How Big Should A Cat Carrier Be? Here’s How To Choose The Right One

Cat carriers are only useful if your kitty can fit inside. The question now is this: how big should a cat carrier be?

Just like clothing, there’s no one-size-fits-all carrier for felines. Also, the saying “go big or go home” doesn’t apply in this case.

How Big Should A Cat Carrier Be

Getting the right carrier size is a matter of comfort and safety for your pet. Remember that a carrier too small or too big is both unsuitable for felines.

If you’re unsure what size suits your cat, I discuss here a quick guideline to help you out. This is based on my experience buying a carrier for my tabby Watson over the years.

How to pick the right carrier size for cats

Cat carriers are available in different sizes to suit a variety of breeds and the build of your pet. It’s important to get the right size aside from the other considerations I discussed here.

In general, the carrier should be spacious enough for your cat to stand, turn, sit, and lie down inside. Also, the carrier should be around 1.5 times bigger than the size of your kitty.

So how do you calculate the right carrier size for your cat? Below is a quick guide:

Step 1. Measure your cat’s height

First, you should place your cat against a vertical flat surface. It could be a wall, furniture, and whatnot.

Make sure that your kitty is standing naturally. After that, you should measure the height right from the bottom of its paws up to the highest tip of its ears.

Write down this measurement before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Measure your cat’s length

The next thing you have to measure is your cat’s length. Again, make sure that the feline is standing naturally.

To measure the kitty’s length, you need to run your tape measure from the base of the tail to the tip of its nose. Take note that you don’t have to measure from the tip of the tail since cats can easily curl this part around their bodies.

Step 3. Multiply it by 1.5

Once you have the height and length of your cat, you need to multiply each one by 1.5. Here’s an example

9 inches (cat height) x 1.5 = 13.5 inches

18 inches (cat length) x 1.5 = 27 inches

With this, you’ll need a carrier that’s at least 13.5 inches tall and 18 inches long. This size is comfy enough for cats, even on long travels.

If your kitty’s measurements are in between sizes, you should go for the bigger one. Still, you shouldn’t purchase a carrier that’s too big for your pet.

It’s because a very large carrier will allow cats to soil on a corner. Also, it will not give the kitty the sense of safety, which they often get by staying in cramped spaces like boxes or corners of the house.

Other considerations when buying a cat carrier

Aside from the size of the carrier, there are other aspects you need to consider to ensure that it’s safe for your pet. Below are some that I always check when buying carriers for our cat Watson:

1.    Carrier type

The first thing you have to think about is the type of carrier you need for your cat. Each type suits specific applications, which I discussed below:

  • Cardboard carriers. These carriers are often used when shelters hand over an adopted cat. It’s cheap and meant for short-term use, so you’re not supposed to use this for traveling with your kitty.
  • Soft-sided carriers. Soft-sided carriers are often made of fabric and mesh material for breathability. It can be used to carry your cat onboard a plane or when traveling in the car.
  • Hard-sided carriers. This carrier type is required if you’re transporting your cat on a plane via cargo. It’s also the safest when it comes to long-term travel since it protects against harsh elements.
  • Rolling carriers. Rolling carriers are usually soft-sided and equipped with caster wheels. It’s like luggage but for carrying your cat around.
  • Cat backpacks. This carrier usually has a stiff shell with a circular opening where your cat can look around . You can also find dog carrier backpacks for the same purpose.

2.    Material

The material used on cat carriers depends on the type you’re going to purchase.

For example, soft-sided carriers are made of fabric. In this case, make sure that it’s durable, fast-drying, and breathable.

Aside from that, there should be mesh windows that will allow air to circulate. This will allow your cat to look around without escaping.

Meanwhile, hard-sided carriers are built with molded plastic and metal. Make sure that it’s non-toxic and has no sharp edges that could harm your pet.

In the end, whatever type and material you choose, I always recommend investing in quality. Sure, it will cost you a few more bucks, but it also means that the carrier will last longer than cheap ones.

3.    Doors

When buying a carrier, there should be at least one entry and exit point. In this case, you can choose between a top and side opening carrier.

With a top opening carrier, you need to lift your cat and place it inside. For nervous and anxious cats, this might be a better option.

Meanwhile, side opening carriers are the most common and preferred by owners. You can also train your kitty to get inside without your assistance.

4.    Ventilation

Another thing you have to check is the ventilation of the carrier. This is important, regardless of the type you prefer for your cat.

Make sure that there are openings or slits where the air can circulate. This is to prevent suffocation and overheating in felines, especially on hot days.

5.    Closures

Cats can be very sneaky, so make sure that the carrier has a secure lock. This should be difficult for your cat to pick.

If you’re getting a modular carrier, make sure that the parts are locked in place well.

Take note that you need a secured carrier, especially when transporting your cat. The last thing you want is a kitty on the loose while you’re in the middle of a highway.

6.    Safety

If you’re transporting your cat through an airplane, you must get an airline-approved carrier. This means that the carrier meets the measurements and configuration prescribed by the specific airline.

