Traveling can be a scary and stressful experience for a cat.
The sudden change in environment, unfamiliar movements, and general uncertainty of the situation often lead cats and kittens to behave in ways that are interpreted as ‘difficult’.
In reality, though, a cat that exhibits difficult behavior before and during travel are simply reacting out of anxiety or discomfort.
The best way to address this behavior is to treat your fearful feline with compassion and look for ways to make them more comfortable during this stressful process.
One of the best things you can do to make both your own and your cat’s life easier if your cat dislikes traveling is to invest in a cat carrier that is specifically designed for ‘difficult’ cats.
We’ve put together a list of the 5 best cat carriers for difficult cats, along with a buyers guide and FAQ section.
With the help of this article, you and your feline friend will be sharing more positive travel experiences in no time!
Got a trip coming up? If you’re pressed for time, take a look at our top choice:
PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
- High-grade polyester material
- Mesh windows for visibility and ventilation
- Sherpa lined bedding
- 2-sided access and side zipper
- Safety strap and buckle
- Removable shoulder straps
- Padded handles
- Includes collapsible bowl
- Small and large size options
1. PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
This carrier is made of durable, high-grade polyester, which is soft and comfortable for your cat whilst remaining resistant to any damage caused by claws and teeth.
The multiple mesh windows provide optimal ventilation and outside visibility for your cat.
Both the comfort and structure of this carrier are enhanced by the sherpa lined bedding which will encourage your cat to relax and rest comfortably while providing a reinforced structural base to maintain the shape of the carrier.
In terms of practicality, this carrier ranks high on our list due to its 2-sided access and side zipper opening. These features allow your cat easy access into and out of the carrier and make it easier for you to reach your pet for feeding and comfort when needed.
The detachable shoulders straps and padded handles are designed for ease-of-use and owner comfort.
Additionally, the safety strap and buckle ensure that this carrier is secure and escape-proof. There is also a convenient name tag, so you can have peace of mind knowing that your cat and carrier will always be easily identifiable.
This carrier also includes a collapsible bowl, meaning that your cat can always have access to food or water when needed, with no need to worry about the bowl taking up space when not in use.
The PetAmi carrier comes in small and large size options. The small size measures approximately 17 x 10.2 x 12 inches. Meanwhile, the large option measures 19.5 x 10.2 x 12 inches.
- Comfortable and durable high-grade polyester
- Mesh windows for ventilation and visibility
- Sherpa lined bedding for comfort and base structure
- 2-sided access and side zipper
- Safety strap and buckle for security
- Removable shoulder straps
- Padded handles
- Included collapsible bowl
- Small and large size options available
- Reports of the carrier being smaller than advertised
2. Petmate Two Door Top Load Carrier
This carrier is available in 19 and 24-inch size options, so you can select the option that best accommodates the size of your cat.
One of the best features of this carrier is its top-loading system, which allows you to lift your cat in and out more easily than with a front-loading carrier.
Due to its 2-door design, however, this carrier also has a front-loading door, which provides extra flexibility in terms of entry into and exit from the carrier.
Ventilation is provided from all sides, meaning that your cat will get plenty of air and be able to see their surroundings, which may reduce some of their anxiety.
Additionally, this carrier is highly durable and will be able to withstand anything your stressed-out cat might throw at it. The doors are made of grated steel, ensuring maximum security.
This security is enhanced by the wingnut and bolt fastenings on the top and bottom of the carrier, which ensures that the carrier’s structure remains firmly intact regardless of your cat’s movements.
This carrier has also been designed specifically to minimize sharp edges. This is vital for the safety of cats who behave difficultly during travel because they may make frantic or panicked movements which could lead to injury if sharp edges are present.
However, some customers have reported that their cats have injured themselves on the oval ventilation holes.
Finally, this Petmate carrier is ergonomically designed for ease-of-use, with an easy-squeeze latch that can be opened with a single hand. This is a really useful feature for owners who may be struggling with one or more distressed cats whilst operating the latch.
The handle has also been specifically designed to provide a comfortable grip so you can transport your cat with minimal difficulty.
