What Size Carrier Do I Need? (Based On Travel)

I saw a cat owner the other day in a rest area with her cat and it got me wondering “what size cat carrier do I need for traveling? If you’ve never traveled with your cat or are just getting started, I’ve done some research to help answer all those burning questions about getting the best cat carrier.

The most important thing when getting a cat carrier is to ensure that there is plenty of room for your cat to lie down, stand up, and turn around easily in the carrier. If not, then the carrier is too small and Fluffy will be uncomfortable.

The size will also depend on the type of adventures your taking and the mode of transportation. Are you flying with a cat? Driving with a cat or just living on the road RVing with your cat?

Don’t worry, we’re going to look at each of these different types of adventures to help ensure that your four-legged friend has the right size cat carrier.

*This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

What Kind of Trips Do You Take With Kitty?

Are you the type of person who travels with your cat in a car? If so, then you’ll need to find one that fits comfortably in the backseat of your vehicle. Make sure that you read our in-depth guide to traveling with cats in a car.

The great thing is that the crate you use for your vehicle should be fine to use with your recreational vehicle.

The problem comes when you’re flying with your cat. Air travel requirements prohibit the size of overly large crates from traveling in the cabin. More so, extra large carriers take up an excess amount of cabin space when traveling.

The recommended dimensions for a soft-sided carrier is as follows (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm). Most airlines recommend traveling with a soft-sided carrier because they are collapsible and can fit under the seat.

If you’re traveling with a hard-sided carrier, it is recommended that you contact reservations to verify the maximum dimensions of the aircraft you’ll be flying.

As you can see, the size you get will depend greatly on the type of traveling you’re considering.

What Kind of Carrier Should You Get?

how big should a cat carrier be

There are literally tons of options to choose from. (you’ll see once you scroll below) If you’re traveling by vehicle or do not have any restriction limits on the type of carrier you should get, I recommend one like this one. It’s a durable carrier that even the most nervous of cats won’t be able to escape from.

I’ll also share the one that I recommend if you’re considering using air travel with your cat.

If you’ve never traveled with your cat before, it’s going to take some time to find the right carrier that they love and actually like riding in.

Don’t worry, I’ll share all the different options you have when it comes to choosing a cat carrier, plus making sure that you get the right size.

What Is The Best Carrier for Large Cats?

The size carrier that your kitten will use will vary differently as your cat grows into a 12-pound cat or 20-pound cat. If you’ve had your cat since they were a kitten and haven’t upgraded their carrier, then it’s time to consider doing so.

Most cats don’t enjoy traveling and when they are stuck in a small container for long periods of time, they are not happy. Not only that, but a small carrier can cause all types of issues when traveling with your a cat.

The best type of carrier for any feline is to ensure that you get the right size. Having the right size will not only help alleviate their stress and anxiety but will make them more comfortable.

When in turn will make traveling a lot easier for you.

What to Consider When Choosing The Right Size Carrier

The best carrier comes down to your preference and if it is big enough for your feline friend. You’ll have to decide whether you want to go with a soft-sided carrier or a hard plastic carrier.

A soft-sided carrier is collapsible, which means that it will in tighter spaces with your cat inside. A hard plastic carrier will be limited in terms of the tight spaces you can put it.

If you plan on traveling with your cat via air, then the soft-sided carriers are recommended. They will fit easily under your seat in the cabin.

A hard carrier is perfect and recommended if you’re traveling with your kitty in the car. It is easier to secure tightly in the backseat. And is sturdier and provides more protection in case of an accident.

Other features that you will want to consider when shopping for the right size carrier are:


Shoulder strap (this will make it easier to carry)

  • Screws
  • Side snaps
  • Plastic pegs
  • Sliding plastic locks
  • Plastic knobs
  • Zippers/velcro/snaps

It’s important to find a carrier that is built with durability and safety in mind. You want something that can hold your cat safely and will prevent them from getting out. All cat carriers are different, that’s why we put together a list of safety features to look for in soft carriers.

Now let’s take a look at choosing the right one based on the size and transportation mode.

Read The Measurements On The Carrier

If you’re having a hard time finding the right carrier, I’d suggest strapping on the cat harness and taking Fluffy to PetSmart or Petco. Stop in and seek advice from one of the professionals who can help you find the right dimensions of the carrier.

You don’t necessarily have to buy the carrier from your local pet store. But it will give you a chance to write down the dimensions of the carrier that is the right size for your cat.

Most carriers will have the dimensions from the inside of the carrier to the outside. The inside dimensions will determine how much room Fluffy has.

The outside dimensions will affect the storage space that it will fit. The best carriers will make it easy to see all the dimensions quickly and easily.

Measuring Your Cat

This PDF from PetSafe will help make sure that you measure the width and height of your cat properly. Even though this is measuring for a cat door, the concept is the same when measuring for a cat crate.

how to measure your cat

Don’t forget to allow for your cat’s future growth. Download the PetSafe PDF here.

What Size Cat Carrier Do I Need For Long Road Trips?

