What kind of cat carrier should I get?
November 14, 2008 7:35 PM   Subscribe

I just adopted a 2 year old, 13 pound cat last week, and he needs a carrier in a couple weeks.

He also has all his claws, and because of this, he nearly escaped from the cardboard carrier I took him home in. I need something sturdy, ut I also want something a little more compact than the bulky, plastic carriers--my storage space is very limited. Something airline approved might be helpful in the semi-near future.

I'm willing to pay for a creme de la creme carrier, but a $50-60 would be ideal. Any recommendations?
posted by english lit.ter bug to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This soft sided carrier looks like it will work. I would stay away from a soft sided carrier with lots of mesh. The little claws can shred that fabric in no time. I'm not sure if the airline will allow this one on the plane, it would have to go into the passenger compartment under the seat.

The plastic crate carriers usually come in 2 pieces, one sitting inside the other. The screws used to clamp the top and bottom are usually made with large heads for easy tightening with just your fingers. Your cat would be very safe in this one if he had to travel in the cargo area with the luggage. I would worry about him getting smashed in the soft sided carrier.
posted by JujuB at 7:57 PM on November 14, 2008

It sounds like your looking for a soft cat carrier. I own something like this and haven't run into too many problems. It's made out of a strong fabric and folds down to a small size. The only problem I have run into is that I have to hold underneath because it bows under his weight.

Leave the carrier out about an hour before you have to take your cat somewhere and let him play with it, much easier to get him inside when he views it as a fun toy.

Congrats on the new kitteh!
posted by GhostChe at 8:02 PM on November 14, 2008

I do have a question about the kitty. My 2 year-old cat has some Maine Coon in him, which we didn't realize when we chose him. He is almost 13 pounds now, and is already reached the limits of our smallish soft-sided carrier. I now hear that Maine Coons can grow until 4 or more years of age (!) and mine may gain still a few more pounds. Since your guy is largish, I was wondering if there was a chance that he may get even larger.

We have an airline-approved medium carrier as well, and that seems like it will be fine for our boy, though not as stylish or comfy looking.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:26 PM on November 14, 2008

I would HIGHLY recommend a carrier that has a top-loading option (in addition to the front door, of course) - this is about the only way I can get my feline friend INTO her carrier because man, shoving her in through the front involves having to practically tip her upside down to get gravity working with me against the monumental force of a cat's will.

This one from PetCo is soft-sided AND approved for airlines. AND has top-entry. Certainly would be what I would go for, were I in the market for a cat-caddy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2008

Seconding top-loading. Or rather, unloading in my case. My stubborn old lady has to be poured in through the front flap and removed from the top. She's enormous, incidentally (roughly 13 pounds of cat and 1 pound of hair) and her soft-sided carrier has done just fine so far. It should be big enough for the kitteh to stand up and turn around, but in my experience they freak out a little when it's too big. They like to feel like they can hide a little.

You might consider a soft-sided carrier with a sturdy structure that you can collapse easily, and worry about the airline one when the time comes. You might find you want different features for each purpose. And yes, you didn't ask, but people have told you anyway: you really must leave it out from time to time for the cat to see and smell and get used to. If you just take it out right before you leave, his little walnut-sized brain will very quickly do the math (that thing = trauma and/or disruption of some kind) and run to the least accessible place in the house.

Hooray for adopting a grownup cat! Gold star for you.
posted by ultraultraboomerang at 9:58 PM on November 14, 2008

I have this Sherpa bag (not sure right now which size, probably large) and it holds my 18lb cat just fine. The bottom has a removable insert that is hard (cardboard?)covered by plastic, with a fleecy top, and I've never had any problems with the bag bowing under the weight of my big kitty. I've never tried to use it on an airplane, however.

I will say that the top loading feature is incredibly useful, as my cats generally do not want to get in it of their own accord, but they do overall seem to like this carrier better than the old plastic ones we used to have.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:24 PM on November 14, 2008

I have a top- and side-loading softside with collapsible sides that I picked up at (god help me) Wal-Mart for around $30. It fits my 16 pound behemoth of a cat really comfortably and has the cardboard insert like DiscourseMarker mentioned.

The collapsible sides make for flat storage, and the toploading is a savior when it comes to his will and remarkably strong arms. I usually have to dump him in the top, and then pour him our the front.

Also, echoing above, set the carrier out ahead of time. If I put it out right before I'm about to leave, the cat is nowhere to be found. If I put it out a day early, he sleeps in it over night, lest I leave him behind.
posted by messylissa at 11:51 PM on November 14, 2008

Yeah, we got a Sherpa carrier -- soft-sided, square-ended holdall-style -- for our 13lb cat. We keep it under a chair with one end open, and it serves as a get-in-your-box-bad-cat place for timeouts, or somewhere for him to nap in relative comfort. You'd think that would traumatise him, but he's pretty cool with it. After all, it's a box, and cats like boxes. Never flown, but he's gone on four-hour drives.
posted by holgate at 12:02 AM on November 15, 2008

The bulky plastic carriers, at least the Pet Porters we have for our 15 pound boys, do not take up much space because we store them with the tops unscrewed from the bottoms and nested together. It's no trouble to attach and reattach the tops with the screws and plastic nuts, and the carriers are sturdy and east to carry, as well as economical.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:33 AM on November 15, 2008

I have the same Sherpa bag DiscourseMarker linked to, and like it a lot. Mine is a large because one of my cats was fucking huge, but the other three would easily fit in a medium.

