The 5 best cat carriers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A good cat carrier is comfortable and safe for your pet and easy for you to transport.
  • We tested 30 pet carriers, including soft-sided carriers, hard-sided kennels, and backpacks.
  • The best cat carrier, Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier, unzips to give a pet extra space.

The right cat carrier can make getting a feisty feline from Point A to Point B less stressful. Whether you’re headed to the vet or the airport, a good carrier should have a handful of essential features for the convenience and comfort of both cat and human.

To determine the most important qualities to look for in a pet carrier, I consulted with Lindsey Wolko, the founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia, and Dr. Gwen Gadd, a fear-free certified veterinarian at East Bay SPCA in Oakland, California. To start, look for more than one loading door, plenty of ventilation, exterior pockets, and easy-to-carry straps or handles.

Over the last year, I evaluated 30 different cat carriers, including airline-friendly, budget, and backpack styles. All but one, the Good2Go Expandable Carrier, were provided as editorial review samples by their manufacturers. My two cats, Osito and Phoebe, submitted their opinions on the carriers, both at home and on visits to the vet.

At the end of this guide, read more about how we tested the carriers as well as how to introduce your cat to their new carrier and how to safely travel by car with your cat.

Here are the best cat carriers you can buy:

The best cat carrier overall

Mr. Peanut's Gold Series Expandable Carrier

The durable Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is designed for convenient, comfortable travel with an extendable compartment that provides your cat with more space on the road.

Pros: Front- and top-loading, expandable compartment, luggage strap, detachable shoulder strap, washable bolster bed, five colors options, folds flat for storage

Cons: Not third-party crash-tested, no official warranty

Whether you’re traveling with your cat by plane, car, or public transportation, Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier helps take the hassle out of the journey. It has nearly all of the features we considered for this guide and is also one of our favorite airline cat carriers.

For your feline companion, it is outfitted with a plush bed, privacy flap, and zip-out atrium that expands the carrier’s width by more than 50%. For the cat sherpa, there is a shoulder strap, carry handle, exterior pocket, luggage strap, detachable name tag, and an interior safety tether to prevent your cat from bolting.

My favorite thing about this carrier is its expandable mesh atrium. My cats liked stretching out into the extra space while napping inside. This feature can’t be used in flight or while driving, but you can give your cat more space while waiting at the airport or vet’s office.

The Gold Series remained well balanced on top of a carry-on and the padded shoulder strap was easy to adjust and comfortable on my shoulder.  The mesh was perfectly intact after our scratch test with the exception of some slight discoloration. Stomping on the bag multiple times flattened its interior frame slightly, but it took just a few seconds to push it back out to its original form. The zippers worked smoothly too.

On a vet visit, my cat unleashed his own goop test on the removable bed. Though the bed is labeled hand-wash only, I threw it in the washer and air-dried it. It not only came completely clean, but it also looked essentially brand new.

The carrier adheres to most in-cabin airline restrictions. The frame is not flexible but has enough give to fit beneath slightly lower seats.  Although it has safety seat belt attachments, it has not been third-party crash-tested. For this reason, the most secure spot to place your cat is at the foot of the backseat on the passenger side. It fit snugly there in my compact car.

Mr. Peanut’s donates their carriers and a portion of sales to animal rescues and aid organizations through their Pay a Shelter Pet Forward program.

The best budget cat carrier

Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier

The Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier has just about all of the features you might want for everyday or long distance travel at an affordable price.

Pros: Padded detachable shoulder strap, padded carry handle, secure luggage strap, multiple pockets, washable interior mat, collapses flat for storage, comes in six colors and two sizes

Cons: Not top-loading, seam of interior mat ripped in washing, no warranty

For a reliable soft-sided carrier that will keep your cat safe and comfortable on short journeys and long-distance travel days alike, Elite Field’s Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier fits the bill. Inside, this bag is fitted with a soft fleece mat and safety tether. A luggage strap, detachable padded shoulder strap, and padded carry handle make getting your cat to their destination easy. Best of all, this carrier is less than half the cost of our best overall pick.

In testing, the Elite Field carrier proved to be highly durable. In our goop test, it wiped completely clean and its fleece mat came out of the washer with no stains. Our scratch test resulted in no damage, and the zipper was smooth. The biggest flaw  was a seam along the side of the mat that tore in the washing machine but did not affect its usefulness.

This carrier has more ventilation than most of those we tested. It also has five pockets, including one which unzips to convert into a luggage strap, and two small zipper holes through which you can pet or feed your cat without danger of escape. The bag collapses flat for storage but does not have a top-loading entry or a warranty. When carried by the shoulder strap, this carrier does bend inward an inch or two.

The Elite Field comes in two sizes, both of which fit under the seat at United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Although this carrier has a seatbelt loop, it has not been third-party crash-tested for car travel. All in all, while this carrier isn’t perfect, its durable, comfortable design is a great deal.

The best cat carrier for car travel

Away pet carrier

The third-party crash-tested Away Pet Carrier is loaded with features for the safety, comfort, and convenience of you and your cat.

Pros: Front- and top-loading carrier, third-party crash-tested and safety certified, secure luggage strap, washable interior sherpa bed, padded shoulder strap, excellent ventilation,  one-year warranty

Cons: Pricey, does not fold flat for storage

Having earned a five-star crash-test certification from the Center for Pet Safety, the Away Pet Carrier is an ideal choice for frequent travel or long car rides. Although it is the most expensive carrier we tested for this guide, it has all of the features we deemed essential, including a luggage strap, excellent ventilation, a padded shoulder strap, and two exterior pockets. Because it also fits the dimensions of most in-cabin airline requirements, it’s versatile enough for journeys requiring multiple modes of transportation.

The Away Carrier has a washable sherpa bolster bed and safety tether inside. On its exterior, there is a roll-down privacy flap on the front door, luggage strap, and two zipper pockets, one of which runs the entire length of the right side. 

Perhaps the carrier’s most important feature, though, is the seat belt attachment. While many carriers have seat belt straps or latches, relatively few have been third-party crash-tested. Away’s bag was not only crash tested in 2020, it earned a five-star safety certification for pets up to 18 pounds.

In our testing, the Away Carrier came out unscathed. It was plenty spacious for even the larger of my two cats, a zaftig 12-pounder. It was also easy to transport. The padded shoulder strap is a little slippery and did have to be readjusted occasionally. Because it’s made from leather, the handle is not as comfortable to hold as some of the other carriers I tested, which have thicker nylon handles.

 Although it doesn’t fold flat for storage, the Away Carrier comes with a drawstring bag to keep it free from dust and debris, as well as a few additional goodies, including a small plush airplane, a bandana, and a collapsible silicone water bowl. The carrier can be monogrammed for an additional $35.

The best hard-shell cat carrier

Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel

The sturdy, spacious Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel has self-locking doors on its front and top sides for easy loading and unloading.

Pros: Made from heavy-duty 95% recycled plastic; strong, sturdy design with bolts lining three sides of carrier; self-locking wire mesh doors on front and top; affordable

Cons: Requires assembly, somewhat heavy at 3.8 pounds for the 19-inch kennel and 6.43 pounds for the 24-inch; no mat or safety tether; only two color options; not safety-tested for car travel

If you have a cat that fears the tight confinement of a soft-sided carrier, the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel is an excellent option for transporting them from Point A to Point B. This hard-shell carrier has a simple two-piece design that secures together with bolts around its exterior.

There is a folding plastic handle at the top. Both doors on the kennel have spring-loaded latches that lock them securely in place and, along with holes that wrap around the top half of the carrier, provide ventilation. The 24-inch carrier was extremely spacious for even my 12-pound cat. Both doors were large enough for stress-free entry and were easy to open and close one-handed.

The kennel passed our goop test with flying colors. The mess I smeared on its interior and exterior, then left to dry for 48 hours, wiped completely clean in an instant. When dropped, it did not fare as well as its soft-sided counterparts. It didn’t suffer any structural damage, but the back panel of its top half cracked and the handle popped off the top door. I was able to snap the handle back in place, and the back remains intact enough to prevent a pet from escaping. It’s important to note that this kennel’s competitor, the Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Kennel, broke in almost the same way but held on to its handle. 

In fact, everything about this kennel is so similar to the Petmate that they may as well be the same product. I was able to pinpoint only three differences between them: Frisco’s carrier comes in two colors instead of four, it costs almost $10 less, and it is slightly heavier — a little over a half pound each for the 19- and 24-inch models.

While this kennel is missing a few of the features I looked for in the soft carriers, namely a safety tether, soft interior mat, and ID tag, it’s a well-made, affordable option for cats who need more space during travel. 

The best backpack cat carrier

Gen7Pets Geometric Roller Backpack

The Gen7Pets Geometric Roller-Carrier is comfortable to wear and converts instantly into a rolling suitcase when your shoulders need a break.

Pros: Combination backpack and rolling carrier, two zippered doors for loading, machine-washable sherpa mats, telescoping suitcase handle, available in two sizes, folds flat for storage, one-year limited warranty

Cons: Does not fit in-cabin airline requirements, not safety-tested for car travel, heavier than other backpack carriers we tested

Gen7Pets Geometric Roller-Carrier takes the hassle out of traveling with a cat by providing two convenient ways for them to get around: on your back or rolling at your side. The sturdy carrier has two loading doors at the front and zippered pockets on its sides. There is a handle at the top of the bag for quick lifting and four wheels at the bottom. Soft machine-washable sherpa mats attach to the base and back of the interior with Velcro.

In backpack mode, this carrier has two adjustable shoulder straps that clip to D-rings at the bottom of the back side. It takes just a few seconds to convert the bag into rolling mode by unclipping the backpack straps, tucking them into their storage pocket, and pulling out the telescoping suitcase handle. I was surprised to find that, despite the size and weight of the large carrier, it was equally as comfortable on my back as the other backpack carriers I tested. Its padded straps were easy to adjust and it did not bounce against my lower back.

The backpack is also comfortable to pull behind you or at your side. It skidded occasionally on a rock or stick but mostly moved smoothly over sidewalks, pavement, and ramps. For cat comfort when rolling, the bag has a “smart-level platform” to change the angle of the carrier’s base. 

The Geometric Roller Backpack’s front mesh panels can be rolled down for easy feeding and watering and an interior tether can be used to keep your cat from escaping. Although there are seat belt straps on the back, this carrier has not been third-party crash-tested, so they should not be used. 

In testing, this backpack proved durable. The stomp test reshaped the internal wire frame, but I was able to push it back in place in under a minute. In the scratch test, the carrier’s mesh showed no signs of breakage and the loading door zipped smoothly. The goop I spread on the bag cleaned up easily, leaving only a small spot of discoloration, and the interior mat came out of the washing machine looking like new. 

The large carrier was very spacious and comfortable for my cats, but at 6.8 pounds, it was a bit heavy to carry by the plastic handle at its top. It is also too large to fit under the seat in the cabin of an airplane, as is the smaller version of the carrier. While some may find it too bulky, its size, shape, and versatility make frequent travel with a cat convenient and comfortable for both of you.