The dreaded long trip that causes your cat to pant and meow excessively. My sister in laws cat usually moans extremely loud for about the first 20 minutes and then settles down in the back seat.

This type of reaction is very common among cats and it is just a sign of feline anxiety. Just give it time and eventually, your cat will calm down, especially, if you’ve put them in the right size carrier.

On long road trips, I always recommend a hard-sided plastic carrier that has plenty of room. You won’t have to worry about any type of dimensions, as long as you can safely wrap the seat belt around it and secure it tightly.

The types of carriers that you use for long distance road trips usually work perfectly for a train, car, SUV, or when traveling by RV with your cat. Practically any mode of transportation, where there isn’t a size limit.

These types of carriers usually provide more than enough space for your cat. If you’re traveling with more than one cat, depending on their size, you can fit them in there comfortably.

The downside is that they can be heavy to carry and you’ll need to practice carrying it with your cat inside. Especially, if they weight 20 pounds or more.

These hard-sided carriers make it easy for your cat to lie down and take a cat nap. You can even put a big soft pillow or a cushion on the bottom to make it even more comfortable.

Just make sure that it’s a washable cushion, in case your cat has an accident. I’d also recommend finding one that is foldable and makes it easy to store when it is not in use.

What Size Carrier Should You Get For A Plane?

When it comes to flying on a plane, I’d recommend getting one like this cat cattier that is airline approved. You can find them on Amazon, like this one and the best part is that you won’t have to worry about it not fitting in the cabin.

The last thing you want to do is purchase the wrong size carrier and it not be able to fit. If the carrier does not fit under the seat, you won’t be able to fly. Some airlines may try to sell you one of their airline approved cat carriers, but it’ll cost a fortune.

The above carrier is already airline approved and you shouldn’t have any issues if you’re flying Southwest, JetBlue or any of the other major airlines. It weighs an astonishingly 3 pounds, which means you won’t have any trouble carrying it from gate to gate.

Even with your cat loaded inside the shoulder strap makes it easy to tote everywhere. The thick wireframe on top provides extra stability so it won’t sag or droop with the weight of your cat and their treats.

It has 2 silicone bowls for both food and water, which makes it perfect for those long flights with your cat. The side pockets make it easy for you to store your cat’s food and snacks.

Once you are done with your trip, you can store it safely away until you’re ready to fly again. Make sure that you clean it thoroughly before storing it away.

We always make sure that we line the bottom of Fluffy’s carrier with some potty pads, just in case she goes number one or number two. The lining helps prevent the smell of cat odor from urine or feces.

It’s important to take all steps necessary to make sure that you do everything you can to make your cat comfortable. While thinking about the passenger who is going to be sitting right beside you and your cat.

If this is the first time flying with your cat and you think that they’ll meow and act loudly the entire way, you may want to consider sedating your cat before traveling.

I’d recommend talking to your vet to find out what the best way to travel with your cat is.

What Size Of Carrier Should You Get For A Nervous Cat?

A nervous cat can be difficult to travel with. Their first instinct is to break away and get free. If you have an anxious cat that doesn’t enjoy traveling, it’s important to find the best cat carrier that will properly restrain her.

If I had a nervous cat, I’d probably get something that was constructed of plastic and steel to enhance the strength and safety. A soft-sided carrier should be avoided as a nervous cat will probably chew or claw their way through the material.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have a cat harness and leash on hand. Fluffy will try to escape the first chance he/she gets.

Travel Crate Size Calculator

If you’re confused about the size of carrier for your cat, fortunately, jetspet.com.au provides a travel crate size calculator for you to figure out the best dimensions of a carrier for your pet.

This calculator will walk you through step by step on how to measure your cat before buying a carrier. To use the calculator, you will enter the data it asks for and it will calculate the data for you.

What Size Carrier For 12 Pound Cat?

what size carrier for 12 pound cat

Most adult cats weigh between 8-15 pounds. So, if you have a 12 pound cat, she is most likely in the adult stage of her life. To find the right size of carrier, you’ll want to use a measuring tape and measure from the root of her tail to the tip of her nose and multiply by 1.5 times.

The answer you get will determine the size of carrier you should buy.

However, there are things questions you need to consider such as:

  • Are you planning to travel internationally with your cat? If so, you’ll want to check with the airlines to find out what the dimension requirements are before purchasing a carrier. Airlines have very strict regulations when you’re flying with a pet.
  • If you’re going on a long road trip, you’ll want a cat carrier that has plenty of room. Shop for one that has enough room for your cat to sit, stand and move around freely. A carrier that is too small will cause your cat to become anxious or nervous.
  • Are you shopping for a carrier for quick trips to the vet? If so, then you can choose one based on the size the calculator above gave you.

Once you have the proper measurements, go here to check out the top recommended cat carriers for pet owners.

Do You Need A Cat Carrier For An RV?

If you’re RVing with a cat, you will need to have a carrier to protect them while you are driving and so they can have a place of their own once you get to the campsite. The great thing is that you can use the same carrier that you used in your car.

