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Cat carriers are essential for traveling with your cat but not all of them are airline approved. If you don’t have an airline approved carrier you won’t be able to board with your pet. So I did a bunch of research and compiled a list of pet carriers that you can use on a plane ride.
I also made sure to list a good amount of cat carriers so you have a nice selection to choose from. Keep in mind airlines all have their own rules based on cat carriers and you should look into this before making your choice. To save you some trouble so you don’t have to do the research yourself I did all the work for you right below.
Cat Carrier Size Requirements By Airline
Carry-on carriers cannot exceed 17″L x 12.5″W x 8.5″H. The combined weight of the cat and the carrier also cannot exceed 20 pounds.
To know the exact sizing that you will need it depends on the aircraft your are flying with. You will need to contact the reservations desk for more information.
United Airlines have rules for both soft and hard sided carriers.
Hard-Sided Carriers: You will need a carrier that does not exceed 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high.
Soft-Sided Carriers: You will Need a carrier that doesn’t exceed 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm).
American Airlines also has rules based on soft and hard sided carriers.
Hard-Sided Carriers: You will need a carrier that doesn’t exceed 19″ x 13″ x 9″.
Soft-Sided Carriers: There aren’t specific sizing requirements but they are allowed if they are around the same size as the hard sided carrier standards, water repellent, have padding and nylon mesh.
Alaskan airlines has requirements for both hard and soft sided carriers.
Hard-Sided Carriers: You cannot have a carrier that exceeds 17″ x 11″ x 7.5″.
Soft-Sided Carriers: You cannot have a carrier that is larger than 17″ x 11″ x 9.5″.
Additional Info: You have the option to bring two pets in the cabin if a seat is bought by the customer. The pet also counts as a carry-on allotment. In other words you can bring your pet, personal items, but you cannot bring a pet, personal item and a standard size carry on bag.
You need a cat carrier that doesn’t exceed 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.
Additional Info: Cannot travel as a carry on for international flights.
You are allowed to bring two cats of the same species in the same carrier on this airline. Cat carriers qualify as either a personal item or a carry-on item. In other words you can bring your cat carrier and another carry-on bag.
You need to contact Virgin Airlines to get the exact requirements.
Airline Pet Carriers: What You Should Look For
I chose some of the best ones for you already but I would like to point out that there are some things that I like to have in a carrier (some which are required) if I am traveling on a plane and you will probably want these features too. There are also different style carriers that you can choose from as well which you will see in the list below.
Having wheels on a carrier can be really useful because you can move around you pet much easier while you are at the airport. If you don’t like the idea of this you could always get a regular carrier or even a backpack style carrier which can be brought onto planes.
One thing that I like to have in a carrier is pockets. You can put your cats toys, treats or other supplies that you are bringing along with you.
You need to have a carrier with ventilation on them because if your carrier does not have this you won’t be able to board the plane.
Zippers or Velcro
I personally like to go with zippers because your cat can’t get them open as easy. but Velcro is also nice because its easier to open but unfortunately also for your cat as well.
Now that you have an idea on sizing requirements and what you should look for in a carrier here are the best cat carriers you can travel with in my opinion.
1: Sherpa Travel Original Deluxe Airline Approved Pet Carrier
This is a great airline approved cat carrier that you could use and my personal favorite out of all the ones listed here. I like this one because of the style, it is approved for most airlines and is on Sherpa’s Guaranteed on Board program. The colors it comes in are Black Lattice, Charcoal, Original Black, Original Brown, Original Grey, Original Plum, and Delta Black. Click here for the chewy.com link.
Small: 15” L x 10” W x 8.5” H
Medium: 17” L x 11” W x 10.5” H
Large: 19” L x 11.75” W x 11.5” H
2: Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed
If you want something more on the high end side this is a really good choice to go with. It includes a shoulder strap, a mesh top with carrying handle, washable bedding, water-resistant foam liner, and instruction card as well.
Its also made out of luggage-grade nylon, It comes in many different sizes and many colors including Arctic White, Blossom Pink, Dark Chocolate, Jet Black, Sky Blue, Strawberry Red, Violet, Pink, Black and Brown. Click here for the chewy.com link.
Mini: 13 x 13 x 11 inches
Medium: 17 x 17 x 13 inches
3: ICOSPET Soft-Sided Pet Carrier Backpack
If you want carrier that is more of a backpack style this would be a really good choice to go with. It’s got mesh windows, no sagging when your pet is inside of the carrier, it’s waterproof and easy to clean. It comes in Grey and Platinum Grey. Click here for the current price on amazon.
4: Snoozer Wheel Around 4-In-1 Pet Travel Carrier
If you are looking for a pet carrier that has wheels this would be my first choice to go with. However if you don’t want a carrier with a lot of mesh windows you might not like this one. This one comes in Black/Grey, Red/Black and Khaki/Black/Blue. Click here for the amazon link.
Measurements: 20″ H x 14″ W x 11″D
5: Katziela Airline Approved Pet Carrier with Wheels
This is another one that has wheels and I really like this one because it meets the TSA standards and you can take it on most airlines without any problems at all. You can also remove the wheels which is really nice. It also has nice cushioning in the inside of the carrier and a steel rod to push the carrier around. It comes in only one color which is black/red. Click here to check the current price on amazon.
6: Mr. Peanut’s Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier
This is another really nice carrier that you could get for your plane ride with your cat. Its got everything you need including floor cushioning and its also waterproof. The colors are also nice as well. It comes in Charcoal Ash, Deja Blue, Platinum Grey, Purple and Raspberry Red.
You can also buy replacement cushioning for it as well just in case you need an extra on for some reason. Click here to check the current price on amazon.