What else we considered

other cat carriers we tested

Soft-sided cat carriers for air and car travel

  • Wild One Travel Carrier: We really like this modular travel carrier and chose it as the best option for air travel with a cat due to bells and whistles like a shoulder strap that converts to a leash and a fold-out bed. For everyday use, this is also an excellent carrier but costs about twice as much as our best overall cat carrier pick, Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier.
  • Sleepypod Atom: Although this Sleepypod carrier earned a five-star crash-test rating from the Center for Pet Safety, it has only an elevated, top-entry opening for loading and unloading. I also found its shoulder strap, which had a buckle at exactly the wrong spot on my shoulder, uncomfortable to carry.
  • Frisco Travel Carrier: This carrier by Frisco was originally our top choice in the budget category before we tested the Elite Field. The bag is top- and front-entry, has an interior sherpa mat and privacy flaps, and held up well in testing. But when compared to the Elite Field, Frisco’s carrier had less than half the ventilation and an uncomfortable shoulder strap with no padding.
  • Petmate Soft-Sided Carrier: This bag has a lot of good features, including top- and front-loading entries and a design that folds flat for storage. However, on our walk test, this was the only carrier of the bunch where the floor mat dislodged and flipped up, leaving the 10-pound weight in the bottom of the bag to drop almost to my knees without any support, a serious safety hazard if it had occurred with an actual cat. 
  • Neocoichi Ultralite Pop-Up Cat Carrier: This cleverly designed pop-up carrier is feather light and super cute, to boot. Unfortunately, its thin walls are extremely flimsy compared to the other carriers we tested and could be easily breached by a set of determined claws. 
  • Mr. Peanut’s Platinum Series Double Expandable Carrier: I love the expandability of this carrier, which nearly triples in size when fully unzipped. It performed just as well as our top pick, the Gold Series Expandable Carrier, in our tests and had all of the same features but with slightly less ventilation, just 17% of the bag versus 18% for the Gold Series. It also costs about $4 more.
  • Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Carrier: Like the Gold Series Expandable, this carrier has nearly all of the features I consider essential: two points of entry, safety tether, luggage strap, padded shoulder strap, ID tag, and more. But it lacks an expandable section to increase the carrier’s size on long travel days, one of my favorite features of our best overall choice.
  • Mr. Peanut’s Soft Sided Carrier: This carrier is the same as the Gold Series model but without the privacy flap over the top mesh door.
  • Gen7Pets Commuter Carrier: Crash-tested and fitting the dimensions of most in-cabin airline requirements, this carrier has almost all of the features I consider essential. It’s missing two big things that a pricey $100 bag ought to have, though: a shoulder strap for convenient carrying and exterior pockets for holding essentials. It also does not fold flat for storage. 
  • Good2Go Expandable Pet Carrier: I like this expandable carrier. A few years ago, I twice traveled 1,000 miles by car with my cats each tucked safely inside one. It is top- and front-loading and has an interior tether and large zipper back pocket. Unfortunately, it’s relatively pricey compared to Mr. Peanut’s carriers and does not collapse for storage. 
  • Bergan Comfort Carrier: This affordable carrier is quite comfortable according to my cats, with a cozy fleece bolster bed and two no-escape petting holes. And while it has no interior tether, its exterior zippers have buckles to keep them from accidentally opening. However, this carrier was one of two to earn the lowest score on the luggage test. I had to stop and rebalance the bag four separate times on top of my suitcase as I rolled it a single city block. It also does not fold for storage. 
  • Frisco Basic Carrier: The Basic Carrier has multiple pockets, an interior D-ring for attaching a safety tether, and comes with an ID tag. However, unlike the Mr. Peanut’s carriers, it has only one point of entry at the front of the bag and is not equipped with a luggage strap.
  • Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Carrier: I like this carrier that can be carried like a traditional soft-sided kennel or converted into a rolling bag by rearranging the shoulder strap into a luggage pull. I also appreciate the privacy flaps over the mesh ventilation on the carrier’s sides and back. However, it does not come with an interior safety tether or ID tag, and at 20 inches long and 12.25 inches wide, it’s too big to fit most in-cabin airline requirements. 
  • Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier: This is a solid cat carrier with most of the essentials, including a fleece mat, two doors for loading, large back pocket, and luggage strap. Unfortunately, it lacks a safety tether and padded shoulder strap. Because I’m only 5-foot-4, when I adjusted the strap for long-distance carrying, the buckle landed right at my shoulder where it dug in. This carrier also had less ventilation than our top pick and failed to balance during the luggage test, especially when stepping off of a curb. Because I had to stop and reset the bag four separate times during our one-block walk, it was one of two to earn the lowest score in the trial. 
  • Sherpa Element Carrier: For nearly the same price, this carrier offers little more than the Sherpa Original Deluxe. Like the Original Deluxe, it has no interior safety tether and no padding in the shoulder strap, causing the buckle to dig into my shoulder on our walk test. It has only a single tiny zip pocket and the second least ventilation of the bags that went on to the second phase of testing — just 15.5% of its surface area is mesh. It is also tiny compared to the other carriers, measuring 14.75 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 10.5 inches tall.
  • Sherpa To-Go Carrier: Of all the Sherpa bags, I liked this no-frills bag the least. With only a single tiny zip pocket and sans luggage strap, not to mention the lack of a safety tether and ID tag, this carrier did not make it to the second round of testing.
  • Petmate See and Extend Carrier: This top- and front-loading carrier was just okay, especially for the price. I like the expandable section that nearly doubles the size of its interior, but the carrier has only a single mesh pocket and no safety tether, ID tag, and luggage strap.
  • K&H Lookout Pet Carrier: The worst of the carriers I evaluated, the K&H Lookout’s design consists of a single zipper that wraps all the way around the carrier and serves to open and close its entry door. If it breaks or becomes stuck, the entire carrier would be unusable. The Lookout also lacks pockets and has a slim tent-like interior. While I was able to pop its plastic bubble window back out after it arrived collapsed, it left permanent unsightly evidence of its collapse.

Hard-shell cat carriers

  • Gunner G1 Medium Dog Kennel: For airline travel in the cargo hold or long car journeys, there’s no better kennel than the ultra-strong, five-star crash-tested Gunner G1 Kennel. But for everyday use, this heavy, extremely pricey crate is not the most practical option for a cat.
  • Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Kennel: Petmate’s kennel is great. In fact, it is the same as the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel in nearly every way — it even broke the same way in our drop test. But while this kennel weighs slightly less than the Frisco version and is available in four colors instead of two, it costs almost $10 more. 
  • Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier: This is a sturdy crate that fits the requirements for airline cargo pet travel. Our tests showed that it’s more durable than the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel, but it’s also significantly more expensive and has only one loading door at the front.
  • Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel: This kennel is remarkably similar in design, price, and size to the Petmate Sky Kennel but fared worse in durability testing.

Backpack cat carriers

  • Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier: With multiple pockets, an interior tether, and a shoulder strap that converts the backpack to a standard carrier, Mr. Peanut’s earned a high score in our features comparisons. However, its interior may be too small for many cats to be comfortable for long periods of time. 
  • Sherpa 2-in-1 Backpack Carrier: The shape and size of Sherpa’s backpack is very similar to Mr. Peanut’s, but it has ingenious removable backpack straps, one of which converts into a shoulder strap to turn the whole thing into a traditional carrier. The Sherpa backpack, however, lacks a luggage tag, includes a smaller mat, and has only a safety tether D-ring instead of a full tether. Unlike Mr. Peanut’s backpack, it was missing safety buckles on the zippers, a privacy flap over the top, and a chest strap to help balance the pack’s weight.
  • Kurgo K9 Carrier Backpack: This backpack carrier by Kurgo is stylish but falls short in several categories including ventilation and carrying comfort. In the goop test, both the interior and exterior were left looking worse for wear.

How we tested

how we tested cat carriers

All of the carriers evaluated in this guide went through four tests: a basic comparison of features, a drop test, a goop test, and a cat-approval test. 

Feature comparison: Interviews with Wolko and Gadd helped me determine the essential features a cat carrier should have. I created a scoring system for the soft-sided carriers based on the qualities listed below. Hard-sided carriers were subject to slightly different criteria. The bags that scored the highest went on to additional testing.

In the “What to consider when shopping for a pet carrier” slide, I describe each of these features in more detail:

  • Shape and design
  • Interior mat
  • Loading doors
  • Carrying straps and handles
  • Pockets
  • Ventilation
  • Interior safety tether
  • No-escape petting hole
  • ID tag
  • Luggage strap
  • Dimensions and in-cabin airline capability
  • Safety certifications
  • Storage

Drop, stomp, and roll test: In this test, I brought the carriers that did best in the features comparison to a local park. I placed a 10-pound weight inside each bag and, with the help of my partner, dropped each one twice from a 10-foot-tall play structure, first releasing it straight down, then flipping it end on end.

Once on the ground, I rolled the bags several times with the weight still inside, looking for any damage to the stitching, mesh, or zippers. Later, I conducted the stomp test at home, placing each carrier on a rug, then stomping on it a dozen times with bare feet, noting whether the frame changed shape or the bag showed any damage.

Goop test: Because it’s not uncommon for cats to vomit or defecate in their carrier, I devised the goop test to determine how easy the carriers were to clean. I made my goop by mashing together cat kibble, canned food, and water with a mortar and pestle, then spread a tablespoon on the exterior walls, the interior walls, and the mats of the contenders. After 48 hours, I used dish soap and water to wipe the goop from the walls and cleaned the mats in the washing machine or by hand, depending on care instructions. 

In-cabin airline fit test: I measured the exterior of each carrier to determine whether it would fit under the seat in the cabin of most major airlines. I used United Airlines’ recommended maximum dimensions for a soft-sided pet carrier of 18 inches long, 11 inches wide, and 11 inches tall as the standard by which to assess them.

Ventilation test: Wolko explained that a carrier’s ventilation is important for preventing a cat from overheating during travel. I measured the mesh panels on each carrier and calculated the percentage of the total surface area they comprised. Those with more ventilation were scored higher than those with limited mesh. 

Walk test: I took each of the top soft-sided carriers on a 15-minute walk around my neighborhood, carrying a 10-pound weight inside. Each was carried using its shoulder strap and held at the front of my body, as if I had precious cat cargo inside. The last block of the walk, I switched to using the bags’ hand-carry straps.

Throughout the walk, I paid attention to how comfortable the carrier was to carry by shoulder and by hand, as well as how well it held its shape as it bounced against my legs. I took the same walk with the backpack carriers, noting how well the backpack fit against my back and how comfortable its straps were. 

Luggage test: I placed each of the top carriers with luggage straps on top of a standard rolling suitcase and walked a single city block, pulling them off of a curb and going up a steeply ramped driveway entrance along the way. I watched closely to see how well the carrier remained balanced with a 10-pound weight inside.

Scrape test: To test the durability of the mesh, I scraped a section of each bag 50 times with a fork, noting any damage or discoloration.

Zip test: I tested the durability of each carrier’s zipper by completely zipping and unzipping one of its loading entrances 50 times, noting any changes in the zipper’s ability to smoothly run its course.

