Pet travel carriers cover a vast budget range. It is common for two nearly-identical carriers to have a $50 price difference, but what does that extra charge get you? Sometimes, it affords durability, added security, and a warranty. More frequently, it means a stylish shell and additional color options. This means that finding an airline approved cat carrier is a complicated task—it can be difficult to understand what, exactly, your money buys.
We’ve cut the hard part out for you. Below, you’ll find one airline approved cat carrier for each budget range: up to $30, $30-$50, and $50+. The below containers are indicative of what, roughly, that price point should generally include.
Budget: Sherpa Delux Pet Carrier; from $19.99 on Amazon
If you’re looking to save money on an airline approved cat carrier, the Sherpa Delux Pet Carrier is the way to go. This container is available in three separate sizes and can accommodate cats up to 22lbs. We should note: most airlines impose weight restrictions on in-cabin pets, so there is no guarantee that your 20lb+ cat can fly. However, if you find an airline to accommodate your larger-than-life cat, this carrier will do the trick.
This carrier features a patented wire spring frame which allows the container to be compressed by several inches—perfect for sliding your animal under the seat in front of you. The Sherpa Delux also comes with the brand’s “Guaranteed On Board” policy, which promises that the carrier meets airline rules and regulations. If your airline denies the carrier for any reason, you are eligible for a full refund. This carrier is durable, includes a padded fleece lining, and features mesh side panels for ventilation.
Mid-Range: Mr. Peanut’s Soft Sided Pet Carrier; from $35.99 on Amazon
This mid-range airline approved cat carrier is an excellent option for furry frequent fliers. Available in five colors, this stylish container measures 18”x10.4”x11” and is recommended for pets up to 15lbs. We especially appreciate that the carrier itself is just under three pounds. Most pet carriers are incredibly hefty, which can cut into your pet weight allowance; this soft-sided carrier mitigates any weight issues you may encounter while attempting to board.
Mr. Peanut’s Soft Sided Pet Carrier comes with a removable fleece bed for maximum pet comfort. Additionally, it features several carry features, making the process easier for the person carrying the animal. The brand warns that each airline sets very specific carrier requirements but points out that soft-sided carriers are often the easiest to travel with. However, this carrier ensures compatibility for Delta, Southwest, United, American, and Virgin airlines. The container is strong and waterproof—perfect for every adventure.
Luxury: Smiling Paws Pets 4 Way Expandable Soft Sided Carrier; from $59.99 on Amazon
If you want the much-wanted trifecta of durability, style, and comfort, we recommend the 4 Way Expandable Soft Sided Carrier from Smiling Paws Pets. Available in two sizes, this container offers unique 4 way expansion, allowing your pet to move around more comfortably while in the airport. Your airline will likely require you to zip up the expanded portions for take-off and landing, but—if it fits under the seat—your pet will be able to enjoy an additional 1.5 square feet of space. This means all the difference in long distance pet travel.
In addition to offering this unique feature, this Smiling Paws Pets carrier is reinforced; the hinges are made of stainless steel for extra security, and the laminated fabric is leak-proof and water repellent. The machine washable fleece pad provides additional comfort, and the ventilated design allows for maximum air circulation. You can carry this container multiple ways, over the shoulder or using the top handle, ensuring additional ease while moving through the airport.
Feline Travel Requires More than a Carrier
Though cats may fly with less frequency than dogs, they are often the in-cabin pet companion of choice. Most cats fit the size requirements for in-cabin transit, meaning carriers are designed to accommodate our feline friends. Though this may make the research process more tedious, you are more likely to find a carrier to fit your exact needs and budget.
However, a comfortable carrier may not be enough to ensure safe and comfortable feline travel. If you plan to travel with a cat, remember to adequately prepare the animal for the journey. Cats are very temperamental, and introducing a new carrier just before take-off—no matter how fluffy it may be— is never a good idea. For more information about traveling with a cat, see our guide.