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10 Best Airline-Approved Cat Carriers for Planes – 2022 Reviews & Top Picks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat inside plastic carrier_Africa Studio, Shutterstock

There are few things as stress-inducing as traveling with pets. But when you have the right carrier, it’s one less thing to worry about when you get to the airport.

That’s why we took the time to track down 10 of the best airline-approved cat carriers on the market today. This way, you can get the right cat carrier to get your cat from point A to point B the first time and without any hiccups.

We created reviews of each of the top products and created a comprehensive buyer’s guide to walk you through everything that you need to know to make the right decision.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (2022 Update)

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Pet Gear Sport Cat Rolling Backpack Pet Gear Sport Cat Rolling Backpack
  • Doubles as a car seat
  • Includes a tether
  • Easy to clean
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Frisco Basic Cat Carrier Frisco Basic Cat Carrier
  • Affordable
  • Easily collapsible to fit under seats
  • Auto-locking zippers
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Sherpa on Wheels Cat Carrier Bag Sherpa on Wheels Cat Carrier Bag
  • Wheeled bag is easy to transport
  • Plenty of space for pets
  • Tons of ventilation
  • Best for Checked Baggage
    Petmate Two Door Top Load Cat Kennel Petmate Two Door Top Load Cat Kennel
  • Great for checking cats as baggage
  • Durable construction
  • Good mix of quality and affordability
  • Pet Gear Traveler Cat Backpack Pet Gear Traveler Cat Backpack
  • Includes a tether
  • Two side storage pouches
  • Three color options
  • The 10 Best Airline-Approved Cat Carriers for Planes

    1. Pet Gear I-GO2 Sport Cat Backpack & Carrier – Best Overall

    Pet Gear I-GO2 Sport Dog & Cat Backpack & Rolling CarrierPet Gear I-GO2 Sport Dog & Cat Backpack & Rolling Carrier,

    Style Backpack/Roller Bag
    Size 12” x 8” x 17.5”
    Materials Nylon and mesh

    If you’re looking for the best overall airline-approved cat carrier for planes, look no further than the Pet Gear I-GO2 Sport Cat Backpack & Rolling Carrier. Its innovative design enables you to roll this pet carrier or wear it as a backpack, making it easier than ever to navigate the busy airport with your furry friend.

    It also doubles as a car seat for your cat, making transportation to and from the airport a breeze too. They won’t be able to escape when you have everything zipped up, and the attached tether ensures that they also can’t escape as soon as you open it up.

    What really sets this cat carrier apart is that it’s not nearly as expensive as most other cat carriers. This combination of price and performance sent this cat carrier straight to the top of this list.

    Pros
    • Easy to transport backpack/roller bag design
    • Doubles as a car seat
    • Includes a tether
    • Fleece-top comfort liner
    • A great mix of price and performance
    • Easy to clean
    Cons
    • Not that large
    • Only one size/color available

    2. Frisco Basic Airline Approved Cat Carrier – Best Value

    Frisco Basic Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

    Style Polyester and mesh
    Size 17” x 8” x 11.5” or 19” x 10” x 13”
    Materials Polyester, fleece, and mesh

    You’ve already spent money on plane tickets, pet fees, and more, so the last thing that you want to do is spend a ton of money on a cat carrier for the plane. That’s where an option like the Frisco Basic Cat Carrier comes in. It’s the best airline-approved cat carrier for planes for the money.

    It’s extremely affordable and comes with everything that you need for a seamless flight. It has auto-locking zippers to keep curious cats in the carrier, but don’t feel too bad — the soft Sherpa floor liner will have your cat flying in style.

    There are multiple size and color options for you to choose from, and they’re all available for a great price. Just keep in mind that it is a more basic cat carrier and is not as easy to carry through the airport as the options with wheels or backpack straps.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Easily collapsible to fit under seats
    • Auto-locking zippers
    • Soft Sherpa floor liner
    • Multiple sizes and colors are available
    Cons
    • No extra features
    • Not that easy to carry

    3. Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Cat Carrier – Premium Choice

    Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

    Style Wheeled bag
    Size 20” x 12.25” x 10.5”
    Materials Polyester and mesh

    While the Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Cat Carrier Bag is an extremely expensive cat carrier, when you see everything that it offers for both you and your cat, it’s hard to resist. It’s a wheeled bag that’s extremely easy to take around the airport, and it comes with padded carrying straps if you can’t pull it.

    But what really sets this cat carrier apart is what’s in it for your cat. It has tons of ventilation, plenty of space, and a soft faux-lambskin liner. There’s nothing softer and more luxurious out there for your cat.

    So, if you have the extra money, your cat will certainly appreciate the extra comforts that come with this cat carrier.