- 2 size options (19 and 24 inches)
- Top-loading for convenience
- 2-door design
- Durable steel, wingnut, and bolt construction
- Ergonomic latch and handle
- Some reports of cats injuring their noses on the oval ventilation holes
3. AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Hard-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
The Two-Door Top-Load Hard-Sided Pet Travel Carrier from AmazonBasics is another extremely popular and well-reviewed choice of cat carrier for ‘difficult’ cats.
Similarly to the Petmate model listed above, this carrier features a 2-door, top-loading design. The top door, which features a secure spring-loaded latch, can be opened to the left or right for added convenience.
The durable construction of this carrier makes it ideal for cats who respond to feelings of anxiousness with aggression. The carrier is made of durable plastic with plenty of ventilation holes and a steel-wire front door.
This model also includes screws which can be used to further reinforce the carrier’s construction.
The handle on top of the carrier allows for one-handed carrying, although some customers have reported needing to support the carrier from underneath to prevent bowing.
The AmazonBasics carrier comes in 19-inch and 23-inch size options to cater to cats of multiple sizes.
- 2-door design
- Durable plastic construction and steel-wire door
- Spring-loaded latch
- Secure carry handle
- Includes screws for reinforcement
- 2 size options (19 and 23 inches)
- Customers have reported the lid bowing under the weight of the carrier if not held from underneath
4. FRiEQ 23-Inch Large Hard Cover Pet Carrier
We couldn’t help but include this innovative pet carrier on our list.
This model combines the comfort of soft padding with the structural durability of a hard-cover design.
This carrier measures 23 x 16 x 15 inches and is suitable for carrying cats (and other pets) weighing up to 26 lbs.
The FRiEQ pet carrier has a 2-door, top-loading design for easy entry and removal to and from the carrier.
The ergonomic, foldable design of this carrier, with its soft-grip handle and collapsible, space-efficient function, makes carrying and storage easier than ever.
With the ventilation slots and mesh front, you can be sure that your cat will receive more than enough fresh air and be able to keep an eye on their surroundings to calm their nerves.
The soft, padded cushioning inside the carrier will keep your cat comfortable and relaxed, while the security-locking zipper will ensure their safety.
However, this carrier may not be suitable for particularly escape-focused cats since they may be able to chew through the mesh. Therefore, your cat should remain supervised whilst inside this carrier.
Additionally, the top and bottom panels of this carrier are fully waterproof to keep your cat sheltered from rain and withstand any little stress-related accidents.
- Suitable for cats up to 26 lbs
- 2-door design
- Durable materials
- Cushioned padding for comfort
- Soft-grip handle
- Foldable for easy storage
- Front and side ventilation
- Security-locking zipper
- Waterproof top and bottom
- Unsupervised cats may be able to chew or claw through the mesh
5. Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier
This is another carrier model from Petmate that has received a lot of attention from owners of travel-averse cats.
With this pet carrier, you’ll be able to transport your nervous cat securely wherever you go, by car, boat, or airplane.
Thanks to its heavy-duty construction, which includes a durable plastic shell, interlocking steel-wire door, and corrosion-resistant wing nuts, this carrier is built to withstand frequent and intensive use.
The 4-way vault door prevents sliding a shifting, meaning it will keep even the most anxious and escape-driven cat safe and secure. The door itself provides plenty of small openings for ventilation in addition to the 360° ventilation around the rest of the carrier.
Included with the purchase of this carrier are ID stickers, ‘Live Animal’ stickers, and a clip-on bowl, which will help to keep food and water from tipping over during travel.
This carrier is available in multiple size options, from 21 to 48 inches, so you’ll have no trouble finding this carrier model in a size that is suitable for your cat.
- Heavy-duty plastic and steel wire construction
- Secure 4-way vault door
- 360° ventilation
- Includes ID and ‘Live Animal’ stickers
- Clip-on bowl included
- Multiple size options available
- Customer reports of a recent decline in the structural quality of this model
- Some customers have found the size chart to be misleading
Size is a crucial factor that should never be overlooked when purchasing a cat carrier.