Cat-approval test: Over a period of several weeks, I left the top carriers sitting open around the house to assess their comfort. I frequently found my cats nestled inside fast asleep. Any carrier they didn’t choose to enter on their own, I baited with treats to encourage their entry and relaxation to see how well they fit inside. 

Vet test: A few of the carriers — Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier, Bergan Comfort Carrier, Good2Go Expandable Carrier, and Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier — were put to the test on trips to the vet. Because I was unable to test all of the top carriers in this way, I considered what I learned from these trips to be supplemental information. This included how well they fit at the foot of my car’s back seat on the passenger side, how well my cat fit inside the carrier, and in one case, how it held up to cleaning when one of my cats vomited and defecated on the trip.

What to consider when shopping for a pet carrier

shopping for a good cat carrier

A high-quality cat carrier needs to be comfortable, convenient, and safe for use by both human and cat. After speaking with Wolko and Gadd, I determined the following features to be the most important:

Shape and design: A carrier should be large enough for a cat to comfortably lie down and turn around but not so large that they don’t feel secure, according to Gadd. Because they are made with airline cabin dimensions in mind, most cat carriers nail this, but some vary in how cramped or spacious they are. Some cat carriers have built-in expandable sections that can double or even triple the size of a carrier. These are ideal for giving your pet the opportunity to safely stretch out on long travel days.

Loading doors: Gadd recommends carriers that have two doors. Because cats like options, they may prefer to enter and exit out of different openings. And if they refuse to come out, it may be easier to gently lift them from a door in the top of the carrier than to drag them out the door in the front, Gadd said.

Floor mat: Most carriers come with some type of soft floor mat. Ideally, a floor mat will be machine washable and can be attached to the interior of the bag to prevent it from sliding around.

Pockets: Pockets are essential for keeping your cat’s gear as well as yours close at hand. A good cat carrier should have more than one pocket and at least one should be secured by a zipper, button, or hook-and-loop closure. 

Straps and handles: A quality carrier should have both a removable shoulder strap, preferably padded for comfort, and a double handle for lifting. A button or hook-and-loop strap that wraps around and secures the handles is helpful for keeping them balanced and out of the way.

Ventilation: Mesh panels fitted into the sides or top of a carrier provide much-needed ventilation. Too many of them, though, can make a frightened cat feel overly exposed. Wolko said a good general rule of thumb is for mesh to cover approximately half of the carrier. Some carriers feature a privacy flap that can be lifted or lowered depending on temperature and a cat’s specific needs.

Interior safety tether: A cat that does not want to be in a carrier may shoot out of its open door when it’s time for a break. An interior safety tether can prevent them from door dashing. “We recommend only connecting to the collar or harness when you stop to feed or water your pet,” Wolko said. “The tether inside the carrier should not be used during active travel, as the pet can become tangled.” Some carriers that do not have a full safety tether have an interior D-ring to which a leash can be secured.

Luggage strap: For easy airport maneuvering, look for a carrier with a luggage strap that can be slipped over a telescoping suitcase handle. “That’s a huge convenience,” said Wolko, and something she likes to see. Some carriers also have exterior straps for securing to a car seat belt. However, Wolko explained that unless the carrier has been crash-tested and third-party safety certified by an organization like the Center for Pet Safety, a cat carrier should always be placed on the floor of a vehicle beneath the back seat instead of on the seat, itself. “It minimizes the impact and provides a lot of protection,” she said. “If you do get into a sudden stop, they’re not going to fly all over the place.”

Airline-friendly dimensions: Most carriers these days are made with airline cabin regulations in mind. However, airlines differ in the carrier sizes they’ll accept on a flight. For example, on Southwest Airlines a carrier can only be 18.5 inches by 8.5 inches by 13.5 inches whereas on United Airlines a carrier must be no larger than 18 inches by 11 inches by 11 inches. If you plan to fly with your pet, investigate your preferred airline’s requirements before purchasing a carrier.

Crash-tested safety certification: A crash-tested safety certification is important if you plan to travel by car with your cat’s carrier placed on the seat. Just because a carrier has a seat belt strap doesn’t mean it’s safe to transport them that way. While independent companies may crash-test their products, the Center for Pet Safety is the leader in crash-testing and safety-certifying pet carriers. In collaboration with Subaru of America, Inc., the Center for Pet Safety conducts specially designed crash tests with dummy dogs to study a carrier’s structural integrity and the reliability of its doors and latches. 

Storage: Unless you’re frequently traveling with your cat, look for a carrier that can be quickly and easily deconstructed to fold flat for storage.

ID tag: Because you never know when you might accidentally end up separated from your best friend. It’s also crucial for any traveling pet to wear a collar with ID tags in case they become separated from their carrier.

How to encourage a cat to like their carrier

how to introduce a cat to a pet carrier

To get a cat to love their carrier, it’s important that pulling it out of a closet doesn’t predict something your cat would prefer to avoid, like a visit to the vet. By leaving the carrier accessible at all times, it can be paired with the positive experiences that turn a carrier into a safe, snuggly, magical place to be.

Begin by giving the open carrier a permanent spot in an area of the home where your cat likes to relax. “Make it comfortable,” Gadd said. “Leave the door open or even take the top off, then play games around the carrier so it isn’t scary to them.” Wolko also suggests throwing treats and toys into the carrier to make the space rewarding.

When your cat is no longer intimidated by the carrier, begin closing the door while they are inside for short periods of time, just a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on the cat. Over time, gradually increase the period for which they are enclosed. Pairing these sessions with a Lickimat spread with a cat-friendly treat paste like Churu can help them to feel better about confinement. Spritzing the carrier with a pheromone spray 15 to 30 minutes before the cat enters can also help promote calm, according to Gadd.

When it’s time to actually travel, Gadd recommends placing a piece of clothing with your scent on it inside the carrier and covering the exterior with a towel or blanket. Instead of dangling the carrier by its handles, lift it from the bottom and hold it against your body for a more secure ride. 

If your cat experiences anxiety in the carrier, talk to your vet about an anxiety-decreasing medication for travel. Signs of anxiety include crying, panting, vomiting, defecating, or pushing their face against the carrier’s interior. Some cats who experience these symptoms may be suffering from car sickness in addition to, or instead of, anxiety. The vet can help there, too, by prescribing an anti-nausea medication.

Best safety practices for car travel

car cat carrier

Although several of the cat carriers tested for this guide were outfitted with straps for attaching to a car seat belt, Wolko recommends against using them unless the carrier has been crash-tested and safety certified. “It’s counterintuitive, but you do not want to strap them in with a seat belt,” she explained. This is especially important if you are using a hard-sided carrier. When strapped in, a collision or sudden stop can cause a plastic kennel to flex, fracture, or even break apart.

If your carrier has not been crash-tested or safety certified, the safest way to travel with a cat in the car is to place them on the floor behind the driver or passenger seat, said Wolko. In that location they are less likely to shift around or take a tumble if you have to stop short or get into a collision.

For car travel, Wolko also recommends selecting a carrier that is not a dark color and has plenty of ventilation. “We don’t recommend black carriers in general because when you’re in the sunshine, it absorbs heat,” she explained. All but our budget pick, the Frisco Travel Carrier, are available in colors other than black.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best cat litters in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Cat litter is available in many forms, including clay, silica gel, grain, wood, paper, and grass.
  • We tested 28 varieties of cat litter to evaluate their absorption, odor control, clumping, and more.
  • The best cat litter is Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter, which performed well in our tests.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Cleaning the litter box is the most dreaded job of any cat guardian, and without a high-quality cat litter, it’s made all the worse. What makes a person happy, however, can be the exact opposite of what a cat prefers. If the texture is wrong or the litter is perfumed, a cat may even choose to do their business outside of the box.

To help us identify the best litters to please both cat and guardian, we consulted four veterinarians to learn more about the litter preferences of cats and their toileting needs. Guided by their advice, we selected and tested 28 different litters, including clay, paper, silica gel, wood, grass, and corn substrates. Editorial review samples were provided by their manufacturers, with the exception of Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter.

We tested each litter for one to four weeks to evaluate its weight, shape, softness, dust, scent, clumping ability, ease of cleaning, odor control, tracking, and cost. You can read more about our testing process in the next slide. Scroll to the end of this guide to learn more about what to consider when shopping for cat litter, types of litter, and find answers to common questions about cat toileting.

Here is the best cat litter you can buy:

Our methodology

four cat litters in bowls including smart cat clumping litter, tidy cats naturally strong, tidy cats free and clean, and dr. elsey's ultra
Four of the clumping clay litters we tested undergoing our dust test

Testing cat litters for this guide was done in two phases: a pre-cat phase and a cat phase. In the first phase, I compared litters belonging to the same category in heats of four at a time, assessing them for a variety of factors, including clumping ability, dustiness, scent, and texture.

The top two litters in each heat went on to the next phase. The litter was poured into a litter pan for the cats to use for anywhere from one to four weeks to test for odor control and tracking. Litters that were tested for two weeks or less were those that my cats refused to use, or those we tested prior to receiving the bulk of the litters for this guide. For each litter, I assessed the following qualities:

Litter weight, shape, and softness: Because cats typically prefer a soft, grainy substrate that is easy to dig, I evaluated the shape, texture, softness, and density of each litter. I measured 1/4 cup of each on a kitchen scale to compare their weights side by side.

Dust and scent: Cats are sensitive to both dust and scent, so I measured the relative intensity of each. I noted the amount of dust emitted when pouring and scooping the litter, as well as how much peppered the sides of the bowl or litter box. With scent, I went by the advice of Dr. Catherine Tannert, co-medical director of VCA Old Marple Animal Hospital, in Springfield, Pennsylvania, who said, “Cats prefer unscented litter to the cloying smell of kitty litters that are developed for the owner’s perception of cleanliness.” I did a sniff test of each litter in both phases of testing, including the thankless job of lifting clumps of litter to my nose to gauge how much of an ammonia scent they emitted.

Clumping ability and ease of cleaning: In phase one testing, I compared a small amount of each litter in plastic bowls with slick interiors similar to a litter pan. I added 1/4 cup of water to each bowl in two separate trials to gauge how quickly and easily it was absorbed, as well as how solidly it clumped and stuck together upon scooping. At the end of both trials, I emptied each bowl to look for moisture that had escaped the clumps and adhered to the bottom of the bowl.

Odor control and tracking: The top two litters from each category went on to phase two testing in a litter box for one to four weeks. I cleaned the litter pan twice daily and swept up any tracked litter once a day, noting how easy clumps were to remove and how much ended up on the floor. A daily sniff test informed me of the extent to which odors were under control. Because my cats refused to use the paper litters, I was unable to complete a phase two test on them.

Cost: I calculated the cost per pound of each litter and compared them. With lightweight clay litters, I first calculated their weight relative to a standard clay litter and adjusted the price accordingly.

The best cat litter overall

a litter box filled tidy cats naturally strong litter and the bag of litter beside
Tidy Cats Naturally Strong uses activated charcoal to control odors

Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter is a super absorbent clay-based clumping litter that does a superior job containing odors, produces very little dust, and is easy to clean.

