-washable.
I love the space-agey look of a cat backpack carrier—is it safe for my precious cargo?
Yes, they’re purr-fect! We blame Taylor Swift for our obsession with the cat backpack carrier. Her beloved Scottish Folds travel in these stylish eye catchers, which basically look like a knapsack with an astronaut’s helmet attached.
Even though they appear slightly claustrophobic, quality cat backpack carriers come with plenty of ventilation so your pet can breathe, and the hard outer shell keeps them safe from getting knocked around and anything else cat-astrophic while you walk. Plus, they look super cool, and because they’re transparent, they let the world get a peek at your beautiful little baby.
Best cat backpack carrier: BEIKOTT Cat Backpack Carriers Bag
Along with this stylish, ergonomic capsule with adjustable padded straps and a built-in security leash, you get a soft mat and collapsible pet bowl. Amazon
Whether a bubble backpack is right for your pet depends entirely on their comfort level. We’re used to seeing cats in these gizmos, but small dogs, rabbits, birds, and other small animals are candidates too. A chest buckle adds an additional layer of safety to the back straps, and this one fits under your airplane seat if you’re planning to travel.
My pet goes everywhere I go, and I mean everywhere. How can I be sure the carrier I get is airline-approved?
The most important thing to do before traveling with your pet is to contact the airline you’re flying and ask them their specific rules around pet companions. For the most part, the TSA allows pets to fly with you so long as they stay in their carrier and fit under the seat. (But again, talk to the airline: If your pet is a nervous flyer and needs to sit on your lap, you’ll need appropriate documentation ahead of time establishing that they’re an emotional-support pet, and different airlines have different qualifications.)
Once you’ve triple-checked that you can bring your little one along on your trip, make sure to find something with measurements that are both comfortable for your pet and can also easily (without squishing) fit under your seat for the duration of the flight.
Going somewhere cold with your pup? Check out our selection of the best dog coats.
Best airline-approved pet carrier: OKMEE Cat Carrier TSA Airline Approved with Ventilation
Fits Under the Seat
Multiple openings and breathable material on all sides make sure your sweet baby won’t feel claustrophobic, letting the plane noise lull them to sleep while you soar. Amazon
In addition to being a comfortable option for your pet, this airplane-approved pet carrier is easy on humans, too: The sturdy bottom means it won’t scrunch up, and a lightweight design means you won’t be weighed down as you run for your gate.
All I want is a basic, sturdy soft-sided pet carrier, no bells and whistles necessary.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! When all you need is a safe place for Fido to rest while you’re on the go, a soft-sided pet carrier with handles and a shoulder strap gets the job done. Make sure to check not only that the carrier can accommodate your pet’s weight but also its length and height. You don’t want to crush, squish, or pinch your canine comrade or feline friend.
Best soft-sided pet carrier: Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Mesh Pet Travel Carrier
This zippered, ventilated model comes with a removable base insert, a machine-washable fleece bed, and an adjustable shoulder strap. Amazon
At just 2.64 pounds, this soft-sided pet carrier is easy to tote around, and two connecting top handles make it even easier: Switch to handheld when your shoulders need a break. There’s also an inside hook to keep your pet in place for an extra layer of security (that is, so she doesn’t run right out when you unzip the bag).
How can I be sure that my pet carrier is secure on my motorcycle?
To guarantee your pet’s safety, you’ll have to shell out for a carrier specifically made for a motorcycle. Because you’ll be moving fast with precious cargo, multiple safeguards are a must: sissy bar straps (to mount to the back “sister” bar), D-rings, and/or adjustable straps.
And even though you’ll spend a pretty penny, you likely won’t want to use your cycle carrier when you’re not on the road. The protective hard shell on a motorcycle pet carrier means it’ll be heavier than your everyday pet tote.
Ever wanted to know how cats and dogs see the world?
Best motorcycle pet carrier: Kuryakyn 5288 Grand Pet Palace
A rigid internal frame, multiple mounting options, an interior leash, four mesh windows for ventilation, and UV- and weather-resistant material mean you can joyride with your best friend with peace of mind. Amazon
An easy-to-clean removable foam cushion gives your pet a soft surface to rest on even on bumpy terrain. You also have the option of opening the top window so your little guy can pop his head out if he likes to feel the wind in his fur. The carrier itself weighs nine pounds.
I don’t have a lot of money to spend, what’s the best pet carrier that’s also cheap?
If all you’re planning to use your carrier for is…carrying (i.e., you’re not going to be, say, strapping it to a motorcycle), then there’s no need to spend a fortune on the best pet carrier. Comfortable material, proper ventilation, and enough space for your furry friend are all that’s required.
The truth is, unless you’re preoccupied with getting a designer model, lots of affordable carriers are just as safe and comfortable as the pricier ones.
Best budget pet carrier: Paws & Pals Airline Approved Pet Carrier
Folds Flat for Easy Storage
This TSA-compatible soft option features safety seat belt buckles (for when you’re in a car) and light-reflective strips so your pet is always visible, even in the dark. Amazon
Even though this one is under 15 bucks, it comes with a removable fleece bed, mesh screens and roof, side pockets, and Velcro handles. Plus, it’s machine-washable.
Everything else you want to know about buying the best pet carrier for you
Are soft or hard pet carriers better?
Hard carriers inherently provide more protection, but they’re heavier and likely won’t fit under an airline seat. Soft carriers don’t provide as much protection from outside elements (say, you’re walking in the street and something falls from above), but they’re inherently more comfortable and forgiving for your furball and lighter for you.
How do you keep a cat calm in a carrier?
All cats are different, but there are a few things you can try to steer them toward a cat nap instead of a hissy freakout. First, trying spraying calming pheromones inside the carrier 15 minutes before use. Second, always make sure that when you’re carrying her, you keep one hand underneath to support the bottom to add a sense of stability. Some cats also prefer a covering draped over the carrier so they can’t see anything outside—it provides a bit of comfort and security.
How strict are airlines with pet carriers?
Pretty strict! All airlines are different, but no matter who you’re flying with, you’ll have to get past the TSA. And if your carrier exceeds regulation size, an airline won’t think twice about barring you from your flight. Flying is stressful enough; it’s one place you don’t want to roll the dice and assume you’ll get through with your slightly-too-large carrier that doesn’t quite fit under your seat.
A final word on shopping for the best pet carrier
Whether the best pet carrier for your four-legged friend is a dog sling or a cat backpack carrier, there’s an option out there that’ll enable you and your best bud to stick together every minute of the day, like the paw-fect unstoppable twosome you are.