Best Airline Carriers for Nervous or Difficult Cats
Top 12 things to know before making your buy

Sleepy Pod Air In-Cabin

  • Up to 17.5 lbs
  • 16"x10.5"x8"
  • In-cabin airplane carrier
  • Padded shoulder strap, machine washable plush bedding

Petsfit Foldable Carrier

  • Up to 15 lbs
  • 18"x11"x11"
  • Airplane carrier
  • Mesh ventilation for travel

Pawdle Pet Carrier

  • Up to 14 lbs
  • 18.5"x20.5"x11"
  • Allowed on most flights
  • Expandable area lets pet move around

Travelling with pets is no simple ordeal. Airlines require proper documentation, calls in advance, as well as correctly sized pet carriers, all in accordance to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In this article, we'll discuss how to select the best pet carrier for your nervous or difficult cat, giving you a comprehensive guide on the things you need to know before making your purchase, along with the top products we recommend.

Top 12 things to know before buying an Airline Carrier for your cat

Before making your buy, you should consider a number of factors. Here are a list of the top twelve decision makers you should think about before buying a carrier.

1) Is it approved by the airline?

When looking for a pet carrier at your local pet shop, you'll find that most of the carriers do not come close to the legal size for airline boarding. These larger carriers are often made for road-trips, and checkups to the vet, when a roomier space is more appropriate.

In order to ensure you'll be able to carry on your pet, contact your airline agency and check on the maximum measurements allowed for a pet carrier. Generally, airline carriers require that you'll be able to fit your pet within the bag, underneath your seat. Here is a list of the major Domestic airlines' pet carrier policies within the United States. As some of the restrictions depend on what types of aircraft you board, be sure to call in to ask a customer representative.

2) Is it wide enough for your cat?

Although you'll want to make sure the carrier is small enough to be TSA-approved, you'll also need it to be spacious enough so that your cat has enough space. The cat should able be able to make a 180° full turn. Delta airlines states that "Your pet must be small enough to fit comfortably in a kennel without touching or protruding from the sides of the kennel and with the ability to move around". If you're planning to use the same carrier as when your cat was just a kitten, make sure to try it out to see that your cat has enough room to move around.

3) Ensure proper air ventilation

It's important for your cat to have plenty of ventilation within the carrier. If your carrier has no outlet for airflow, the inside of the carrier may overheat, making it a very uncomfortable, nerve-wracking trip for your cat. Thus, look for carriers that have mesh windows all around that allow for air circulation.

4) Leak-proof, Accident-Ready and Urine-free

Nervous cats tend to urinate when feeling confined into a small area and not knowing where he is going. In order to be prepared to handle such situations, buy some potty training pads and line the bottoms of your carrier with them. This way, if your cat has an accident, you can simply throw out the training pad and lay a new one.

Some carriers have removable bottoms pads for washing, which are great as you'll want to keep the carrier clean throughout your many travels. However, we still strongly recommend purchasing disposable potty-training pads to line the bottoms of your carriers.

Available on
Product Name
Super Absorbent Pads for Puppies 30 pcs
35.5" x 23.5"
$ Check price
4545Amazon #{stars} logo(333+ reviews)

Also look for carriers that are leak-proof so that in the case that your cat does urinate, it won't get anywhere on the plane seat, carpet or taxi.

5) Weight of the Carrier

Half of your travel will most likely be off the plane, chugging your carrier around through check-in, security, and standby. You'll want to be able to carry your carrier with ease, so it's important to check the weight of the carrier. A weight of about 2-3 pounds is reasonable. Before making your buy, sum up the weight of your carrier with the weight of your cat, and ensure that you'll be able to lift it with one hand. Additionally, look for carriers that come with shoulder straps to displace the load of your weight.

6) Hard-side vs. Soft-side Carriers

There are two types of carriers - hard-side and soft-side. These describe the outer frame of bag, making for either sturdier or softer edges.

Hardsided carriers (left) and soft-sided carriers (right) for cats.
Hardsided carriers (left) and soft-sided carriers (right) for cats.

Hard-side carriers

Hard-side carriers are built stronger, and makes it harder for cats to chew their way out of enclosement. However, they may be considerably heavier, so make sure you'll be comfortable carrying the extra weight.