Pros: Activated charcoal controls odors; forms tight, easy-to-clean clumps; does not contain fragrances or dyes; lightweight; produces minimal dust; has texture many cats prefer; reasonably priced

Cons: A fair amount of litter tracks outside the box

Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter is a dye and fragrance-free clay-based clumping litter with the grainy, sandy texture that most cats prefer, or at least tolerate well. It produces very little of the little dust that can irritate cats with sensitive respiratory systems and contains bits of activated charcoal that help control odors.

In testing, Naturally Strong absorbed liquid quickly, forming a tight clump that was easy to remove in a single piece. I also found that this litter rarely left moistened clay stuck to the interior of the litter box. Best of all, it was effective at preventing foul odors throughout our three-week testing period.

Naturally Strong is also reasonably priced, typically averaging about 16 cents more per pound than you’d pay for a 20-pound box our budget pick, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter. Unfortunately, like most clay substrates, this litter does track a fair amount around the box — though far less than some of the lighter weight versions we tested like Tidy Cats Free and Clean Lightweight Litter.

Chewy offers the best deal on Tidy Cats Naturally Strong litter: three 13.3-pound bags for $25.99. Petco and Target also offer a 20-pound jug of Tidy Cats for $14.

The best budget cat litter

a box filled with Dr. Elsey's Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter and a bag beside it
Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter provides excellent clumping at a low price

Quick-clumping Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter is a fragrance-free clay litter with good odor control and very little dust and tracking.

Pros: Tight-clumping medium-grain clay litter, unscented, very little dust, low tracking, does a fine job of controlling odors, affordable

Cons: Odors can accumulate over time

Several years ago, I switched my cat to the unscented Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter at the recommendation of a veterinary behaviorist, and I’ve been using it religiously ever since. But with the opportunity to test nine clumping clay litters for this guide, I was anxious to see how it would hold up compared to other brands. Quite well, it turns out.

For a highly affordable litter that is odor-containing and easy to clean, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra is as good as it gets. The unscented medium-grain clay litter also satisfies a cat’s need to scratch, dig, and bury their waste. Because it produces very little dust, it’s also a good choice for cats with respiratory issues.

In testing, it absorbed liquid almost instantly and clumped tightly. With a bit of heft to its grains, less litter was carried out of the box on my cats’ feet than with our top pick, Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter.

Although Dr. Elsey’s Ultra controls odors, it relies on 100% sodium bentonite clay to minimize odors instead of activated charcoal. I have found that if I’m lax on emptying and completely cleaning the box every couple of months, odors can begin to accumulate.

At around $0.50 per pound and sold in bags up to 40 pounds, Dr. Elsey’s is one of the top two most cost-effective brands in this guide, along with Frisco Scoopable Unscented Litter.

The best non-clumping litter

a litter box filled with pretty litter and the bad beside it
Pretty Litter monitors a cat’s urinary health while helping you keep your litter box tidy

Pretty Litter‘s color-changing silica gel formula is an early warning system for detecting feline urinary health problems.

Pros: Changes colors to monitor a cat’s urinary health, made of safe silica gel, absorbs and controls odors, automatic delivery, 30-day money-back guarantee, reasonably priced, lightweight formula

Cons: Ammonia scent toward end of litter’s lifespan (around 12 days for two cats), false health readings toward end of litter’s lifespan (around 14 days for two cats)

Feline urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) such as bladder inflammation, urinary stones, or crystals are common in cats, according to Tannert. Just as common is a cat who tries to hide their pain and discomfort, making it all the more challenging to figure out if there’s a problem.

Pretty Litter takes the guesswork out of monitoring a cat’s urinary health with its color-changing silica gel litter. When a cat’s urine is too acidic, too alkaline, or contains blood, the litter changes color from a healthy yellow-green to an ominous dark yellow, blue, or red.

Both of my cats used Pretty Litter willingly, and despite its light weight, it did not stick to their feet as much as the clay litters. The litter is dust and fragrance-free, but it does have a bit of a chemical scent.

Pretty Litter does not clump. Instead, urine is absorbed into lightweight silica gel flakes made from safe naturally occurring minerals like those frequently used in medications, food, and cosmetics. The flakes have a light, sandy texture that satisfies a cat’s instinct to dig and bury their waste. Solids need to be scooped out daily.

Pretty Litter did a good job of controlling odors. I did find that the closer we got to the end of the litter’s lifespan (about two weeks for two cats), the more I noticed a slight ammonia scent.

Around that same time, the litter can also give false color readings. We had one stressful morning where one of my cat’s urine turned blue. It turned out the only thing that was wrong was that I hadn’t changed the litter fast enough.

For a single cat, a bag lasts a month before requiring changing. Pretty Litter is a subscription service priced at $22 per month for one cat. If either you or your cat isn’t a fan, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

The best paper cat litter

a litter box filled with Ökocat Non-Clumping Paper Pellet Litter and the box of litter beside it
Ökocat’s Non-Clumping Paper Pellet Litter is a virtually dust-free litter with great absorbency

Ökocat’s Non-Clumping Paper Pellet Litter is the most absorbent of all paper litters we tested and produces virtually no dust.

Pros: Made of sustainably sourced paper pellets, free of dyes and synthetic chemicals, very little dust, biodegradable, pellets are soft and less than 1 inch long, unscented

Cons: Expensive, some cats do not like using a pellet-style litter

Paper litters, most of which come in the form of small, firm pellets, can be a good substrate solution for cats that suffer from respiratory problems. Of the five paper varieties we reviewed, Ökocat’s Paper Pellet Litter performed best in my first round of testing. It absorbed liquid quickly and the paper pellets didn’t immediately fall apart.

Ökocat’s pellets were also the softest and smallest (approximately .5 to 1 inch in length) of the paper litters we tested, making them more conducive to natural scratching, digging, and burying behaviors than brands with heavier, larger pellets.

This litter does not clump. Instead, the paper pellets absorb as much liquid as they can before falling apart and turning into a sort of mulch. Scooping is only necessary for solids.

Unfortunately, because neither of my cats were willing to use the paper substrates, I can’t speak to how well Ökocat controls odors or holds up over time. However, it is clear from the weight and shape of the litter that the pellets are very low tracking compared to smaller-grained clay and natural varieties. We will be testing this litter out with some willing participants for a later update to this guide.

While Ökocat Paper Pellet Litter isn’t dust-free, it is close. The paper pellets are also biodegradable and do not have any scent. But this litter is also 35% to 60% more expensive than the other paper brands we tested. Unlike most paper litters, Ökocat uses sustainably sourced dye and white paper free of synthetic chemicals instead of recycled paper — a less environmentally friendly policy that nonetheless is likely better for sensitive cats.

The best multi-cat litter

a litter box filled with worlds best multiple cat litter and the bag beside it
The eco-friendly World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter absorbs odors and is easy to clean

For a natural litter that is eco-friendly, easy to clean, and odor-absorbing, World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter is an excellent option.

Pros: Made from compressed corn kernels, similar texture to clay litters, controls odors well when cleaned frequently, minimal dust, reasonably priced

Cons: Odors can build up without frequent cleaning and become more noticeable around three weeks of use by two cats

In our tests, World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter came out on top of the 12 natural litters we considered, thanks to its good clumping ability and odor control. Made from compressed corn kernels, this litter’s lightweight granules are slightly harder than the clay litters in our best overall and best budget litter categories, but they are still satisfyingly scratchable.

World’s Best absorbed liquids instantaneously to form tight, solid clumps that maintained their shape and structure on removal. Its natural corn-cereal scent controlled odors well when cleaned twice a day. However, I found if I left clumps in for a 24-hour period, the scent of ammonia became increasingly strong.

Tracking of this litter is relatively minimal — about equivalent to our top clay litter selections. This litter is also free of synthetic additives, chemicals, and fragrances and produces very minimal dust.

According to World’s Best, a 14-pound bag of Multiple Cat Litter is intended to last about a month (33 days) for two cats. However, I found that in the last few days of our three-week testing period, the remaining litter in the pan was somewhat less effective at absorbing odors than it had been in the beginning. Based on this observation, I would expect that by the end of four weeks, ammonia odors are likely to be even more noticeable. 

What else we considered

a litter box filled with Cat's Pride Unscented Natural Care Multi-Cat Clumping Litter and the jug beside it
Cat’s Pride Unscented Natural Care Multi-Cat Clumping was a good litter, but it tracked easily outside the box

Clumping clay litters we liked

  • Cat’s Pride Unscented Natural Care Multi-Cat Clumping Litter: This affordable clay litter absorbed liquids instantaneously and formed clumps that were only a little more likely to break apart during cleaning than our top picks. Cat’s Pride is lighter weight than most clay litters, but that also makes it more likely to be tracked than heavier formulas. For every 15-pound jug purchased, the company donates a pound of litter to an animal shelter.
  • Tidy Cats Free and Clean Lightweight Litter: This Tidy Cats Litter was on par with the brand’s Naturally Strong variety, which we selected as the best litter overall for this guide. The Free and Clean litter absorbed liquids on contact, clumped tightly, controlled odors with activated charcoal, and produced very little dust. It was also significantly lighter, making it easier to carry and pour. That lighter weight, however, resulted in more tracking than the Naturally Strong litter, with granules of litter sometimes riding on my cats’ feet all the way to the living room couch.
  • Frisco Scoopable Unscented Litter: Frisco’s Multi-Cat Litter is a steal. Though it is less instantaneously absorbent, forming thinner and more fragile clumps that spread more widely across the pan, Frisco’s litter controls odors as well as our top budget pick, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter.  Unscented and among the least dusty formulas we tried, this is another great option for anyone looking to save a few bucks.

Clay clumping litters we don’t recommend

  • Arm & Hammer Unscented Multi-Cat Litter: Although it is advertised as unscented, this litter has a light laundry detergent odor. And while it did form solid clumps, it was the dustiest of all of the litters we tested.
  • Pioneer Pet Smart Cat Lightweight Clumping Litter: This lightweight, unscented litter absorbs liquid and clumps well, but the moisture that escaped to mix with clay at the bottom of the pan was surprisingly challenging to remove.
  • Cat’s Pride Scented Bacterial Odor Control Multi-Cat Litter: Cat’s Pride Bacterial Odor Control Litter produced very little dust and clumped reasonably well, but it failed to capture all of the testing liquid, leaving wet clay stuck to the bottom of the pan. This litter has a light soapy scent.
  • Arm & Hammer Cloud Control Litter: Arm & Hammer’s Cloud Control was the least absorbent litter out of the nine clay varieties we tested, although that which it did absorb clumped solidly. A heavy litter perfumed with a light laundry scent, Cloud Control is, at the very least, dust-free.

Non-clumping litter

  • Petsafe Scoop Free Scented Crystal Litter: Lightly scented and with very little dust, this crystal litter absorbs moisture and captures odors. Like Pretty Litter, Petsafe’s non-clumping crystal litter is made from silica gel and a single bag lasts up to 30 days for one cat. Unlike Pretty Litter, Petsafe’s litter does not warn guardians when their pet might be experiencing urinary trouble.