I have a couple of other soft-siders as well (for the blessedly rare occasions when more than one cat needs to be moved), but don't remember what brand they are. They do have one feature I'll suggest is probably pointless to pay extra for, though - these little awning-like flaps you can roll down over the mesh sides and front. I believe the idea is that if your cat seriously freaks out at travel, you can hide the view so they don't know what's going on. I tried that exactly once and my guy was way more freaked out about being in a moving box in the dark, so I never used those flaps again.
posted by Stacey at 5:00 AM on November 15, 2008

Oh, forgot to add - a nice thing about the soft-siders is they usually have shoulder straps, whereas the hard-siders I've seen only have handles. Depending how you think you want to carry the cats around, you may like the shoulder straps or at least want to have an option.
posted by Stacey at 5:01 AM on November 15, 2008

nthing getting a hard plastic carrier that's roomy enough and storing with the two halves unscrewed and one nesting into the other.

I once flew with a 13-pound cat in an airline-approved, under-the-seat carrier. The cat was too big, but I had no choice--it was an urgent rescue situation. She was smooshed way down, couldn't sit up, and could turn around only with extreme difficulty. The next day when I took her to the vet in the same carrier because it was the only one I had, I got a nice lecture from the vet and the techs about it being too small.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:54 AM on November 15, 2008

I have a plastic carrier for my cat that folds flat and takes up no space at all. (Kind of like this one but a slightly different shape.) That said, it would be too big to fit under an airline seat.

My cat is small but she hates the soft-sided sherpa carrier - and rubs her nose raw/to bleeding against the mesh sides trying to get out. I only have it for airline travel and emergencies. Call me crazy, but I worry about evacuating our house in case of a fire - and I wouldn't have time to assemble the foldaway crate so the soft-sided one stays under the bed, just in case.
posted by misskaz at 7:54 AM on November 15, 2008

Yay for new babies!

My cat is a similar size (15 pounds) and I have this carrier. I tried a soft sided one, but 1. It was a pain to lug around such a heavy cat in a carrier that wasn't totally rigid and 2. Accidents are much worse to deal with in soft carriers. I don't have much space (studio apartment, no closet space), either, but you can easily take this carrier apart and fold it up to half its size--small enough to stow under the bed. Keep in mind that your cat might get bigger now that he's not at the shelter, so get a carrier that will accommodate a little growing.

The same brand makes top loading carriers, but I didn't want to spend the money. This is how I get Sammy Katz (who also has claws) into his.

1. Several hours before we need to be somewhere (or the night before), put the carrier out where you'll be dealing with it, preferably so that the back of the carrier rests against a wall or other surface (fridge, etc). Leave the door open.

2. Pick up the cat's whole body, but as you're holding him, grab the scruff of his neck (the loose skin around his neck right around the collar area).

3. Sit down in front of the carrier. Kitty will probably start squirming about . . . now. Hold on tightly to the scruff of his neck, talking gently to the cat.

4. Still holding the scruff with one hand, take the front paws together in the other up by the elbows in the other and push cat back into carrier. This might take a few tries, but cats tend to be a bit more cooperative when they're scruffed, so it shouldn't be too hard.

5. Close door immediately.

Usually I can get the cat in the carrier in about 10 minutes, with minimal scratching--do watch out for those back claws, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have no good advice to add about which carrier to get. I just want to suggest getting it as soon as you can and leaving it around for your cat to get used to before he has to suffer the indignity of being carried in it.

Leave it set up with some enticing treats in the back and the door open. Hopefully he will check it out, go in and explore, maybe learn to like or at least tolerate sitting in it. Then when it's time to ride in it for real, perhaps he will be ok with getting into it, or maybe he will react like you are shoving him through the gates of hell. But either way, it would be familiar to him.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2008

Mr. Onslow and I thank you for all of the recommendations! I will probably go with this sherpa soft carrier. If we have issues with the mesh, this can be Onslow's airplane-only carrier.
posted by english lit.ter bug at 9:17 AM on November 15, 2008

nthing the sherpa. I also suggest that you leave the door open and open the top flap and then either use treats or wet food or whatever the cat consider yummy to get the cat to go into the carrier on his own. With the top open it makes it much easier to train the cat to do this. When he's used to go into the carrier for the treats, close the top and repeat the treat. When that works fine, briefly close the door when he's in the carrier so he's confined for about 10 seconds. Repeat with longer intervals and when he's comfy with that, pick up the carrier and move it a short distance, put it down, open the door and give the cat a treat. Now you can increase the time the door is closed, the distance you carry the carrier until you have a cat that's perfectly fine, being in a carrier. You can expand on this, in small steps, to include the car and actual drives and when it's time for a trip or going to the vet, the carrier is a non issue.
posted by Ferrari328 at 10:45 AM on November 15, 2008

The best cat carrier I know of, bar none, is the Sturdibag. It has flexible struts like tent poles, it's as tough and light as you could hope for, and comes in several sizes. It's closer to $90 than $60, but it's rock-solid, comfortable for you and the cat, and it'll last forever.
posted by tangerine at 12:23 PM on November 15, 2008

I hope Onslow likes his carrier! Just a note that I took one of my cats to the vet Saturday morning in the Sherpa, and afterwards was too lazy to put it away and left it in the living room with the front unzipped. I have only just now been able to put it away nearly 36 hours later, because every time until now, I would go to put it away only to find one or the other of the cats curled up in it napping. It seems to meet the test of being comfortable to hang out in at least when not travelling.
posted by Stacey at 5:08 PM on November 16, 2008

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