The Best Cat Carrier for Long Car Trips-What Experts Are Learning

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 08/10/22 •  17 min read
Portable litter box

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So, your cat wants to go camping. Cool. Now, what do you do? You buy a cat carrier to take them, right?

I’ve always traveled quite a bit, ever since I was a kid. The first long trip I remember was when I was 13 years old. My mom, sister, and I flew to Maine to look at colleges. It took us more than 20 hours of travel time, by plane, train and then bus, but it is still one of the best trips that I remember.

Pet owners dream about the time when they are going to take their cats on a long-awaited trip. It is an exciting trip filled with new impressions, entertaining company, and adventures.

We all know how special and enjoyable kitty companionship is, and we value this dearly.

Bringing your cat with you on a long trip can be a very difficult thing to do if you don’t plan ahead and know the right ways to take care of them during the trip.

The reality is that cats don’t like long car trips. Having grown up as a traveling working cat (we lived in 100 different houses before I died lol), I’ve learned that cats just don’t do well on long car rides.

Long car journeys can be incredibly dull and boring for cats!

You can ruin your precious travel plans if you don’t plan properly how to travel with cats.

There are various dangers that your cat may face while traveling in a car, and thus to save their life, you need a carrier.

Portable cat carriers for long-distance travel have been designed not to ruin the aesthetic beauty of your cats and also to provide them with utmost comfort.

No one wants to deal with a bored and anxious cat during the trip, and that’s why you need to consider investing in a perfect cat carrier for traveling.

 The size or quality of cat carriers for long-distance travel matter a lot for protecting your pet from any accident during the trip.

In this post, I’m going to show you the different kinds of carriers you can use for your cats which will help you decide the best one for long car trips.

How to get your cat ready for the long-waited ride

1.      Consult with your vet:

Consulting with your vet allows you to check whether medication is necessary before traveling with your kitty.

Since cats develop super anxieties when traveling, effective medication could be a great thing to ensure that they just remain comfortable during the trip.

In particular, sedative medications will grant you a trip full of safety, and stress-free if she is among the hyperactive felines in the neighborhood.

Your vet should advise you on the options you have.

You only need to medicate the cat before commencing the trip. You may also need to embrace a few tablets for car sickness in cats as there are tendencies that she could require medications for this condition as well.

Nonetheless, ensure that the vet shows you how to give your cat the pill if this is your first time.

2.      Train your cat to love the car cat carrier:

If you’re going to ride in the same car as your cat, make sure that she is safely buckled up. This is a cautionary measure aimed at ensuring that not only she but also you and the other people you’re riding with are protected.

Unrestricted cats will always be a nuisance and may cause a lot of mayhem, distracting your ability to brake or steer.

FELINE FACT: Cats are champion sleepers, but bats and opossums actually log more zzzzs. Those animals average 20 hours of sleep each day.

3.      Crate your cat to help her calm her nerves:

Cats think that boxes make up the best toys, but this doesn’t need to happen when traveling in a car. Crating your cat when you engage in a short trip could be very helpful.

For long trips, place a small litter box in a large crate which you’ll place in the back of the car.

Secure the crate properly with a bungee cord. This will minimize the risk of your pet being tossed around should an accident happen.

It also minimizes motion sickness during sharp turns and sudden braking.

If you don’t have a small cat box to fit into the crate, then letting your kitty roam freely in the back of your SUV could be one of the best ideas. You only need to feel free to let her roam at the back and set a baby gate just to ensure that she doesn’t move to the driver’s car seat.

When you make bathroom stops or stretch, give your cat access to a litter box but ensure that the car doors and windows are closed.

Ensure she is leashed and harnessed too.

4.      Avail kitty’s favorite stuff:

Be sure to carry your cat’s favorite toy or blanket when embarking on a long trip. A blanket that brings her the feeling and smells like the one at home will make her more secure and safety-assured.

 Packing the same litter box and food you give kitty back at home will relieve her of all forms of shock.

Travelling Cat Checklist


Ensure that you have stocked your car with these items before running the engine:

  1. Cat first-aid kit
  2. A well-ventilated cat carrier with an easy-to-clean floor pad
  3. Dry food, small bowl, and treats
  4. Bottled water and a no-spill bowl
  5. Nonprescription calming medicine such as Rescue Remedy
  6. A leash and a spare collar and ID tags with a reachable phone number
  7. A comfy, familiar blanket
  8. Travel litter box, litter, and cleaning supplies
  9. Photo of your cat in case she gets lost
  10. Medical records of your cat
  11. Favorite toys
  12. Paper towel rolls and plastic bags

Do’s and Don’ts of Transporting a Cat on a Long Car Ride

These steps will come in handy the next time you want to go for a long car ride with your cat:

  1. Do consult with your vet on vaccine requirements and the kitty’s medical state
  2. Don’t place the pet carrier in the front car seat since airbags are designed and tested to protect adult human beings…not your kitten.
  3. I know you love your cat, but don’t hold them in your lap while traveling.
  4. Do search for emergency vet centers along the trip path
  5. Do organize stops in hotels that will welcome your cat
  6. Do feed kitty about 3 hours before traveling
  7. Do secure the carrier in the car with the seat belt.
  8. If you are using a crate in the back seat, secure it properly with a bungee cord.
  9. Do not let your cat roam around the car

Buyer’s Guide: What to Consider When Buying The best cat carrier for long-distance car travel

1.       The size of the carrier:

Choosing the right-sized cat carrier for long-distance travel for your pet depends on the size of your cat and the litter box size that can fit into the carrier.