Paper cat litter

Natural Cat Litter

  • Pioneer Pet Smart Cat Clumping Grass Litter: I really liked this grass litter because it acted almost exactly like a good clay clumping litter. The naturally wheat-cereal-scented grass particles absorbed moisture instantly and formed strong, solid clumps. Soft to the touch, essentially dust-free, and odor-trapping, the only thing keeping this litter from the top spot was its cost — almost double the equally effective World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter.
  • World’s Best Original Unscented Cat Litter: Made from corn and with very little dust, World’s Best Original Cat Litter absorbed liquid moderately well and formed relatively solid clumps that were easier to remove than those belonging to Frisco Corn and Wheat.
  • World’s Best Zero Mess Cat Litter: My cats and I both liked the Zero Mess formula from World’s Best, which blends the company’s typical corn kernels with additional plant fibers to absorb liquid and form tight clumps. On sniff tests, this litter also did a great job of minimizing odors. Ultimately, however, I found the Zero Mess formula to work no better than World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter, our pick for best natural litter, despite costing around 25% more.
  • Frisco Corn and Wheat Cat Litter: I was disappointed by this litter’s absorbency. Not only did our tester liquid spread out within the litter, it seeped all the way to the bottom of the pan and left it wet. The clumps that did form were also quick to fall apart, making this litter more challenging to clean.
  • Frisco Clumping Grass Litter: Relative to Smart Cat’s All Natural Clumping Grass Litter, Frisco’s formula did a worse job at absorbing moisture into tight clumps, making them more of a challenge to remove.
  • Ökocat Super Soft Wood Litter: Of the three wood litters we tested, I liked Ökocat’s Super Soft formula best. Like the other wood litters, this version did an excellent job of absorbing liquids and preventing odors. It also had a superior clumping ability as opposed to Feline Pine and Okocat’s Original Litter — though clumping was less solid and more likely to fall apart in cleaning than some of the other natural varieties we tested. As the name suggests, this litter has softer, smaller granules than its competitors, which my cats seemed to prefer. They toileted in it a little more frequently than the others, though still not as often as the grass, walnut, or grain varieties.
  • Ökocat Original Wood Clumping Litter: Ökocat’s original clumping formula is made of the same sustainably sourced wood as the Super Soft Clumping style and it absorbs moisture just as quickly. However, I found this litter’s clumping ability to be somewhat disappointing. It stuck together in some places, while in others, the wood granules quickly degraded. When dry, those same granules are quite sharp and stiff, a texture that sensitive cats may prefer to avoid.
  • Feline Pine Clumping Wood Litter: Made of reclaimed lumber shavings, this was the softest of the wood litters, but it was also the dustiest. In testing, I was unimpressed with Feline Pine’s clumping ability. It absorbed moisture slowly and turned mealy like oatmeal instead of forming a solid clump.
  • Littermaid Natural Premium Walnut Clumping Litter: My cats and I liked this walnut litter, which clumped tightly and controlled odors well. Because this slightly softer substrate is heavier than its competitors, it also tracked less and produced a little less dust. One thing to note about Littermaid is that it sometimes absorbs liquids slowly. The company recommends waiting a full 15 minutes after urination to scoop, but we found that often absorption took less than a minute.
  • Naturally Fresh Quick-Clumping Walnut Litter: This clumping formula was my least favorite of the walnut litters we tested. It absorbed liquid well, but its clumping ability was just okay. In cleaning, many of the clumps fell apart and were more challenging to remove. It was also the dustiest of the three nut-shell varieties we tested.
  • Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Ultra Odor Control Walnut Litter: Like Naturally Fresh’s Quick-Clumping Litter, Multi-Cat is a harder, rockier substrate than Littermaid’s walnut litter and its clumping ability was fair but not great, with clumps often breaking apart in cleaning. This formula also left the most clumped litter stuck to the interior of the litter pan.

What we’re looking forward to

We’ve lined up the following litters to test for an update to this guide:

 

 

What to consider when shopping for cat litter

Clumping vs. non-clumping litters: Cat litter is sold in both clumping and non-clumping formulas. Clumping formulas, including those made from clay, corn, wood, and grass, form solid masses when they encounter urine, and those must be removed from the litter daily.

Non-clumping litters absorb urine, too, but instead of forming clumps, the granules of silica, wood, or paper become saturated and gradually break down over time. On each cleaning, the substrate must be stirred to distribute the ammonia in the box. There is no difference between how non-clumping and clumping litters interact with solids — feces must still be scooped daily.

Both clumping and non-clumping litters manage bad smells. In the case of clumping formulas, urine is removed through daily scooping. In non-clumping formulas, urine accumulates in the box over time. Clumping litters can be topped off with additional litter as needed, but boxes filled with a non-clumping litter must be completely emptied and refilled after a period of two to seven weeks, depending on the brand and type of litter.

Litter texture: Litter preferences vary from cat to cat, according to Dr. Karen Sueda, veterinary behaviorist at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, but every feline wants a toileting substrate they can easily dig and cover their waste in. Cats with sensitive feet may avoid using litters with sharper granules, such as crystal or pellet formulas.

Dust-free litter: Dusty natural and clay litters can be problematic for both cat and human. Dust may cause sensitive cats, particularly those with allergies or respiratory issues like asthma, to cough, sneeze, or wheeze during or after using their litter. It can produce the same effect in humans when filling or scooping the box. While no litter is completely dust-free, those that produce very little dust are less likely to have unintended respiratory effects.

Scent-free litter: Because cats have an extremely strong sense of smell, the scent of a litter is a significant factor in whether they will use or avoid a litter box, according to Dr. Christine Calder, veterinary behaviorist at Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, Maine. Even a natural scent may deter a cat. Calder, Sueda, and Tannert all recommended sticking to an unscented variety.

Why we didn’t consider the flushability of natural cat litters: One of the purported benefits of some natural cat litter varieties is that they can be flushed in the toilet. But just because you can flush natural cat litter doesn’t mean you should, and not just because low-flush toilets and pipes made for human waste often can’t handle clumps without clogging.

Cat waste can contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes flu-like symptoms at best and, at worst, fetal development disorders, brain damage, and premature birth in babies. Water waste treatment plants are unable to filter out this harmful parasite and it can end up in treated water that’s released back into the environment, harming fish, killing native plants, and making recreation areas unsafe. Scientific studies have found that T. gondii especially poses a threat to marine mammals like sea otters.

Types of cat litter

paper cat litter

Clay litter

Nearly every one of the more than a dozen veterinarians, veterinary behaviorists, and cat specialists I’ve spoken to about cat toileting behavior over the last six months has agreed that most cats prefer, or are at least more tolerant of, nonperfumed clay litters. “Generally speaking, I recommend a fine-grained, clay-based clumping litter that is unscented,” said Sueda.

Most clay cat litters are made from absorbent sodium bentonite clay, a naturally occurring material acquired through strip-mining and broken down into pebble-sized granules. Some clay litters are mixed with activated charcoal for additional odor absorption. They come in both unscented and scented varieties. Traditional clay litters are also quite dusty when poured, scratched at by a cat, or cleaned, though many newer formulas produce very little dust.

Pros: Preferred or tolerated by most cats because they make practicing natural toileting behaviors like digging and covering waste easy; absorb liquids instantly and form tight clumps for easy cleaning; control odors, especially those formulas that contain activated charcoal; cost efficient; some formulas are virtually dust free

Cons: Weigh more than some other varieties of cat litter; are produced in an environmentally unfriendly way; scented formulas can be too strong for a cat’s sensitive nose; can be easily tracked out of the litter boxes, especially lighter weight formulas; some formulas are very dusty

Paper litter

For cats that suffer from respiratory problems like asthma or have recently undergone surgery, Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet, in New York City, typically recommends a paper litter, which tends to be less dusty than clay litters and less likely to stick to incision sites. Most paper litters come in pellet form and are made from either recycled materials or sustainably sourced wood. They are also almost always non-clumping with pellets that absorb liquid and slowly break apart over time. Only solids need to be scooped out of a litter box filled with paper litter.

Pros: Good for cats with respiratory problems, only solids need to be scooped from the litter box, pellet formulas are low-tracking, made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials

Cons: Some cats dislike the texture and weight of paper pellets, pellets fall apart over time, odors may increase over time as pellets become saturated with urine

Silica gel litter

Silica gel or crystal litters are made from sodium silicate sand, a naturally occurring material acquired through strip mining. They do not contain crystalline silicate or other carcinogenic materials that may be harmful to cats, but the inhalation of microscopic silica dust over time could lead to respiratory issues.

Silica gel litters are ultra-absorbent odor-eaters, but as the non-clumping granules saturate with urine over time, they may become less effective at preventing ammonia odors. Some silica litters, particularly crystal versions, may be too sharp for sensitive paws.

Pros: Made from safe, natural silica gel; ultra-absorbent and good at preventing odors; non-clumping formula does not require removal of liquids

Cons: Inhalation of silica dust over time may lead to respiratory issues, crystal formulas may be too sharp for sensitive paws, smells can worsen over time as silica gel becomes saturated with liquids, not environmentally friendly

Natural litter

Grain, grass, wood, and walnut shells are all used as alternative materials in natural cat litters. According to Satchu, not only are these biodegradable options more environmentally friendly, some have additional benefits, too. Due to their absorption ability, wood litters are typically low tracking and do a good job minimizing odors while grain litters are a safe bet for cats who like to snack on litter due to behavioral issues.

Ultimately, the superiority of one style of natural litter over another comes down to a cat’s individual preference. “I try to encourage owners to choose one litter and stick with it through kitty’s life because they are ultimately creatures of habit,” said Satchu. “Any litter that will keep kitty going where they’re supposed to be going is a good litter in my book.”

Pros: Many formulas are low dust, natural scent of some varieties controls odors without additives, biodegradable, made from sustainable materials  

Cons: Some cats may dislike the scent and/or the texture of natural litters, lightweight formulas are more easily tracked than heavier clay litters, more expensive on average than clay litters

FAQs about cat toileting

cat using litter box

How many times a day does a cat normally use the litter box?

On average, cats urinate two to four times a day, but according to Sueda, this can vary from cat to cat. Cleaning litter boxes at least once daily can help guardians determine if there’s a change in frequency, which may indicate a health problem.

Typically, cats defecate one to two times a day, but this, too, can vary from cat to cat. Like with urination, sudden changes in frequency may indicate a health problem.


What size and how many litter boxes do I need?

A litter box should be at least 1.5 times the length of a cat, large enough for them to comfortably scratch and bury their waste. The standard rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat plus one extra, and ideally one on each floor of a home. A home with multiple cats, however, may be able to get away with fewer extra-large litter boxes as long as they are cleaned at least twice a day, according to Sueda. See our guide to the best litter boxes for more on this.


What does it mean if a cat stops urinating?

If a cat stops urinating altogether, it is likely they are experiencing a feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) such as bladder inflammation or urinary stones or crystals. Male cats are particularly susceptible to the latter. “Male cats have a very narrow urethra, so crystals and mucus can form a plug or a single tiny stone may become lodged anywhere along this narrow tube,” said Tannert.

If a cat is unable to urinate, deadly toxins begin building up. Death can occur if the blockage isn’t removed by a veterinarian within 24 to 48 hours. If a veterinarian rules out medical problems like FLUTD, anxiety may be the culprit, a problem a veterinary behaviorist is best equipped to handle.


