Traveling with bigger cats requires a big cat carrier. Most of the soft-sided cat or pet carriers are designed for animals up to around 12-15 pounds and average in length and height. Much too small for my long, lean, solid Elfego and definitely too small for 17-20 pound giants from the past. Here are my tips and recommendations for the best big cat carriers.
Tips for Choosing a Big Cat Carrier
As with any cat carrier choice, it comes down to:
- Method of travel
- Length of travel
- Size of your cat
- Temperament of your cat
- The degree of Safety for your peace of mind
And, of course, budget.
The carriers listed below allow most hefty cats room to stand and stretch, and in many cases have even larger sizes for handling the addition of litter boxes and other modifications for longer distances in greater comfort.
None of These Big Cat Carriers Are Airline Cabin Approved
Do you really want to squeeze your big cat under your shrinking airline seat? Check out my tips for Traveling With Cats By Air and if you still think you want to travel with your big cat by plane, check out the airline approved options at Choosing the Best Pet or Cat Carrier .
Most Versatile Big Cat Carriers Solution: Hard-sided, Plastic, Dog Crate
If you can only afford one cat carrier solution, hard-sided plastic is the most best choice. Just ask your local cat rescue groups or shelters! You have many choices in size from “just big enough to allow your big cat to stand up” to “large enough to add a litter box and cat bed.” Don’t forget to add some padding for the inside to cushion any jostling against the hard sides. Hard plastic is also the easiest to clean.
Depending upon the personality of your big cat and how well the cat travels, you may want to choose based on other key features. AmazonBasics 23-Inch, Two-Door, Top-Load Pet Kennel has the advantage of top-loading for easy-going kitty travelers. The smaller side holes allow air circulation while limiting the sight of the scary world, which might be handy for big scaredy cats.
Meanwhile, the Petmate Pet Porter 2 Kennel, For Pets 25-30 Pounds offers zip-tie slots for additional security for Houdini-cats (or if shipping by air cargo, which I — and the Humane Society — never recommend). The side slots are large enough to let hooks grab ahold for bracing, but not big enough for the whole paw through for catching.
Best Big Cat Carriers for Long Distance, Several Hours or Multiple Cats: Soft-sided Crate, Wire Travel Kennel or Portable Cat Cage
You can get a monster-sized hard-sided, plastic crate if you need an all-in-one solution, however, moving monster crates can be awkward and plastic handles may break. (Package straps, like the 6 ft. Strap-a-Handle (Carry 40lbs), can be a handy solution for hard-sided crates and the wire kennel crates listed below.) The soft-sided crate, such as Arf Pets 3 Door, Folding Crate with Strap, has the advantage of being foldable for storage, easier to handle and safer if the cat should bounce against the side and, well, a little less like a cage. Just be certain you get one that has enough support in the frame for your combined cat weight! The Arf Pets 3 Door Folding Crate has an all-steel frame which means my heirs can pass it on to an animal sanctuary. It also makes a nice cat playpen outside with the mesh sides.
A new item I wish I’d had on my last cross-country, multi-cat move is the new Necoichi Portable Cat Cage. It fits nicely across the back seat, is lightweight, folds up for compact storage and can be used as an outside playpen. It’s roomy enough for two cats with litter box, if they are average to a slightly larger size or one very large cat (like a Ragdoll or Maine Coon). The soft-sides have plenty of give if you have to hit your brake and the cat hits the side.
Mesh, however, is not suitable for cats who claw! (See Hysterical or Clawing recommendations below). Soft-side is also not suitable if packing lots of things that might fall on the cat cage or carrier crate. Sudden braking and accidents do happen, especially on long trips.
In situations where I want solid protection for my cats, I still have my MidWest Folding Metal Dog Crate. I’ve used my MidWest Folding Metal Dog Crate since 1999, loaned it to friends when I thought I was down to just one cat (silly me), and have it back in use this year when they returned it. Wire kennel crates have a lot of versatility as well as durability. I’ve added kitty hammocks, privacy curtains, loft beds, and tented three-quarters to create a cat cave. I’ve used it for multiple cats cross-country in a Prius packed with an entire apartment’s worth of stuff — twice! MidWest Folding Metal Dog Crate also does double-duty as an outside playpen when needed. (It even acted as a temporary chicken coop once! The cats were amazed.)
If you are planning to pack sharp or heavy items like boxes around the cat carrier, definitely choose hard-sided, either a plastic or metal dog crate. One of the things I like about the MidWest Folding Metal Dog Crate is how well constructed it is. The metal is solid and strong. A fully-loaded toolbox was dropped on mine with absolutely no damage. (Fortunately, cats weren’t in it yet, but I felt a lot better about putting them inside after that.)
Best Big Cat Carriers for DIY Modifications or Multiple Cats:
Just in case you missed my rave about the versatility of metal wire kennel crates above. I’ll be doing some posts about some DIY modifications you can do with basic stuff, but some of the options are obvious from hanging “privacy” screens around the litter box to creating sleeping lofts with cardboard boxes. You can even hang ferret hammocks for smaller cats, not to mention dangling cat toys.
My personal choice is MidWest Folding Metal Dog Crate because mine is 18-years old and going strong. I’ve looked at some other brands but many seemed made out of cheaper wire and had flimsier construction. Make certain connections won’t snap or give. Grab ahold and give them a good tug before putting your cats inside. Also, check the latches. I had one Houdini-cat who worked on my MidWest Folding Metal Dog Crate for 3 days but never escaped — despite having escaped 3 other cat carriers through the years
Best Big Cat Carriers for Hysterical or Clawing Cats:
If you’ve got a truly hysterical or dangerous cat, follow the lead of the cat rescue groups, including Big Cat Rescue, and go with a hard-sided, plastic cat carrier with limited space for paws to get through. I figure if Big Cat Rescue used them for bobcats, I’m using one for feral or aggressive “little” cats. Especially if the “little” cat is 15+ pounds of solid muscle!
Just make certain you are getting something well constructed and consider a cat carrier or crate with zip-tie slots to ensure it stays shut no matter how much the cat bounces and slams around. That’s why I recommend the Petmate Pet Porter 2 Kennel, For Pets 25-30 Pounds. The air slots are large enough to allow tossing a blanket over the kennel cage without completely shutting off the airflow. But the slots are still small enough to keep big paws from lashing out!
In summation, with big cats most “cat carriers” won’t cut it. Look at “dog crates” and kennel cages large enough for your cat to stand, sit up and lie down comfortably. If you are concerned about the strain on the handle from your big cat, consider adding a box carrying strap like the 6 ft. Strap-a-Handle (Carry 40lbs).