When traveling anywhere with your cat, whether you’re on a plane or in the car, you’ll want your cat to be as safe as possible. While traditional hard carrier crates are sturdy and safe, they are bulky and difficult to store and move around. Soft-sided carriers solve this issue by being collapsible, easy to store, lightweight, and still safe for your feline. Cats are incredibly agile creatures that can fit through impossibly small gaps, and every year, hundreds of cats break out of their carriers while on airplanes. This can make choosing the right carrier an important and potentially stressful task.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! We put together this list of 10 of our favorite soft-sided carriers to make the process a little less stressful for you. Our in-depth reviews will hopefully narrow down the options and help you choose the perfect carrier for your needs. Let’s get started!
The 10 Best Soft-Sided Cat Carriers — Reviews & Top Picks 2021
1. EliteField Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Cat Carrier Bag – Best Overall
|Dimensions:||19 x 10 x 13 inches|
The EliteField Soft-Sided cat carrier is airline-approved and our top choice overall. The carrier is made from durable yet lightweight material, making it easy to carry and strong enough to keep your cat safe. It has mesh netting on the front and sides for ventilation and light. It also has a seat belt loop and luggage strap, with a removable plush mat to keep your feline comfortable and cozy. The carrying handles and padded shoulder strap will keep you comfy too, and we love the extra accessory pocket to keep any valuables close. The carrier also comes in six different colors and is machine washable.
The only issue that we found with this carrier is the size; if you have a larger breed of cat, this carrier will be too small and cramped.
2. Pet Magasin Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag — Best Value
|Dimensions:||18 x 11 x 10 inches|
If you’re looking for a cat carrier that won’t break the bank but can still do the job well, the Pet Magasin carrier is the best soft-sided cat carrier for the money. The carrier is airline-approved, so it can fit under a standard airline seat, with comfortable padding inside and a mesh window for airflow and light. This lightweight carrier is great for home use too, ideal for trips to the vet or long car trips because it easily folds away flat for easy storage.
Although this carrier is airline-approved, we feel that it lacks a few of the features that you’d want for longer trips and has a fairly flimsy feel to it.
3. PetLuv Happy Cat Soft-Sided Cat Carrier — Premium Choice
|Dimensions:||20 x 13 x 13 inches|
If you’re on the lookout for a premium cat carrier, the PetLuv Happy Cat has all the features that you’d want and more. It is designed with windows all around for light and ventilation, with closable flaps for when your cat needs privacy. Getting your feline inside is a breeze because it has a door both on top and on the sides, with a removable, machine-washable bed that they’ll love. The carrier is designed with seatbelt loops, locking zippers, and reinforced seams for the safety of your feline, and it has comfortable shoulder straps for carrying, with an extra stash pocket!
This carrier is difficult to fault, and other than the high price, the only issue that we could find with it was the weight: At 8 pounds, it’s heavier than many other soft carriers out there.
4. Sherpa Delta Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
|Dimensions:||18 x 11 x 10.5 inches|
The Sherpa cat carrier is ideal for jet-setting kitties because it’s Delta Airline-approved and designed to meet airline requirements. It is collapsible and lightweight, so it is great for all your other transportation needs too. It has padded carrying straps and a non-slip shoulder strap for comfortable carrying, with a machine-washable faux lambskin liner for the comfort of your feline friend. The mesh windows will provide plenty of light and ventilation, it has locking zippers for safety and peace of mind, and there’s a convenient stash pouch for extras, plus. The top and side entries make it even easier for your cat to get in and out.
This carrier is a bit flimsy and cheaply made, though, and a determined cat could easily break through the mesh windows. We also feel that it could be better ventilated, as it’s a bit dark inside, which may stress out some cats.
5. Frisco Premium Travel Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
|Dimensions:||19 x 11.75 x 11.5 inches|
|Material:||Polyester, fleece, mesh|
The Frisco Premium Travel carrier is great for airline travel and smaller vet checkups and road trips because it is collapsible, lightweight, and easy to carry. It has a soft fleece-lined floor to keep your cat comfy, with mesh sides for adequate airflow and light. It also has locking zippers that can only be opened from the outside to keep your cat as safe as possible. The top and side doors make exit and entry a breeze, with a back pocket for all your essential extras. The shoulder and luggage straps make carrying easy and comfortable, and the bag comes in three different sizes to suit any cat breed.
This carrier has poorly made components, however, and a frisky, determined cat will easily claw their way through the mesh windows. Also, the sizes run small, so you should get a bigger size than you think that you’ll need.
6. KOPEKS Detachable Wheel Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
|Dimensions:||20 x 13 x 11.5 inches|
If you’re planning a long trip with your cat, the KOPEKS carrier bag is a great choice. The carrier has convenient wheels with a telescoping handle that makes transporting even the largest cats a breeze, and the entire platform is removable to conveniently convert into a stroller. The carrier has four different ventilation mesh panels for airflow and visibility with a closeable side and a large storage pocket to store all your accessories. We love that you can use this carrier in three ways: by pulling, carrying with the handle, or slinging it on your shoulder with the shoulder strap.
Unfortunately, this carrier does not include a mat and is comparatively expensive too. Also, it only comes in one size, which may be a bit too small for larger cat breeds.
7. Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
|Dimensions:||20 x 12.25 x 10.5 inches|
The Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels carrier is functional yet stylish and makes traveling with your cat a breeze. It has four swivel wheels with a detachable pulling strap to glide your cat across the floor with ease and padded handles for carrying. It has mesh ventilation panels on all four sides, with roll-down flaps for privacy, and a rear stash pouch for added essentials and treats. There are also locking zippers for added security. Lastly, the machine-washable faux-lambskin liner will keep your cat cozy.