What does it mean if a cat goes outside the litter box?

According to Calder, cats that eliminate outside the litter box are engaging in one of two behaviors: toileting or marking. In toileting (also called inappropriate elimination), a cat has found a place to do their business outside of the litter box. Sometimes, this behavior occurs when a cat does not like the location or size of their litter pan, the type of litter in the pan, or the cleanliness of the litter.

Other times, going outside the box is related to anxiety (for example, a cat who worries about being ambushed by another pet while using the litter box may stop using it altogether) or to a medical problem such as FLUTD. A cat may also choose to go outside of the litter box if they find a spot that satisfies their need to scratch and bury their waste, such as a pile of dirty laundry or a potted plant.

Whereas toileting typically occurs on horizontal surfaces, marking occurs on vertical surfaces. Instead of squatting, when a cat marks they back up with a raised tail to spray their pheromones. “Marking cats are trying to communicate something, and most have some kind of conflict or anxiety,” said Calder. Cats that mark are typically intact males, but fixed males and females can spray, too.

Our sources

Dr. Christine Calder, veterinary behaviorist at Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, Maine

Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer, Bond Vet, New York, New York

Dr. Karen Sueda, veterinary behaviorist at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, Los Angeles, California

Dr. Catherine Tannert, veterinarian at VCA Old Marple in Springfield, Pennsylvania

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best products to protect your furniture from cat scratching

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Cats scratch furniture for a variety of reasons, including a lack of alternatives.
  • We tested 17 products to prevent destructive scratching, including guards, tape and nail caps.
  • The best overall is the Sofa Scratcher Squared, which is a furniture guard and scratcher in one.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Cats scratch. They scratch to communicate and claim their possessions. They scratch to stretch and condition their claws. They scratch because it’s a natural, instinctual behavior – not because they have secret plans to destroy your furniture.

There are a variety of reasons why a cat might be attracted to scratching furniture. Some don’t have healthy alternative scratching posts or pads, or don’t have them in the right locations. Others enjoy the furniture’s height or the feeling of scratching a couch or carpet. Whatever the reason, preventing your cat from practicing the undesirable behavior while simultaneously offering them more attractive scratching alternatives is the intervention your damaged furniture needs.

To come up with the best products to protect furniture from cat scratching, we spoke to veterinarians and cat behaviorists and tested 17 different products for a month or more. Read more about our testing process at the end of this guide.

Here are the best products to protect your furniture from cat scratching in 2021

The best product to protect furniture overall

Sofa Scratcher Squared

Part furniture guard, part scratching post, the Sofa Scratcher does double duty to protect furniture from destruction.

Pros: Combination scratcher/furniture guard, fits snugly against a couch or chair corner or leg; held in place by the weight of furniture instead of tape or pins, made of toxin-free sisal, available in seven colors

Cons: More expensive than furniture guards and most standalone scratching posts, light assembly required

The genius of the Sofa Scratcher Squared and its half-moon shaped cousin, the Sofa Scratcher, is that its sisal-covered edges fit snugly against a couch or chair, providing a cat with a “legal” place to scratch right at the center of the room where Calder said cats prefer to mark their territory. The Sofa Scratcher lines up flush against furniture and its wood core of prevents your cat from sinking their claws into the upholstery. 

My furniture-scratching cat seemed to enjoy flexing his claws on the Sofa Scratcher Squared — the style that best fit my square-cornered furniture — as much as he enjoyed using them on the couch, itself. He tore at the sisal guard every time he jumped onto the furniture for a nap. After nearly six months of use, it still looks virtually brand new.

Unlike shields and tape, both styles of Sofa Scratcher have a rectangular polycarbonate base that slips under the leg of a couch or chair, using its weight to keep it in place. Felt backing on the scratcher keeps it from rubbing. The 24-inch tall square scratcher and its two 5.5-inch wide panels perfectly covered both the chair and couch I tested it on.

Those with taller furniture may need to find another solution such as scratch tape or a furniture guard to protect the remaining inches of furniture that stick out beyond the scratcher. Because it didn’t match the shape of my furniture, the half-moon shaped scratcher left gaps large enough for a determined cat to still reach the upholstery. 

Both Sofa Scratcher styles require very little assembly (just three screws attach the base to the scratcher) and come in seven colors. They are made in the United States and their sisal fabric is toxin-free.

The best scratching post

On2Pets Skyline Scratcher Post

The On2Pets Skyline Sisal Cat Scratching Post has three poles and a wide, turf-covered base for happy vertical and horizontal scratching.

Pros: Three horizontal scratching posts of different heights, sisal-covered posts, broad base covered in scratchable artificial turf, holds up to 32 pounds, made in the United States

Cons: Requires light assembly

To stop a cat from scratching furniture, the goal is not to punish the behavior but to redirect it. Every cat has their own personal scratching preference. If your cat is scratching vertically on your furniture, it’s likely they will prefer a vertical scratcher, said Quagliozzi. If they scratch carpets or rugs, a horizontal scratch pad is more likely to satisfy their desire. Some, like my cat Osito, enjoy both. Whatever they like, Calder said it’s important to have multiple scratchers.

Of the seven vertical scratchers we tested for this guide, the On2Pets Skyline Sisal Cat Scratching Post was the clear favorite. Both cats returned to the scratcher multiple times a day during the first month of testing. Six months later, one still scratches there daily.

Resembling a city skyline, this scratcher has three sisal-covered vertical posts at heights of 30.5 inches, 22 inches, and 16.5 inches bunched together at the center of a wide rectangular base. The base is covered in scratchable artificial turf. After six months, the scratcher’s sisal is a little shaggy but still looks nice overall.

Made in the United States, the Skyline Scratcher is sturdy and can withstand up to 32 pounds of cat. It requires some light assembly upon arrival. This scratcher falls in the middle of the pack in terms of price. Considering how frequently my cats use it and their continued interest in it over time, it’s well worth the cost.

The best furniture guard

Clawguard Cat Furniture Shields

Clawguard Furniture Shields are an easy-to-install, semi-permanent fix to protect furniture and carpet from a cat’s claws.

Pros: Clear and flexible, made from durable marine-grade vinyl, withstands sharp claws, installs quickly with upholstery twist pins, waterproof, comes in four sizes, can be cut down to smaller sizes, made in the United States, long-lasting

Cons: Visible on furniture and carpeting, upholstery pins may leave marks on delicate materials

One way to prevent a cat from destroying furniture is to make the locations they enjoy scratching less desirable, according to Sanchez. Covering an area with slick vinyl can discourage destructive tendencies.

Of the two vinyl guards I tested, the Clawguard Furniture Shields offered the most protection from scratching. Not even an X-acto knife left marks and a push pin could only fully penetrate it with heavy pressure. The clear, flexible material attaches to upholstery or carpeting with twist pins inserted through holes that line the length of the border. When the shield is screwed tight, the clear plastic caps on the pins look like small buttons. It took me less than five minutes to completely install one shield.

These shields are waterproof and made in the United States. Each package of two shields comes in four sizes with six to eight pins (we tested the 7.5-by-18.5-inch extra-large version), and the shields can be cut down as needed with scissors. The best thing about Clawguard Furniture Shields, aside from the protection they offer, is that they will last for months, if not years, without needing to be replaced.

Despite being made of clear vinyl, Clawguard Furniture Shields are easily visible. And while my upholstery did not show signs of having been embedded with pins when I removed the guard after testing, it is possible that more delicate materials will.

All in all, Clawguard Furniture Shields are a quick fix for making an ugly problem disappear, as long as your cat has attractive, alternative locations for carrying out their natural scratching instincts. After figuring out the vinyl was unpleasant to scratch on his first attempt, my furniture-scratching cat did not touch it again, preferring instead to use the nearby posts and pads.

The best scratch tape

Pioneer Sticky Paws on a Roll

Soft Claws Cat Nail Caps allow your cat to scratch and use their paws naturally without causing damage to your furniture.

Pros: Flexible vinyl, fits medium-size cat claws well, variety of colors, last four to six weeks, comes with 40 caps plus nontoxic adhesive and six applicators, affordable, doesn’t interfere with natural scratching and claw extension

Cons: May be difficult to get on, may fall off before four to six weeks are up, many cats will not tolerate them

Nail caps prevent your cat’s claws from scratching your furniture. Calder likes Soft Claws (also called Soft Paws), and out of the two nail cap brands we considered, we found the medium-size Soft Claws nail caps to be better sized for the claws of a 9- to 13-pound cat.

Soft Claws are made of a durable, flexible vinyl that slips over the nail. The caps don’t interfere with a cat’s ability to extend or retract their claws and come in a wide variety of colors. Each package comes with 40 nail caps, six applicators, and two bottles of super strong nontoxic adhesive that keeps each cap secure for four to six weeks.To test their staying power, we glued nail caps to a plastic fork and ran it over a scratching post 100 times per week for five weeks. Soft Claws did not shift or loosen in any way.

According to Calder and Sanchez, nail caps can be a good solution for preventing damage without taking away a cat’s ability to practice the innate behavior of scratching. While it’s important to teach a cat to focus their scratching on posts and pads, in the short term “these nail caps may be just the relief your furniture needs,” Sanchez said.

The biggest drawback of nail caps is that many cats, including mine, will not tolerate them. Even those whose cats are okay with their claws being handled may find getting them on and situated correctly is a challenge. And while the caps stuck firmly to plastic for an extended period, it’s not uncommon for caps to fall off real claws before their four- to six-week lifespan is up.

The best floor scratcher

our pets double wide cat scratcher lying on the floor

The Our Pets Double-Wide Cat Scratcher satisfies even timid cats with its simple design.

Pros: Simple design, affordable, made from recycled materials, recyclable

Cons: Slides around some on hardwood floors

Some cats like to scratch vertically, some like to scratch horizontally, and some like a little of both. If you’ve found destruction on rugs, carpets and flat cushions, your cat falls into one of the latter two categories and providing them with a properly placed floor scratcher may be the solution to your problem.

We tested four floor scratchers and found that the simple design of the Our Pets Double-Wide Cat Scratcher was the most universally attractive to our feline testers. This affordable scratcher made from recycled corrugated cardboard is 18-inches long and 10-inches wide and raised 1.25 inches off the ground in a cardboard frame. It also comes with a small bag of catnip to help entice the feline set. It

The durable interior pad of the scratcher is reversible, so even if your cat claws through the top layer in short order, it can be rejuvenated just by turning it over. How long that will take is specific to individual cats, but after nearly two months of use by my two cats, ours still looks almost new. When it is completely worn out, the pad and frame can be recycled.

The scratcher slides around a bit on a smooth floor when a cat really gets clawing, but ours has never flipped over or shot across the room. Despite the sliding, this is hands down my timid cat’s favorite scratcher. She not only uses it multiple times daily but posts up regularly on the pad to snooze or watch squirrels outside the window.

While it doesn’t have the play elements of some of the other scratchers we tested, that also means the Double-Wide Scratcher has nothing to distract from its true purpose: serving as a place for cats to stretch and condition their claws.