It goes without saying that a cat carrier must always be big enough for your cat. That doesn’t mean ‘just big enough to physically get your cat into’, but large enough to provide your cat with the space they need to feel as comfortable and non-claustrophobic as possible, given the circumstances.
This is essential for all cats, but especially important when it comes to cats who exhibit difficult behavior during travel since they may be more restless.
The cat must be able to move comfortably around in the carrier, which includes standing, lying down, turning around, and sitting upright. They should also be able to stretch their limbs should they need to.
Generally speaking, the rule is that your cat carrier should be about 1 ½ times as big as your cat. To make sure that this is the case, you should have measurements of your cat to hand when looking for a cat carrier.
Soft or Hard?
A cat carrier for ‘difficult’ cats should do two things simultaneously. First, it should maximize the comfort of your cat, reducing stress, and promoting relaxation in an environment that feels safe.
Secondly, it should be capable of withstanding and, where possible, discouraging the potentially destructive behavior of an anxious cat. Beyond vocalizing, anxious behavior in cats may include urinating, defecating, or vomiting inside of their carrier.
A nervous cat may also behave aggressively towards their surroundings by scratching or attempting to escape the carrier altogether.
Bearing this information in mind, the decision between a soft or hard-sided cat carrier can be a difficult one.
On the one hand, many cat owners swear by hard-sided carriers because of their superior durability and increased resistance to scratching, chewing, and fluid-related accidents.
However, soft carriers may be more effective at calming an agitated cat because of the superior comfort that they provide.
If you’re concerned about striking the right balance between durability and comfort, there are carriers on the market that combine a hard external shell with soft internal padding, so you and your cat can have the best of both worlds!
If you do choose to opt for a soft carrier, you should make sure that your cat remains supervised as much as possible, since it is more likely that a nervous cat will chew their way out of a soft carrier than a hard one.
Accessibility is essential in a cat carrier when dealing with a ‘difficult’ cat. Nervous cats are likely to resist being placed in the carrier for obvious reasons, so multiple entry and exit points are a desirable feature.
Top-loading doors are a favorite amongst owners of travel-wary cats since this type of door allows you to place your cat into the carrier and remove them more easily than a front door.
However, many carriers include a front door in addition to a top-loading door, which is ideal since 2 doors provide more options and flexibility. A front door also gives your cat an easy way to enter the carrier themselves once they feel more comfortable, which will reduce the stress involved in being physically placed into the carrier.
A side flap or zipper may also be a useful feature to prioritize. A small opening at the side of the carrier will allow you to provide food and reassuring contact for your cat without fully opening the carrier.
We know that your number one priority as a loving cat owner is the safety of your feline friend.
The first essential feature for ensuring the safety of your cat is one that many cat owners may take for granted. Sharp edges on a carrier can be very dangerous, particularly for more ‘difficult’ cats who are likely to make agitated movements inside the carrier. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that the carrier you choose has been designed to minimize sharp edges wherever possible.
Safety locks and straps will also help to keep your cat securely inside the carrier, reducing the risk of escape.
The inclusion of identity tags and stickers will ensure that your cat is identifiable in the event of the carrier being misplaced during travel.
Meanwhile, ‘Live Animal’ stickers can help to make others aware of the presence of your cat, which is especially useful if your cat is anxious and requires peace and quiet and gentle handling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I transport more than one cat in a single carrier?
You’ll get different answers to this question depending on who you ask and your specific circumstances.
Where possible, it is generally recommended to keep to 1 cat per carrier. This is to ensure that your cat or cats have enough space to move around comfortably and aren’t stressed by overcrowding.
However, it is possible for cats to suffer from separation anxiety, especially from their siblings. In this case, separating 2 cats into separate carriers during an already stressful time may make the situation worse, and it might be better to allow your cats to share a carrier.
You should only do this if you are prepared to invest in a large enough carrier to make sure that each cat has enough individual space. You should also only allow carrier-sharing if you are sure that your cats won’t hurt one another out of stress.