Soft-side carriers

Soft-side carriersare easier to carrier, and can be cozier for the cat. They are generally better for in-cabin air travel, and their flexibility may allow it to fit easily beneath the seat.

7) Good Quality Zippers and Locked Doors

Ensure that all zippers are well-built and don't get caught in any of the cloth. Carriers with weak or malfunctioned zipper can become a huge problem, as it does not keep your cat secured. Worst thing you'd want is your cat going missing from its airline bag - a situation you really wouldn't want when traveling overseas!

8) Entry ways

Once your cat correlates pet carriers with long hours of secluded, uncomfortable sitting, he'll do all he can to avoid being put in. Thus, it's important for the carrier to have a top opening, which makes it easier to place your cat in.

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Carriers with a top opening allows you to easily place your cat in, while an extensible side gives your cat more room to move around. The Expandable Travel Carrier offers both of these conveniences.

9) Foldable or Extensible

Nowadays, there are bags that can be foldable or extended out to save or utilize more space. When folded up, these travel bags can be convenient for storage; when expanded, it can nice be for your pet when he needs that extra space.

10) Additional features for food and water bowls

These days, many of the airline carriers come with pockets to place food and water bowls. These aren't necessary, but could be convenient to keep all your pet supplies in one place.

11) Manufacturer's guarantee

Although the carriers recommended below are sturdy and well-built, you'll still want some sort of manufacturer's guarantee in case something goes wrong. Thus, check to see if the manufacturer has a number of years of guarantee.

12) Style

Lastly, don't forget to travel in style!

Top Recommended Airline Carriers for your Nervous Cat by price and size

Here is our list of recommended carriers which you can find at a steep discount with fast shipping on Amazon.

Amazon Basics for the Casual traveller looking for an Affordable Option

The Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier is perfect for casual short travels. The dimensions fit for a mid-sized cat. The carrier includes handles with an adjustable shoulder strap and strong mesh walls for the proper ventilation. While most other carriers can go for well over $80, this budget-friendly pet carrier is offered at a great price point.

Available on
Product Name
Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
16.5" L x 9.4" W x 9.8" H (For Medium Dimensions)
2.4 pounds
Max Load
16 lbs (7.3 kg)
Low cost, flexible sides, strong mesh panels.
Unit Cost
$ Check price
34.9934.99Amazon #{stars} logo(401+ reviews)

Comfortable with expandable area for medium length flights

If you're going on a longer flight, or will be out on the road for a while, you may want to give your pet extra space. In this case, try going for the Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier. Furthermore, you'll the carrier comes in a foldable design, making storing this carrier much easier.

Available on
Product Name
Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier Domestic Airline Approved
18.5" L x 11" W x 11.5" H
3.1 pounds
Max Load
14 pounds
Expandable area, air circulation, foldable design, wide/adjustable shoulder strap for easy carrying
Unit Cost
$ Check price
49.9949.99Amazon #{stars} logo(112+ reviews)

Maximum comfort for difficult cats traveling in long flights

If you're looking to give your cat the best treatment he deserves, go for the fully Expandable Foldable Travel Carrier. This product will give your car the extra space it needs to overcome its anxiety and nervousness while travelling.

Available on
Product Name
Expandable Foldable Washable Travel Carrier, Airline Approved Pet Carrier Soft-sided (Two Extention)
18" L x 11" W x 11" H
3.8 pounds
Max Load
15 pounds
Extra space for long rides. Big pocket, nice removable washable mat. Mesh ventilation. High quality zippers that are self locking.
Unit Cost
$$ Check price
100100Amazon #{stars} logo(26+ reviews)

Another great product brand for airline carriers is the Sleepypod. This option is more on the pricier side, but offers maximal spacing to allow comfort for your cat during a long flight.

Available on
Product Name
Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier
22" L x 10.5" W x 10.5" H
4.8 pounds
Max Load
17 pounds
Very spacious, Luxury for cats on a long flight, Easy compact design for flat storage.
Unit Cost
$$ Check price
157.24157.24Amazon #{stars} logo(34+ reviews)

Hopefully that gave you a good overview as to what to look for when purchasing a pet carrier for your nervous or difficult cat. Any questions or comments? Comment below!