Meanwhile, if you’re traveling by land, the carrier must be crash-tested if you want to belt it on the backseat. If the carrier isn’t tested, it must remain on the floor of the backseat. 

7.    Price range

Lastly, you should set your budget before browsing for carriers. This will help narrow down your options and prevent you from getting a unit that’s way out of your budget.

The good thing is that there are many affordable cat carriers in the market. Just make sure that the price doesn’t compromise the safety of your kitty.

How to make your cat like the carrier?

Each cat reacts differently to carriers. It’s important to make them as comfy as possible, especially on long trips.

As a pet owner for years, one thing I’ve learned is that a cat’s reaction to carriers depends on how they are introduced by their owners. If you want your kitty to be comfortable inside, you have to make the carrier a happy place for your pet.

If this is your first time introducing a carrier to your cat, here are steps you can take:

1.    Leave it around

The moment you bring the cat carrier home, leave it around where your pet can see it. Preferably, you should place it beside their bed.

By doing this, you can make the carrier feel like just another piece of furniture. It will also allow your cat to get accustomed to this new addition without feeling scared.

Give your cat a few days to sniff, lick, and be familiar with the carrier. You’ll be surprised that in a matter of days, your kitty will already be lounging inside.

You should never force your cat inside the carrier. Doing this will only make your pet scared of the object, which will make the process much harder for you.

2.    Make it an attractive place to hang out

To encourage your cat to go inside the carrier, you can try feeding it inside. This way, you can associate the carrier with a reward or a positive experience.

Aside from full meals, you can also provide treats inside the carrier. Placing your cat’s favorite toy inside will also help.

3.    Don’t shut the door right away

While your kitty is adjusting to the carrier, you should keep the door open. Never shut the door right away unless your cat is already relaxed inside.

After a few days of letting your cat get accustomed to the carrier, you can try losing the door. Still, don’t lock it and allow your cat to push it open whenever it wants to.

Through this, your cat will realize that it will not be trapped inside. Do this repeatedly until your cat will stay inside calmly with the doors closed.

4.    Increase the duration of your cat’s stay in the carrier

Slowly, you can increase your cat’s time inside the locked carrier. You can start with 30 minutes then slowly increase it until your kitty can keep calm inside for up to 7 hours.

For nervous cats, you can start locking the door in a few seconds, then opening it right away. This will slowly allow your cat to understand that the carrier isn’t something to be scared of. 

Do cats prefer soft or hard carriers?

Cats don’t have a preference between soft and hard carriers. As long as it’s comfy, your kitty will find it pleasing to be in.

But if we’re going to talk about safety, hard carriers are the best choice. It can withstand force, rain, wind, and other elements that can damage soft types.

Should I cover my cat’s carrier while traveling?

Covering your cat’s carrier while traveling will make the feline feel safer. You can use a towel, blanket, or any large piece of cloth for this purpose.

Take note that the outside world is full of new scents, sounds, and sights. All of these can overstimulate a kitty inside a carrier.

By covering their view, you can reduce the stress on your pet. It will also help the cat sleep well while traveling.

How many hours can a cat stay in a carrier?

Cats should only stay in a carrier for up to 8 hours. You shouldn’t go beyond this period as your cat needs to eat and go for a potty trip.

However, if your cat is still a kitten, it shouldn’t be locked inside a carrier for too long. For example, a 3-month-old kitty should only be placed inside a carrier for a maximum of 2 hours.

If you’re traveling with your cat in a carrier, you should give it a break every 2 to 3 hours. Although some cats may tolerate long drives, it’s still best to check on them periodically.

Should I put catnip on my cat’s carrier?

If you’re still training your cat to like the carrier, a little catnip will help. This will help build positive associations, so your cat would stay inside the carrier.

However, if you’re traveling with a cat in a carrier, I don’t advise giving catnip. Some cats get the zoomies when they are high, which is something you wouldn’t want to happen in the middle of a trip.

If your goal is to sedate your cat for long trips, you should consult the vet first. The veterinarian can prescribe safe sedatives that you can use on your pet. 

Where should I put my cat’s carrier in the car?

You should always place a cat carrier in the backseat of your vehicle. If the carrier has a loop, you can strap it on using the seatbelt.

However, if the carrier doesn’t have any seatbelt attachments, it’s best to keep it on the backseat floor. So even if you hit the brakes, the carrier won’ go flying inside the vehicle.

Take note that you should never put a carrier with a cat inside in your vehicle’s trunk. This area has poor ventilation, which can cause your cat to overheat easily.

Lastly, never place the cat carrier on your truck bed. Since it’s open and exposed to elements, your feline would be in grave danger.


How big should a cat carrier be? Overall, it should be 1.5 times bigger than your kitty to ensure comfort and safety during travels.

But aside from size, you should also factor in the type, material, ventilation, and safety of the carrier. Through this, you can transport your cat safely, whether on land or air.

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