The carrier should be at least one and a half times bigger than your cat to give her room to wiggle.

2.       Check the quality of the carrier material:

Ensure you go for quality material that will keep your cat comfortable, safe, and won’t easily get damaged.

3.       Carrier ventilation:

You want a carrier that has adequate ventilation to avoid suffocating your cat.

4.       Carrier safety:

Some quality carriers have undergone crash tests to determine their reliability in case of a car accident.

While they may be pricy, they are reliable in protecting your cat’s life in case of a car accident.

Types of Cat Carriers for Travel

1.         Hard plastic carriers:

A hard plastic carrier should be your preference if you’re among the cat owners who travel with their cats only once a year or less.



Such demerits greatly reveal the importance of adopting soft carriers, particularly among the cat keepers who frequently engage in long-distance travel.

2.         Soft pet carrier for cats:

A soft pet carrier for cats is ideal if you are planning to travel long distances with your cat.

Compared to hard plastic carriers, soft pet carriers are highly appreciated by air travelers as they are easily slid under the seats to act as carry-on luggage.

Similarly, the Center for Pet Safety and Crash Testing 1 scores soft carriers higher than hard plastic carriers.

3.         Backpacks and roller carriers:

Are you fond of dragging roller suitcases?

Then a hard-sided cat carrier with wheels would be the most suitable choice whenever you want to journey with your cat. Ideally, backpacks and roller carriers are effectively built with immense storage spaces.

The fact that they will avail you of a soft comfy interior reveals why you should think of roller carriers and backpacks the next time you decide to delve into a journey with your kitty.

However, the fact that she could be scared of the sound produced by the rolling wheels reveals the greatest drawback associated with the best-wheeled cat carrier.

FELINE FACT: Tapetum lucidum, the reflective layer in cats’ eyes, is a Latin phrase that means “bright carpet.”

The Best Cat Carriers for Car Travels

Here is the list of the best cat carriers for long road trips available in the market. However, the list is arranged in categories just to make sure you don’t get difficulties the next time you want to shop for a cat carrier on your long-distance trips.

Best cat carrier for long car trips:

I recommend that you consider shopping for the Sleepypod Mobile Pet bed and Carrier as the best cat carrier for long car trips.

This product avails you of a dual-purpose tool that comprises a polyester interior and a nylon exterior. With a weight capacity of up to 15lbs, this product is ideal for car travel as it is certified for car safety and presents the ability to convert to a bed.

Ideally, the Sleepypod mobile pet bed is among the few carriers in the international market that passes crash tests and avails the same qualities set for restrains among children. In essence, this product will avail you of every condition you may need if your car was to be customized with a cat seat.

Apart from the safe ride associated with Sleepypod, the product also presents you with a comfy pet bed that cushions the kitty from the effects of stress when traveling. The cover can easily zip and remain off to help the kitty develop positive connections with the carrier particularly when you aren’t traveling.

On the other hand, the carrier will avail you of a water-proof paddling top, washable bedding, and a ballistic interior with a sturdy nylon. These attributes make the sleepy pod one of the most durable and easy to clean cat items available on the market.



Best cat carrier for car travel:

The Petisfam top load cat carrier should be among the ‘must buys’ the next time you want to go for car travel with your cat.

The Petisfam top load cat carrier presents with a breathable nylon mesh which ensures that your feline enjoys optimal safety without the stress of restricted flow of air. The fact that this carrier bag is easy to load from the top or sideways makes your operations easier and hustle-free when you want your cat loaded inside.

Cat car carrier with litter box:

You must look into ways of acquiring the high-end One for Pets travel cat carrier if you need something that gives you the combined benefits of sturdiness and enough space to fit your litter box plus your kitten.

It is the best cat carrier car travel available in the market.

Though One for Pets won’t come with a litter box, it can easily accommodate the portable one you bought from your favorite store. I would recommend that you spend a little more money when making purchases for the litter box to buy a separate portable carrier.  

Ideally, you’ll only need to ensure that this enclosure is well-spread on the back seat just to ensure that your kitties get as much space as they desire. It could be very effective if you are a family with multiple cats. You may also want the best version of One For Pets customized to act as a carrier for two cats just in case you have a multi-cat family.