Measurements: 18 x 10.5 x 11 inches
7: Teafco Argo Airline Approved Aero-Pet Carrier
I like this one because it really stands out compared to other pet carriers. Its also waterproof and your cat will not be able to damage the material or the mesh windows if they are the aggressive type of cat that does not like carriers.
The colors it comes in are Berry Blue, Kiwi Green, Petal Pink and Tango Orange. Click here for the amazon link.
Small: 18.5″x 10.5″x 8.5″
Medium: 19 x 9.5 x 9.5 inches
Large: 20 x 10 x 9.2 inches
8: Sleepypod Atom In-Cabin Pet Carrier
Another carrier by Sleepypod that I personally like a lot mainly because of the design in general. Its also got mesh windows and tested thoroughly for safety. The colors it comes in are Blossom Pink, Dark Chocolate, Jet Black, Robin Egg Blue, Strawberry Red and Red. Click here for the amazon link.
Measurements: 10.5″ L x 17″ W x 8.5″ H
9: PetAmi Premium Airline Approved Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier
I think one would be a good choice for airplane travel because there is a name tag slot in the front of it. This bag can be strapped to a car seat or luggage and comes with a collapsible bowl for food or water and has safety buckle zippers.
Its also ventilated quite well, it comes with sherpa lining bedding and it has many colors to choose from including Black, Charcoal, Dark Grey, Heather Grey, Heather, Pink, Heather Purple, Heather Taupe, Light Blue, Light Grey, Light Red, Pink, Red and Royal Blue. Click here to check the current price on amazon.
Small: 17 x 10.2 x 11.2 inches (LxWxH)
Large: 19.5×10.2×12 inches (LxWxH)
10: EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier
I really like this carrier due to it 3 warranty deal so I thought I would add this one to the list as well. This carrier is lightweight, has shoulder straps and a top handle, it’s waterproof and is easily washable. You can get this carrier in Black, Charcoal Grey, Pink, Purple, Sapphire Blue and Sky Blue. Click here for the chewy.com link.
Medium: 17″L x 9″W x 12″H
Large: 19″L x 10″W x 13″H
11: Petsfit Pet Carrier with Removeable Wheels
If you want another option with removable wheels and have a smaller pet this is another good choice to go with. It also has a metal rod you can pull the carrier with as well which is convenient when at the airport.
Mesh windows and side handle are also included with this model as well. This carrier does not come in any other color except grey. Click here to check the current price on amazon.
12: Pettom Pet Car Booster Seat Carrier
There are also booster seat kind of carriers that you could go with which are airline approved. You might want to go with something like this because even if you aren’t on a plane they are convenient in the car since you can unzip the top and they don’t have to be encased in the carrier. the carrier also straps to your seat as well.
This carrier comes in Green, Grey, Khaki and Purple. Click here to check the current price on amazon.
Large: 16 L x 13.5 W x 12 H
Types Of Non Approved Carriers For Air Travel
Be wary of companies that sell pet carriers that claim that they are airline approved when the truth is they actually are not. Here are a list of some that you should avoid getting if you are going on a plane.
• Wire Metal Crates
These type of carriers are made of metal grates only. Airlines only allow carriers that have a low roof and that have floors which are leak proof.
• Plastic Doors
Any type of carrier that has plastic doors is not allowed on airlines. They are only allowed if the carrier is customized with a metal replacement door.
• Double Door Top Loading
These type of carriers have wired doors on either the top or the front and are not allowed on airlines. The reason for this is because you cannot have a door on the top of your carrier and it needs to be a solid roof but not all airlines demand this.
• Dial Latch Attachments
These carriers do not have nuts or bolts to keeps the carrier together but instead have plastic latches which aren’t very reliable. As a result they aren’t allowed on airplanes and very few airlines actually accept these types of carriers.
• Snap Latch Attachment
These are just like the dial latch types of carriers but instead use latches which do not work very well. Some airlines accept these but not many do.
• Foldable Or Collapsible
Carriers that can be folded after use are banned from all airlines even though they are sold as airlines approved carriers.
• Plastic Wing Barrel Door Latches
These have four latches that you have to undo to get the carrier open which you cannot take on an airplane.
What Size Carrier Should I Get My Cat?
This really depends on the size of your cat but the carrier needs to be large enough to where your cat can stand and sit down comfortably while on the plane. Otherwise your carrier will not be approved and you won’t be able to board the plane with your cat.
Other Airline Factors That You Should Consider
1: Your pet must stay in their carrier for the entire time of the flight
2: Carriers must be leak proof and ventilated on both sides
3: If a pet is younger than 8 weeks they are not allowed to fly on the plane with you
4: You are only allowed a certain amount of carry-on pets on the flight. Usually this is 1 or 2 pets for first and business class seating and and 4-5 for cabin seating.
5: Your carrier cannot be in bad shape. If it has tears cracks or any other form of damage your cat may not be allowed to board the plane with you until you replace the carrier that they are in.
6: The carry-on carrier should also allow your pet to stand and sit comfortably during the flight
7: Certain airlines allow you to have two cats in a single carrier if they are the same species but other do not.
8: Pets cannot fly with unaccompanied minors.
9: CDC requires that your cat get checked for rabies if they are coming to the USA and it must be done within 30 days before arrival.
10: When taking your cat as a carry-on, you cannot sit in the exit row or any row where under-seat space is not available in front of you.
Whatever carrier that you choose here would be a good choice for your pet but other carriers might be more convenient to you dependent on your needs. If you want read about how to fly with your cat and want some good tips before and while on your flight you can read my article about this here “How To Travel With A Cat On A Plane“.
If you happen to have a noisy cat and you don’t want them bothering you and the passengers while on the plane I also wrote an article about this as well which you can read here “How To Keep A Cat Quiet On A Plane“.