ALCO Pet carriers. Is there a modern equivalent?
October 8, 2014 3:47 PM   Subscribe

My mom has had three green ALCO brand pet carriers for probably 30-40 years. They look like this and this. We still use them. They are awesome because they open from the biggest side of the box allowing you to easily shove a big, fat, ornery cat in there and close the mesh door. All modern carriers that I've seen have their door at the front, the smallest side of the box, and it's a total pain to get an animal in and out of there. Well, they certainly don't make ALCO carriers any more, and ALCO probably hasn't even existed for decades. Meanwhile, our carriers are in various stages of falling apart. I would like to know if any company makes a similar style, side-loading pet-carrier today, and, if so, where I can find it.

If the picture links don't work, just google "ALCO pet carrier." The ones we have are green, are made of cardboard, have two to three holes in the small sides, and have a mesh door on the biggest side that latches with two to four latches. In my research, I believe they made three sizes, and we have all three. I don't have the dimensions on me right now, but the small, medium, and large carriers perfectly fit our 12-, 15-, and 17-pound cats. The latches you'll see actually are a lot sturdier than most modern pin latches I've seen on carriers, and if possible, I'd like to have something with similar latches. I have yet to meet a person at the vet or anywhere else that doesn't say, "Those carriers are fantastic. Where did you get them?"

The answer? The 70s or maybe even earlier. I can only find these exact ALCO carriers on eBay and other places like Etsy that sell "vintage carriers." I might buy a few ALCOs from eBay, but I care more about function than nostalgia, and if there's a modern carrier that works the same way, I'd like to know about it. Christmas is coming, and a new set of side-loading cat carriers would mean more to my mom than the nicest jewelry. Let me know if such a thing exists nowadays. Otherwise, I'll be stalking the internet for expensive green carriers, especially the elusive large one with four latches. We have three cats right now, but who knows when another will decide to make himself (or the occasional herself) a new member of the family?
posted by KinoAndHermes to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen these carriers:

Petmate Two Door

They don't open from the largest side, but they do open from the top. They are pretty sturdy and seemingly well made, and the door on top helps somewhat with the problem you are describing.
posted by girl flaneur at 3:54 PM on October 8, 2014

Look on Amazon for care-eze and Iris. They have folding crates that might suit you. Have you ever tried a top-door carrier? Those are good for ornery critters.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:56 PM on October 8, 2014

This wouldn't immediately seem to meet your needs, but hear me out. Because this thing snaps together, you can remove the top altogether at the vet for easy, no-stress access to the cat. Getting the cat into it is not as simple, but in my experience, getting a cat out is far more traumatic. This is what I use and I can attest to its ease of use.
posted by rawralphadawg at 3:58 PM on October 8, 2014

Best answer: This is what we use for our two cats:

Coleman Xpedition Pet Carrier

It opens along the long side or along either of the ends. It also converts into a bed. The major selling point for us was that you can store it completely flat, and it is very light itself. Plus, under $20 it's cheap as heck. One of our cats is 18lbs and pretty big, but fits just fine.

Here's a not very good quality youtube video of the carrier, but you'll get the idea.
posted by VikingSword at 4:25 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One note on putting the cat in from the long side: there is a bit of technique involved - we use the latches before we zipper up, that way you are not struggling with the zippers while the cat is pushing out.
posted by VikingSword at 4:31 PM on October 8, 2014

Unfortunately, I've never seen any crates like what you have. I came to recommend the Petmate Two Door like girl flaneur - I have one made by n2n and it makes loading my ornery cat a breeze, plus the door can be opened either direction and the side-slides make it very quick to assemble/disassemble (no hiding place for you in the vet office, kitty bits!).

Another technique tip is that cats resist being pushed face-first into carriers, but not so much if you can walk them backwards into it.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:41 PM on October 8, 2014

I remember those carriers! My parents had one when I was a kid, and the side door meant you could insert the most mountainous of grumpy cats with a minimum of difficulty. (Miss you, Eeyore, even if you never did anything but hide in your lair and try to bite people.) What was that green stuff they were made of, anyway? It was sort of like cardboard, but thin, and very tough. Some weird '70s synthetic, no doubt. Probably gave us all cancer.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:08 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this is the one I have. Now before you balk and say it's a front loading look at the tiny black nobs around it. Those attach the top to the bottom. Try it out in a petco. You can detach the top from the bottom drop kitty in and then put the top on fast. Sit on top and slowly fasten the nobs. Works like a charm.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:54 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

while looking for a link to the top-loading basket style carrier I have (I can't find the exact one, but it's a nicer version of this one), I found these:

compact top-loading with handle on top
soft fabric with zip-off top and small side door
wider than usual looking front door, top door opening as well
soft, zip open sides on all 4 sides it looks like

and finally the closest thing to what you're looking for: dog crate style with big side door, no top handle but has a pull-handle and wheels. comes in a bunch of sizes, but unfortunately that one is pretty pricey!
posted by ghostbikes at 9:05 PM on October 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. We didn't find anything quite like what I was describing, but I wasn't necessarily expecting to. This thread's been helpful with suggestions and advice, so I shall definitely refer to it in the future when we need another carrier.

I think I WILL check out the Coleman, because it is side loading, collapsible, and it's not a huge investment if it's not a good fit for them.

In the meantime, as Faint of Butt has point out, the ALCO carriers I have, even though they are made of a semi-thin paper-based material have indeed withstood over 3 decades and approaching 20 cats over the years. If anybody wants a sturdy side-loader, I'd recommend checking one out on eBay. Thanks again, all.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 7:54 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, I was at my vet's office the other day, and someone actually had one of the old ALCO carriers. It was stained and battered, but clearly still in regular use. Those things are nigh indestructible.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:05 PM on October 12, 2014

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