    Pros
    • Wheeled bag is easy to transport
    • Plenty of space for pets
    • Tons of ventilation
    • Soft faux-lambskin liner
    • Comes with padded carrying straps
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Only one size/color available

    4. Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel – Best for Checked Bags

    Petmate Two Door Top Load Dog & Cat Kennel

    Style Hard carrier
    Size 24.05” x 16.76” x 14.5”
    Materials Plastic and stainless steel

    While we’d all love to keep our cats under the seat in front of us, there are plenty of reasons that you might need to put them in checked baggage. If that’s the case for you or your cat, the Petmate Two Door Top Load Cat Kennel is exactly what your cat needs to have a safe and comfortable flight.

    It’s a hardtop cat carrier that meets most airlines’ requirements for checked baggage, and it’s extremely durable. Furthermore, there are two ways to get your cat in and out of the carrier: the traditional front-entry door and a top-entry opening.

    However, keep in mind it doesn’t come with a liner, so you should invest in a separate one before your trip. Also, it’s too big to use as an under-seat option, so you’re limiting yourself to checked baggage with this carrier.

    Pros
    • Great for checking cats as baggage
    • Durable construction
    • Good mix of quality and affordability
    • Top- and front-entry options
    Cons
    • Can’t be used as an under-seat carrier
    • No soft liner included

    5. Pet Gear I-GO Plus Traveler Cat Backpack & Rolling Carrier

    Pet Gear I-GO Plus Traveler Dog & Cat Backpack & Rolling Carrier

    Style Wheeled bag/backpack
    Size 16” x 13.5” x 22”
    Materials Polyester and mesh

    While the Pet Gear I-GO Plus Traveler Cat Backpack & Rolling Carrier is big, and with that comes a high price tag.

    While your cat might appreciate the extra space, they don’t really need it. Still, if you’re looking to spoil them a bit, then go ahead and spend the extra money on this carrier. It doubles as a car seat, and you can roll it around the airport or wear it as a backpack.

    It comes in three different color options, is extremely easy to clean, and has a fleece top liner for extra comfort. Moreover, it has a tether to keep your cat in place, and there are two storage pouches for all their stuff. It’s a great choice — just be ready to open up your wallet a little more for it.

    Pros
    • Includes a tether
    • Two side storage pouches
    • Works as a backpack, carrier, and roller bag
    • Doubles as a car seat
    • Three color options
    • Includes a fleece top liner and removable pad
    • Easy to clean
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Only one size available

    6. Frisco Premium Travel Airline Approved Cat Carrier Bag

    Frisco Premium Travel Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

    Style Duffle bag
    Size 15” x 10” x 8.5” or 17” x 11” x 10.5” or 19” x 11.75” x 11.5”
    Materials Polyester, fleece, and mesh

    The Frisco Premium Travel Cat Carrier Bag might have premium in the name, but don’t let that fool you. There are not that many extras in this carrier, and the features that do exist seem to be just for your cat. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this bag is a bit of a pain to navigate the airport with.

    The Sherpa floor lining epitomizes comfort and luxury for your cat, and there’s tons of ventilation to keep them cool. Moreover, there are three size options to choose from, and since the sides collapse down, your cat gets as much possible space for each leg of the journey.

    While premium is in the name, it’s an extremely affordable option.

    Pros
    • Three sizes
    • Affordable
    • Collapsible sides
    • Sherpa floor lining
    • Tons of ventilation
    • Easy to clean
    Cons
    • Not many extras
    • Simple design
    • No padded shoulder straps

    7. Mr. Peanuts Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag

    Mr. Peanut's Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier

    Style Duffel bag
    Size 18” x 10.5” x 11”
    Materials Nylon and mesh

    Mr. Peanut’s Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag might not be the most impressive cat carrier at first glance, but the more you look at it, the more you start to realize that it might be just what you’ve been looking for. It’s extremely affordable, has multiple storage pockets, and has a super-soft liner that your cat will love.

    Moreover, it provides plenty of ventilation, has a tether for your cat, and has a padded shoulder strap to help you carry it around the airport. There’s only one size and color option, and you can’t wheel it around the airport or wear it like a backpack, but at this price, it’s hard to beat everything else that it gives you!

    So, take a look and see if the Mr. Peanuts Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag is right for you and your cat.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Multiple storage pockets
    • Padded shoulder strap
    • Includes a tether
    • Soft liner
    • Plenty of ventilation
    Cons
    • Only one size and color option
    • No wheels or backpack straps

    8. Sherpa Original Deluxe Cat Carrier Bag

    Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

    Style Duffel bag
    Size 17” x 11” x 10.5” or 19” x 11.75” x 11.5”
    Materials Polyester, mesh, and fleece

    Sherpa makes premium products, and its Original Deluxe Cat Carrier Bag is no exception. It’s really a basic cat carrier, but you wouldn’t know it when you look at the price. It’s expensive, and its size means that not every airline out there allows it.