Be sure to read our in-depth guide about traveling with a cat in a motorhome.

Is A hard or Soft Carrier Better?

It really just comes down to preference and the mode of transportation. As I’ve mentioned the collapsible type will be perfect if you’re considering air travel.

Other than that, I’d personally recommend a hard plastic carrier. They are perfect for all types of adventure and can withstand all types of elements.

They even work well if you’re going to be outdoors camping with your cat.

A Look At The Different Styles

cat carrier sizes


Some people use temporary transport because they don’t travel very often or far. Most cardboard carriers are not big enough for a cat to turn around comfortably. Your cat will most likely be cramped the entire way.

Don’t be surprised if your cat chews or claws their way through the cardboard. This means that they might be able to escape when you’re parked at a rest area or pull into a parking lot. If your cat soils during the trip, they will have to be washed and the cardboard carrier won’t be easy to clean.

Soft Carriers

These are usually very good carriers that are designed with both comfort and durability in mind. The flexible material makes it easy to store them in tight locations.

They are not as supportive as the hard plastic carriers, but they are easy to clean. Most of them have a top opening which makes it easy to put Fluffy inside. If you have an anxious cat, they may scratch and tear up the carrier.

Some cats have been known to push their way out of the carrier through the zipper closing.

Rolling Suitcase Style Carriers

These kinds remind me of luggage on wheels, they are easy to maneuver and have plenty of ventilation. The best part is that Fluffy can see their surroundings while you’re pushing them along. These are not good carriers for cats that are nervous to travel. They are great for single family travelers who have a lot of baggage to carry.

They can be challenging to clean if your cat soils in it. It will take your cat getting some used to and I’d also avoid going over any loud or bumpy surfaces on the pavement when you first start using it.

Hard Plastic Carriers

These are the most popular types of carriers for people who travel with their cats via RV’s, automobiles or any other transportation mode besides airlines. A hard carrier gives more room for your cat to stretch and turn around, while still providing peace of mind for you.

They secure your cat tightly inside while still providing you easy access through the top or side doors. Most of them allow you to take the top off, which make it easy to clean if your cat has an accident.

These are the most durable carriers than all of the ones mentioned above. Plus, you don’t have to worry about Fluffy being able to escape.

Top Loading vs Side Loading

There are some cats that just do not like to travel and will fight you with everything they have instead of being put in a carrier. Sometimes you’ll find it easier to put your cat in the carrier through the top and other times, you’ll wish it had more doors.

Personally, we find it easy to put our cat in the carrier through the sides. We’ve also found it easier to get our kitty acquainted with a side loading one as well. We’ll leave it in her favorite place and she will go in and out of it without us even being in the same room.

I’m sure that she could do this with a top loading one as well, but we’ve just found it easier to use the side loading types. You’ll have to experiment and see which one your cat prefers.

Single vs Multiple Doors

When it comes to choosing a cat carrier, there are tons of options. Should you get one that has two doors? A front door and a top door?

Or should you get one that has only one door? Really the preference is up to you. Some people say that it is easier to put a cat inside a carrier through the top. Plus the top door makes it easy to pet him or give him a treat on a long trip.

Regardless of whether you choose a single door carrier or one that has multiple doors, you want to make sure that they are constructed with heavy-duty plastic and have a secure latch.

Selecting the Best Cat Carrier Tips

This video will walk you through on all the different styles you can choose from as well as some of the options.

Is It Okay to Put More Than One Cat In A Carrier?

The first instinct for cat owners with two or more cats is to put them all in the same carrier, in hopes of saving on expenses. This could work, depending on the size and the personalities of the cats.

If you get a large carrier, most of the times, it will be fine to have one small cat and one mid-size cat in the same one. However, this scenario only works if both cats can ride comfortably and don’t move around too much.

Avoid putting two cats in the same carrier if one is anxious while traveling. This could cause a vicious catfight and one of them could get hurt.

I know that you don’t want to buy more than one carrier because it can get expensive. However, I’ve done my best to recommend some of the best budget-friendly cat carriers for your four-legged friends.

You’ll be much better off getting cats separate cages. It’ll keep the peace while you’re traveling and most importantly, you’ll be able to focus on the needs of each cat individually.

Do Your Research

Buying the right size carrier for your four-legged friend isn’t as hard as you might think. I’d recommend doing some research and browsing this website to find a wealth of information about traveling with your cat. Be sure to check out our recommended products page to find the best deals on all your cat accessories and supplies.

If you do happen to make a mistake and buy the wrong size, most stores will have a 30-day refund exchange policy, so don’t panic!

How Do I Get My Cat Used to A Carrier?

Finding the carrier is the easy part, the hard part comes into play when you’re trying to get your cat used to it.

That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate a whole article to it and you can read my full in-depth article about it here.

Bottom Line

Every responsible cat owner understands the importance of finding the right carrier. You wouldn’t want to be cramped in a space that is too small and can barely move for the duration of your trip.

Well, neither does your cat. Make sure you get the right size and pay attention to when it’s time to upgrade to a bigger size.

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