The best cat claw covers

Soft Claws Cat Nail Caps img

Soft Claws Cat Nail Caps allow your cat to scratch and use their paws naturally without causing damage to your furniture.

Pros: Flexible vinyl, fits medium-size cat claws well, variety of colors, last four to six weeks, comes with 40 caps plus nontoxic adhesive and six applicators, affordable, doesn’t interfere with natural scratching and claw extension

Cons: May be difficult to get on, may fall off before four to six weeks are up, many cats will not tolerate them

Nail caps prevent your cat’s claws from scratching your furniture. Calder likes Soft Claws (also called Soft Paws), and out of the two nail cap brands we considered, we found the medium-size Soft Claws nail caps to be better sized for a 9- to 13-pound cat’s claws.

Soft Claws are made of a durable, flexible vinyl that slips over the nail. The caps don’t interfere with a cat’s ability to extend or retract their claws and come in a wide variety of colors. Super strong nontoxic adhesive keeps each cap secure for four to six weeks. Each package comes with 40 nail caps, two bottles of adhesive, and six applicators. 

According to Calder and Sanchez, nail caps can be a good solution for preventing damage without taking away a cat’s ability to practice the innate behavior of scratching. While it’s important to teach a cat to focus their scratching on posts and pads, in the short term “these nail caps may be just the relief your furniture needs,” Sanchez said.

The biggest drawback of nail caps is that many cats, including mine, will not tolerate them. Even those whose cats are okay with their claws being handled may find getting them on and situated correctly is a challenge. It’s also not uncommon for caps to fall off before their four- to six-week lifespan is up.

What else we considered

What else we considered - Furniture to protect against cat scratching

All of the products we tested for this guide to protect furniture from cat scratching are high-quality enough to get the job done. Here are the ones that didn’t quite make the cut but may work for your needs.

Scratching Posts

  • Max & Marlow Tall Scratch Post: At 26 inches, this was the shortest of the scratching posts we tested. But, with a soft bird toy attached to the top by an elastic cord and another on a spring on the base, it also has the most bells and whistles. My vertical scratching cat likes this post but uses the On2Pets Skyline Scratcher far more frequently, possibly because it has three posts instead of just one, plus a scratchable base.
  • Petfusion Ultimate Cat Window Scratching Post: I liked the design of this scratching post, which has a perch at the top that suctions to a window for stability. My cats, however, did not feel the same. They used neither the sisal scratcher nor the perch.
  • Smartcat Ultimate Scratching Post: The Smartcat Ultimate is tall enough to accommodate a full body stretch and has a sturdy wooden base. However, my cats showed no interest in using either this scratcher or the similarly shaped Frisco Sisal Scratching Post, which seems to be due to its imposing column shape.
  • Frisco 33.5-inch Sisal Scratching Post: This scratching post is similar to the Smartcat Ultimate, but with a cream-color faux-fur covered base and top, it’s less aesthetically pleasing. Like the SmartCat Ultimate Post, my cats did not use the Frisco scratcher, apparently because of its imposing column shape.

Furniture Guards

  • Furniture Defender Cat Scratching Guard: Like Clawguard’s Furniture Shields, these furniture guards are clear and flexible but with slightly thinner vinyl that may be easier to penetrate than the marine-grade vinyl used in the Clawguard Furniture Shields. The Furniture Defender comes in five sizes and carries a 100% money-back lifetime guarantee. 

Scratch Tape

  • Clawguard Protection Tape: Although this tape is high quality and looks nicer on furniture than Sticky Paws, it does not have a sticky exterior. As a result, Clawguard Protection Tape functions more like a temporary furniture shield with an adhesive backing for twice the price of Sticky Paws On a Roll.

Scratch Pads

  • Kong Naturals Cat Scratcher: Of the floor scratchers we tested, Kong’s incline version was the second simplest design. While my brave cat liked this ramped scratcher, my timid one was not impressed.
  • K&H Ramp and Track Scratcher: One of my cats enjoyed both clawing this expensive inclined scratcher and playing with the ping pong balls embedded in its base. He unfortunately lost interest in it within a month, even when I sprinkled it with catnip and moved it to different locations in the home.
  • Bergan Star Chaser Turbo Scratcher: Both of my cats enjoyed the light-up ball that rolls around the track that encircles this scratch pad. I even chose it as one of our favorites for Insider Reviews’ guide to interactive cat toys. But while both liked the ball, only one of my cats was interested in using the scratch pad at the Star Chaser’s center.

Nail Caps

  • Purrdy Paws ($13): These nail caps were similar in quality to Soft Claws and they stayed firmly glued to our scratcher fork throughout five weeks of testing. They are, however, about 50% longer than Soft Claws, which some cats may find awkward.

How we tested

On2Pets Skyline Scratching Post

All of the products were provided as editorial review samples by their manufacturers with the exception of the nail caps, Max and Marlow Tall Scratch Post, and Furniture Defender Cat Scratching Guard, which Insider Reviews purchased.

In an attempt to objectively compare the products in each category of this guide, I devised the following tests:

Scratch test

To determine how the furniture guards and scratch tape would hold up over time, I scratched them with three different tools: a fork, a push pin, and an X-acto knife. Each tool was dragged across the same section of the product 50 consecutive times and I noted if any penetrated the material and how long it took to do so.

Penetration test

I used the same three tools in the penetration test. I conducted three trials with each tool as I attempted to make a hole through the material. First, I applied light pressure, then medium pressure, and finally, my full strength.

Nail caps test

Because neither of my cats volunteered to try out the nail caps, I tested their longevity by sticking two caps from each brand onto the tines of a plastic fork. Each week over a period of five weeks, I scraped the fork on a scratcher 100 times and looked for any shifting or loosening of the caps.

Longevity test

Our best overall product and our top scratching post have remained in use since testing for the first version of this guide began in October 2020. I assessed each to identify any aesthetic or functional deterioration in their material over time.

Cat attract test

I doused each floor scratcher and scratching post with catnip and introduced them to my cats. I placed each in the locations they prefer to scratch and rotated them weekly, noting which scratchers they avoided, which they used occasionally, and which they returned to again and again.

Why didn’t we include cat scratching deterrent spray?

Best products to stop your cat from scratching your furniture in 2021

Although a previous version of this guide included scratching deterrent spray, our experts confirmed that they are not helpful for redirecting furniture scratching. “They don’t really work, and they’re an aversive,” said Calder.

In animal behavior, an “aversive” is any tool or technique that uses discomfort, pain, fear, or intimidation to force an animal to change their behavior. Deterrent spray is aversive because it assaults a cat’s extremely sensitive senses of smell and taste, making them sneeze and cough. 

Preventing a cat from practicing inappropriate scratching by using scratch tape or furniture guards combined with training that teaches them to love scratching appropriate toys like scratching posts or pads is a more effective long-term strategy for changing their behavior than aversive tools and techniques. “Our goal is not to scare the cat, it’s more about finding out why the behavior is occurring in the first place,” said Calder.

Why do cats scratch furniture?

Products to protect furniture against cat scratching 2

Scratching is a natural, instinctual behavior for cats, according to Sanchez. “Scratching serves many functions for a cat, including a communication tool that leaves both scent and visual marks at a site, a way to clean and condition the claw beds, and a great way to stretch the muscles of the legs and toes,” she said.

Cats who don’t have easy to access scratching posts or horizontal scratch pads may turn their claws toward furniture and carpeting. But just owning a scratching post or pad isn’t helpful if it’s not in a place your cat likes to scratch. Cats need a variety of choices in various locations to be fully satisfied. Sanchez recommends placing them in high-traffic areas and near your cat’s favorite resting spots.

Another reason your cat may prefer your furniture to a scratching post or pad? The material it’s made from. “Some cats will strictly scratch on softer materials such as cardboard boxes or scratch pads, while other cats will only use carpeted or tall, sturdy posts,” said Sanchez. Many cats enjoy scratching a sisal rope or cloth, but some may find other materials more attractive. If your cat is attracted to carpet, for example, Quagliozzi recommends framing a piece of carpet for them to use.

Should cats be declawed?

To prevent a cat from scratching, some veterinarians offer declawing, a surgical procedure that removes a cat’s claws. Although declawing techniques have become less painful with laser technology, it is a surgery that still carries potential complications.

In fact, some countries as well as US cities have banned the practice, including England; Italy; France; Germany; Austin, Texas; and St. Louis, Missouri. The American Veterinary Medical Association also discourages the practice and instead recommends providing scratching surfaces like the ones featured in this guide as well as frequent nail trims and positive reinforcement training. Complications of this procedure can include infection, tissue necrosis, and back pain, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

In additions, removing a cat’s claws prevents them from practicing innate behaviors such as scratching and climbing. Veterinarians also do not know how, or if, declawing impacts a cat’s quality of life and psychological well-being.

While a cat typically heals from laser declawing in around three weeks and pain can be managed with medications such as fentanyl patches, Murtaugh does not believe that the procedure is necessary unless there is a valid medical reason for it.

“I think the best thing is to just provide them with some scratching opportunities and to train them,” he said. “Part of having a cat recognizing the fact that they might take it out on a sofa every once in a while.” And in his opinion, that is a worthwhile trade-off for a pet that provides 20 years of love and affection.

In addition to providing a cat with acceptable scratching alternatives, such as scratching posts and scratch pads, covering a cat’s claws with nail caps is a more humane option than removing them altogether. Some veterinarians will even put them on for you, Murtaugh said.

Our sources

For this guide to the best products to protect furniture from cat scratching, we consulted the following experts on feline behavior:

Andrea Sanchez, DVM, veterinarian and senior manager of operations support, Banfield Pet Hospital, Vancouver, Washington

Sanchez earned a veterinary degree from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She currently serves as the senior manager of operations support at Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington. Sanchez is also the acting president of the Portland Animal Welfare Team (PAW Team) in Portland, Oregon, a nonprofit that provides veterinary care to unhoused and low income pet guardians. We consulted Sanchez via email in August 2020.

Christine Calder, DVM, board-certified veterinary behaviorist, Calder Veterinary Behavior Services, Westbrook, Maine

Calder earned a veterinary degree at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a diplomate with the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. She has held a number of positions at important educational and nonprofit institutions in her career, including the San Francisco SPCA and Midcoast Humane, Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Center. Calder is also an instructor of animal health and behavior at Unity College. We interviewed Calder over the phone in September 2020.

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi, cat behavior consultant and owner, Go Cat Go!, San Francisco, California

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi has two decades of experience working with cats at the San Francisco SPCA, San Francisco Animal Care and Control and with his private practice, Go Cat Go! Quagliozzi’s expertise has been featured on Animal Planet and in a variety of other media outlets. We interviewed Quagliozzi over the phone in August 2020.