    Still, you’re getting an extremely durable product, and it has Sherpa’s signature soft faux lambskin liner that your cat will love. Since the bag does have a collapsible design, it fits under most airline seats.

    Finally, there are multiple storage pockets, and it’s easy to clean and care for. So while you’re spending more upfront, you are getting a cat carrier that will last year after year.

    Pros
    • Soft faux-lambskin liner
    • Collapsible design
    • Durable product
    • Multiple storage pockets
    • Easy to clean
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Basic design
    • Not approved for all airlines

    9. Pet Magasin Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag

    Pet Magasin Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

    Style Duffle bag
    Size 18” x 11” x 10”
    Materials Nylon and mesh

    If you’re looking for a bit of choice with your cat carrier, the Pet Magasin Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag is outstanding. While it only comes in one size, it has three different color options for you to choose from.

    It’s also extremely lightweight, there’s tons of ventilation, and the padded shoulder strap makes it easy to carry. Furthermore, it’s one of the more affordable cat carrier options out there, no matter the color you choose.

    However, keep in mind that it’s definitely a basic cat carrier bag. It doesn’t have any pockets and doesn’t even come with a liner for your cat! While you can purchase a separate liner to add to the carrier, there’s not much you can do about the lack of pockets.

    Pros
    • Three color options
    • Affordable
    • Lightweight carrier
    • Plenty of ventilation
    • Padded shoulder strap
    Cons
    • Liner not included
    • Simple design
    • No storage pockets

    10. Petmate Soft-Sided Airline Approved Cat Carrier Bag

    Petmate Soft-Sided Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

    Style Duffel bag
    Size 17” x 10” x 10” or 20” x 11.5” x 12”
    Materials Mesh

    The Petmate Soft-Sided Cat Carrier Bag is not the most impressive cat carrier out there, but it gets the job done. The entire design has mesh, which gives your cat tons of ventilation from every direction. However, it also means that it’s not the most durable cat carrier out there.

    Still, it has a padded shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry, and there are top and side loading options for your cat. When you pair that with the collapsible design, your cat gets more space than with most other airline-approved cat carriers.

    While it might not be the best choice out there, if you only need it for one or two trips, it can certainly get the job done and keep your cat happy.

    Pros
    • Tons of ventilation
    • Padded shoulder strap
    • Top- and front-loading options
    • Collapsible design
    Cons
    • Not the most durable
    • Basic design

    Related Read: 7 Best Cat Carrier for Car Travel – Reviews & Top Picks

    Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Airline Approved Cat Carrier

    Finding the right cat carrier for your cat can require more than just reading the reviews. That’s why we created a comprehensive buyer’s guide to walk you through everything that you need to look for when selecting a cat carrier.

    Check the Airlines Requirements

    While all the cat carriers on the list are “airline-approved,” the truth is that each airline has its own rules and regulations to follow. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more airlines are restricting what kind of pets they allow in the cabin.

    So, if you want to take your feline friend on the plane with you, look up the regulations for your specific airline before assuming that you’re good to go. Also, if you’re not taking a direct flight, check the regulations for each airline before you head to the airport.

    The last thing that you want is to get stuck on a layover and have nowhere to go because you don’t know how to get your cat on the next leg of the journey.

    How Big of a Cat Carrier Do You Need?

    Keep in mind that each airline sets its own requirements for how much space your cat will be allotted inside their carrier. But a good rule of thumb is that your cat should be able to stand straight up inside their carrier without their ears touching the top, and they should be able to stand and turn around comfortably.

    This might mean your cat can’t stay under the seat if you have a large cat, but it’s better to give them the extra space and check them with the rest of your luggage than to cram them into a space that’s too small for them.

    cats in a travel cat carrier

    In-Cabin vs. Checked Baggage

    When you’re traveling with your cat on a plane, you have two ways to transport them: as checked baggage and in the cabin. Each airline sets its own requirements for in-cabin and checked baggage, and completely different-style carriers are typically required.

    There’s no wrong answer as to how you want to transport your cat, but typically, you will need a larger container if you put them in checked baggage.

    Related Read: 10 Best Cat Carriers for Long-Distance Travel – Reviews & Top Picks

    Conclusion

    If you’re still unsure about what cat carrier to purchase for your next trip after reading these reviews, don’t overthink it. There’s a reason that the Pet Gear I-GO2 Sport Cat Backpack & Rolling Carrier is the top choice. Not only is it great for your cat, but it also makes traveling easier than ever.

    If you’re looking to save a little money, the Frisco Basic Cat Carrier is another outstanding choice. It meets all the basic carrier requirements and is an extremely affordable option.

    But the most important thing is that you don’t wait too long because the last thing that you want to deal with is a last-minute shipping delay to derail your entire trip!


    Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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