This carrier is fine for small cats but far too small for larger cats, since the wheels are included in the measurements. It’s also comparatively expensive for the small size, and the roll-down straps are almost impossible to keep up.
8. Petmate Single Door Collapsible Soft-Sided Dog/Cat Crate
|Dimensions:||18 x 14 x 16 inches|
The Petmate soft-sided carrier is an inexpensive yet functional carrier for your cat, ideal for vet trips and road trips. The carrier folds up and sets up in seconds and is made with heavy-duty, water-resistant nylon fabric. It includes two mesh windows for ventilation, with covers for added privacy. There are also storage pockets for stashing treats and a foam pad to keep your kitty cozy and comfortable.
This carrier is fairly flimsy, though, and a determined cat may be able to rip the door open, making it unsuitable for airline travel. While the carrier comes in three sizes, even the biggest is only suitable for a small cat.
9. Go Pet Club Double Door Collapsible Soft-Sided Dog Crate
|Dimensions:||28 x 20.5 x 20.5 inches|
The Go Pet Club Carrier is a veritable hotel for your feline, with super-sturdy steel construction and durable water-resistant nylon shell, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. It has convenient quick-clip fasteners that make setting up and breaking down a breeze, and it can be folded flat for easy storage. The carrier also has a fleece floor pad that is removable and machine washable and top and front zippered doors for easy access.
Most cats will easily rip through the mesh window if they are determined enough, and the included liner is thin and of poor quality. The carrier is also heavy at 24 pounds, and setup can be fairly complicated for one person on their own.
10. IRIS Soft-Sided Dog & Cat Carrier
|Dimensions:||16.9 x 9.8 x 9.05 inches|
The IRIS cat carrier is a simple, inexpensive carrier that is well suited for road trips and visits to the vet. It is made from water-resistant nylon with a padded bottom for comfort, with ample mesh ventilation on the front and sides. It also has a convenient back storage pocket for stashing treats, and it easily collapses flat for compact storage.
This carrier is suitable for only the smallest of cats, and even small breeds will be somewhat cramped. The carrier lacks many features, like shoulder straps and wheels, so it is as simple as it gets. We also felt that there was not enough ventilation with this carrier, adding to the already cramped feeling for your kitty.
Soft-sided carriers are light, easy to store, and typically cheaper than hard carriers. Of course, soft carriers are not as durable or scratch-resistant as hard carriers, but as long as you get your cat accustomed to them, there shouldn’t be much of an issue. When choosing a soft-sided carrier for your cat, there are several things that you need to look for, notably, size, security, and quality. Here are a few tips to help you choose the perfect carrier for your feline friend.
To find the right size carrier for your cat, you’ll need to measure and weigh them first. Your cat should be able to stand and turn comfortably in their carrier, and the base should be able to support their weight without folding in. The carrier shouldn’t be too big, as your cat will feel safer in a confined space, but it shouldn’t be too small either. A general rule of thumb is that the carrier should be one and a half times the size of your cat.
How secure your carrier needs to largely depends on how you are intending to use it, but you’ll still want it to be safe as possible. If you’re just using it for short trips to the vet, a basic carrier is fine, but for longer trips on airlines, you’ll naturally want a carrier that is as escape-proof as possible. Tough materials, locking zippers, and sturdy bases are all features that you’ll want on a carrier made for longer trips.
One of the downsides of soft-sided cat carriers is that they are made of material. A determined cat will use their sharp claws to escape if they have not properly been crate trained, and a carrier with weak materials will be easy to rip. Nylon and polyester are the most commonly used materials for carriers, but the mesh ventilation windows are what should be the strongest because they are most susceptible to shredding.
All commercial cat carriers should have adequate ventilation to allow enough air for breathing, but not all will have enough to allow your cat to keep cool or let in sufficient light. You’ll want a carrier with plenty of airflow to keep them cool, to let them see outside, and to let a bit of light in. Sometimes your cat will need privacy too, so it helps to have roll-down flaps to cover the windows.
Handles and wheels
Your carrier should be comfortable not only for your cat but also for you because you’ll be carrying it! Padded shoulder straps and comfortable handles are great and will prevent accidentally dropping the carrier, which can be traumatic for your feline and may even injure them. Carriers with wheels are super convenient, although these tend to be bulkier and heavier.
Getting your cat in and out of their carrier is one of the most difficult aspects of traveling with them, especially if they are not used to it. Having multiple access points will give you different options to help get them in and out of the carrier and go a long way toward preventing painful scratches.
Traveling can be stressful for cats, and chances are high that they will mess themselves inside their carrier. Your carrier should ideally be machine washable, with removable liners or cushions too.
The EliteField Soft-Sided cat carrier is our top choice overall. It is made from durable, lightweight polyester with mesh netting on the front and sides for ventilation and carrying handles and a padded shoulder strap. It also has an extra accessory pocket to stash treats and valuables and comes in six different colors.
If you’re on a budget, the Pet Magasin carrier is the best soft-sided cat carrier for the money. The carrier is airline-approved with comfortable padding inside and a mesh window for adequate airflow and light. It easily folds away flat for compact storage.
The PetLuv Happy Cat has all the features that you’d want in a premium carrier, including windows all around for ventilation (complete with closable flaps), a machine-washable bed, seatbelt loops, locking zippers, and comfortable shoulder straps for carrying.
There are a ton of cat carriers on the market, and choosing the right one can quickly become overwhelming. We hope that our in-depth reviews have narrowed down the options and helped you find the best soft-sided cat carrier for your needs!
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.