Cat carrier with litter box:

The best cat carrier for long-distance car travel with a litter box is the Necoichi

Set of Pop Open Cat Cage and Portable Litter Box.  The fact that this good cat carrier pops open reveals why it will be easy to handle during your trips.

You can easily fold up the Necoichi set when it is not in use and put it away. Even more, the carrier set comes in diverse color rhymes with the dimensions of 20” X 20” X 31.8”.

On the other hand, the cat litter box comes in the dimensions of 15” X5.1” X 11”. This size is just big enough to cater for your large-sized senior or two cats plus the litter box.

To date, this is one of the best cat carriers for long-distance car travel with a litter box.

The best cat carrier for cats who hate carriers:

The best cat carrier for cats who hate carriers will almost always have a hard covering. While some people may disagree, it greatly depends on the elements that make your cat hate the carrier.

I recommend the Petmate Sky Kennel as the best carrier for cats who hate traveling. Ideally, this product avails you with about 6 size options to choose from. The sizes range from 21 to 48 inches. This carrier is effectively designed to remain strong and secure even when carrying a frightened animal in an airplane’s hold.

The Petmate Sky Kennel cat carriers have a 4-way vault door that will minimize the shifting and sliding effects. The product has effectively fixed wire vents that enhance consistent airflows.

Nonetheless, the Pet mate Sky Kennel allows you to protect your cat by running the seat belt just below the handle. The Petmate website gives you the opportunity to make purchases for replacement parts just in case some elements of the carrier get worn out.

At times, the hatred could result from your cat’s fear and anxieties. Nonetheless, you need to consider this as a normal thing since cats don’t love moving out of their areas of influence and wouldn’t be afraid to show it.

The best cat carrier for vet visits:

Cat in the hands of a vet

The Amazon basics two-door top load hard-sided pet travel carrier would be recommended as the best cat carrier for vet visits. Ideally, the carrier comes in 23” and 19” models to present you with variety for your cats.

Its strength is enhanced by the spring-loaded latch and the steel wire door with multiple ventilations. Nonetheless, the four latches attached to the carrier only act as sources of security. These features will ensure that your sick cat remains comfortable whenever you want to make a visit to the vet.

The best cat carrier for two cats:

The SturdiBag Extra Large Flexible Height Pet Carrier Divided is the best two cat pet carrier in the market today. In essence, the carrier is effectively sewn with 600 Denier Polyester which makes it very durable. The mesh windows ensure that kitties enjoy optimum visibility and ventilation.

The carrier comes with a swiftly adjustable padded shoulder strap and a leather-made handle which ensures that you remain comfortable when roaming with the kitties. The versatility provided by the carrier, coupled with the extreme lightness and maneuverability makes it one of the best pet carriers for two cats available on the market.

The best cat carrier for planes:

I consider the Sleepypod Air In-cabin Pet Carrier the best cat carrier for airplane travelers. This is one of the high-quality carriers for cats which avails kitty with the double benefits of comfortability and durability. 

 It’s the most appropriate must-have tool if you plan to make frequent air travels with your feline friend as they are set to benefit from the soft and comfy interior with optimal safety when traveling.

 It is an airline-approved pet carrier.

The exterior is carefully made with ballistic nylon with luggage-grade quality to enhance its strength. The tear-resistant mesh makes it one of the long-lasting cat carrier choices. Nonetheless, the cat carrier has a unique design that gives you the opportunity to compress or expand to the size that fits your cat.

Do cats prefer hard or soft carriers?

Cats have a great preference for soft-sided cat carriers.

However, hard-sided cat carriers have gained popularity for their abilities to withstand the erosive effects of stubborn kitties. Only use a soft-sided carrier if you’re sure that your pet is a good and calm traveler.

Should I cover my cat’s carrier when traveling?

Yes, you may cover my cat’s carrier when traveling. In particular, the covering should have a familiar scent to keep the kitty relaxed.

Cats love to hide whenever they are frightened. Providing a blanket covering will just make your cat feel safe and secure.

Can a Cat Ride in a Car Without a Carrier?

I would highly discourage you from having car rides with your cat without a carrier.

How to calm a cat in a carrier

Synthetic pheromones have been used to reduce cat stress when traveling.

The synthetic pheromone is sprayed into the cat carrier 30 minutes prior to travel.

This will help your cat deal with the travel stress better and she will stay calm.


Car trips can be exhausting and our cats sometimes need a little extra help relaxing.

Traveling with cats isn’t easy. They are not our most “reliable” pets if they are smart enough to make their own decisions. You can’t easily train them, unlike dogs.

It can be stressful enough for a person to travel by car, but the anxiety that comes with taking your pet on a long trip can be even more daunting.

When planning on taking a long car trip, you want to get the best carrier for your cat.

This article has discussed how best to choose the best cat carrier for long car trips and the best cat carriers for your situation.

Having read this article, are you still looking for some help on the right cat carriers for your cats?

Davis Wilkins

Davis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.

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