Bob Murtaugh, DVM, veterinarian and chief professional relations officer, Pathway Vet Alliance, Austin, Texas

Murtaugh holds a veterinary degree from the University of Minnesota and is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. In his storied career, he has served as a professor of veterinary emergency and critical care at Tufts University, chief of staff for Portland’s DoveLewis Emergency Veterinary Animal Hospital and chief medical officer for Pathway Vet Alliance. Murtaugh currently acts as Pathway’s chief professional relations officer. We interviewed Murtaugh over the phone on February 2, 2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider

23 of the best cat foods in 2021 for kittens, adult cats, and seniors

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • There are so many great cat food brands that finding the right recipe for your feline can be tough.
  • Veterinarians and an animal nutrition expert shared their insights into what makes a nutritious cat food.
  • Here are some of the best cat foods, including dry, wet, organic, LID, and fresh foods.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.
Best cat food brands in 2021

Finding a nutritious, high-quality cat food that satisfies your cat and fits your budget is an unenviable challenge. To help you choose the best food for your cat, we pored over literature on pet food standards, labels, and ingredients and consulted with animal nutrition experts.

We evaluated the food in this guide according to the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which encompass nutritional adequacy, calorie content, guaranteed analysis, and ingredients. While the experts we spoke with declined to recommend specific foods, they helped us narrow down our selection criteria. The picks in this guide are only some of the excellent options available. If you’re interested in exploring other cat foods, this guide provides the tools needed to evaluate the quality and nutritional value of any food.

A cat can live a long healthy life whether they are fed dry food, wet food, or a combination of both, as long as the food is AAFCO complete and balanced. Just be careful not to overfeed. The average 8- to 10-pound adult cat should consume between 230 and 270 kcals/day to maintain a healthy weight, according to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). An extremely active or sedentary feline may have different needs.

Anyone who is considering a change to their cat’s diet should consult their veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist first.

Here are the best cat foods you can buy in 2021

The best adult dry cat food

Cat Food_Adult dry cat food

Dry food is the most cost-effective way to keep a cat satiated. Like all cat food, a kibble must display an AAFCO complete and balanced statement on its label. This ensures the food has the appropriate balance of protein (at least 26%) and fat (at least 9%) as well as the other essential vitamins and minerals. 

Cats are obligate carnivores and cannot survive on plant-based nutrients alone. Some form of whole meat or meat meal should be listed among the first ingredients, but don’t worry too much about the order in which they appear or what is listed after. 

Many cat foods are prominently marketed as grain-free, but there’s no proven benefit to these diets. “Grains are a source of carbohydrates [and] while cats are obligate carnivores, some carbohydrates in their diets can be helpful if included at moderate levels,” said Kelly Swanson, PhD, professor of animal and nutritional sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Fiber, for example, can help minimize hairballs, maintain healthy body weight, and aid in bowel movements.

It is easy to overfeed your cat with dry food since it is more calorie dense than wet food. Keep a close eye on your cat’s daily kibble intake to ensure they don’t gain weight, which can lead to other health problems. 

Our picks for adult dry cat food:

The best adult wet cat food

Cat Food_Adult wet cat food

Wet cat food tends to be costlier than dry food. In terms of nutrition, wet food stands out from kibble in a few ways. It contains significantly more moisture, typically 75% to 80% versus 10% to 12% found in dry food. Because of that moisture content, wet food is more filling and may be a good choice for cats who love to eat a little too zealously. 

However, Okada and Parker both agreed that feeding a typical adult cat wet food instead of, or in addition to, dry food offers no specific health benefits. It’s a decision that should be based on a cat’s preferences and a guardian’s budget.

Our picks for adult wet cat food:

The best fresh cat food

Cat Food_Fresh cat food

Fresh pet food is a relatively new trend in which whole meats, vegetables, essential vitamins, and minerals are combined, then frozen to maintain freshness. Some fresh pet foods are available via fuss-free subscription and delivery services and others are available in the freezer section of pet stores. 

While fresh cat food is pricier than dry or canned foods, the difference between them is clear. In fresh foods, the whole ingredients are visible with the naked eye and have a consistency that rivals a home-cooked meal. 

There are several fresh cat food companies that meet AAFCO standards, but only two have a full-time veterinary nutritionist on staff: Nom Nom and JustFoodForDogs. According to our experts, this is an essential quality to look for when choosing a food for your pet. 

Our picks for fresh cat food:

The best limited ingredient cat food

Cat Food_LID cat food

Limited ingredient diets (LIDs) may be recommended for cats with gastrointestinal or dermatological issues that are likely caused by an adverse reaction or allergy to ingredients commonly found in cat food. Veterinarians often use LID foods to perform food elimination trials in order to pinpoint the source of a cat’s food sensitivity. 

When it comes to healthy adult cats, Okada told us that there is no advantage to feeding an LID formula. These recipes were historically formulated with uncommon ingredients and novel proteins like wild game, but the inclusion of these ingredients in regular cat food has made it more challenging to identify appropriate foods for a cat in need of an LID. To make it more likely that an LID will work for a cat who develops allergies or food reactions later in life, Okada said that healthy adult cats should stick to regular cat food formulas that are complete and balanced. 

Our picks for LID cat food:

The best organic cat food

Cat Food_organic cat food

In order for a cat food to be certified organic, it must meet USDA guidelines for organic human-grade foods, which includes at least 95% organic ingredients. These organic foods tend to be more expensive than regular pet food because the ingredients are sourced from the competitive human food market.

While the idea of organic cat food may be appealing, Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Medical Center says there is no good evidence that an organic diet has more health benefits than one made with conventionally produced ingredients.

It is true that organic cat foods may contain fewer pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and GMOs, but often the difference is negligible. Ultimately, feeding a cat an organic diet is a personal choice, not a nutritional one. 

Our picks for organic cat food:

The best budget adult dry cat food

Cat Food_budget adult dry food

Even if you have the money to spend, don’t write off budget cat foods altogether. There are a number of affordable AAFCO complete and balanced dry foods that are just as nutritious as more expensive kibble.

Not only do the budget dry cat foods we selected contain whole meats and protein-rich meat meals, they have ingredients like kelp and alfalfa that support gut health and antioxidant-rich blueberries and cranberries. The percentages of protein, fat, and fiber they contain are also on par with pricier brands.

Our picks for budget dry food:

The best budget adult wet cat food

Cat Food_Budget adult dry food

Wet cat food doesn’t have to cost a premium to be nutritionally complete and balanced. The budget wet cat foods we recommend are significantly higher in protein than the 26% AAFCO minimum recommendation for healthy adult cats without kidney problems. 

Both the percentage of protein a cat food contains and the sources of that protein are important, said Swanson. Animal-based proteins typically provide the 10 essential amino acids and levels of taurine a cat’s diet requires. Other animal- or plant-based proteins are sometimes added to meet nutritional needs.

Like pricier wet foods, these budget options also contain 78% to 82% moisture which helps to keep a cat feeling full for longer while providing them with an additional source of hydration. Whether your cat prefers to eat only wet food or you feed it as part of a diet mixed with kibble, these recipes are a reliable option.

Our picks for budget adult wet cat food:

The best kitten food

Cat Food_Kitten food

Kittens under a year of age need a somewhat different combination of nutrients to support their revving metabolism and growing bones. An AAFCO complete and balanced kitten food contains a minimum of 30% protein, 9% fat, and extra vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus. These formulas also meet AAFCO’s standards for pregnant and lactating adult cats who require additional calories and nutrients.

Although it doesn’t matter whether a kitten is fed dry food, wet food, or a combination of the two, introducing young kittens to different types of food may prevent them from being picky eaters in adulthood. Regardless of the type of food you select, cats benefit from being fed out of a puzzle feeder instead of a regular bowl. The problem-solving and play required to extract the food provides a kitten important mental stimulation. The more energy they burn on puzzle toys, the less likely they’ll be to become bored and make trouble.

Our picks for kitten food:

The best senior cat food

Cat Food_Senior cat food

Once a cat hits 7 years of age, they are considered senior. Senior cats have the same minimum AAFCO nutritional requirements as younger adult cats, but decreased activity can cause them to pack on the pounds. And the more overweight a cat becomes, the more likely they are to develop conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, arthritis, and pancreatitis.

You can help your senior cat maintain a healthy body weight by closely controlling their portion sizes or by switching them to a senior diet that is lower in calories than typical adult formulas. Just be sure to check the calorie content because some senior foods actually have more calories and may still require portion control.

Senior formulas also have omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that aren’t required in regular adult cat foods. These ingredients help reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, and support the immune system. As long as the senior food is labeled AAFCO complete and balanced, it will contain the vitamins and minerals an older cat requires without the need to provide additional supplements. 

Different cats have different needs as they age, so consult your veterinarian before switching your cat to a senior diet or determining whether additional supplements are required.

Our picks for senior cat food:

Our methodology

To select the cat foods for this guide, we consulted two veterinary nutritionists and a professor of animal and nutritional sciences. None of these experts recommended specific brands or endorsed any of the products in this, but they helped us understand what makes a high-quality cat food and what to avoid. 

We also consulted guidelines and recommendations from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Global Nutrition Guidelines, among other organizations. 

The cat foods chosen for this guide were selected based on the following criteria:

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement: The most basic measure of a nutritionally complete cat food is the presence of an AAFCO statement on the label. AAFCO is a nonprofit organization that defines the standard nutritional requirements for pet food and animal feed. A cat food with an AAFCO statement is guaranteed to be complete and balanced for a cat at various life stages. Read more about AAFCO standards in the next slide.

Guaranteed analysis and nutrient profiles: The guaranteed analysis consists of the percentages of protein, fat, and other important nutrients in a food. Food for adult cats who are not pregnant should have a minimum of 26% protein, 9% fat, and the presence of essential nutrients, including amino acids like taurine, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. There is no minimum fiber or carbohydrate requirement for adult cats who are not pregnant and a complete and balanced food does not require added essential nutrients, said Okada. 

Swanson told us that cats without properly functioning kidneys require diets that are lower in protein. The less protein a cat with kidney problems has, the less likely it will be to build up waste products in the blood that make them sick.

If you’re looking to compare wet food to kibble, you’ll find the guaranteed analysis of wet food doesn’t give you the full picture of how much of these vital nutrients is actually present. Read more about how to decipher the guaranteed analysis for wet food in the section on How to read a cat food label.

Expert formulations: For this guide, we prioritized brands that have a dedicated nutrition expert on staff, which aligns with WSAVA guidelines. Both of the veterinary nutritionists we spoke to agree. 

Always look for pet food manufacturers that employ at least one full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an animal nutrition expert with a master’s or doctorate degree. 

Brands that formulate their products with the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist who is not on staff may be unable to ensure the highest quality standards.

“Pet food production requires a thorough knowledge of pet nutrition, pet food ingredients, processing methods and their effect on nutrients, plus a good understanding of physiology, chemistry, mathematics, microbiology and biochemistry,” said Okada. “My greatest concerns are for very small companies that may have the best of intentions but very limited experience and technical knowledge.”

Ingredients list: The ingredients on a pet food label are listed in order of weight. Proteins in the form of whole meat or meat meal should come first on the ingredients list. Don’t get too hung up on the order of the ingredients that come next. 

Manufacturing standards: When selecting a cat food brand, it’s important to consider a manufacturer’s quality control measures and the types of facilities where they produce food. Parker said this information should be easily accessible on a pet food company’s website. If not, you should be able to call the company and get quick answers.

Some smaller pet food companies produce their food in facilities used by larger, more established manufacturers. According to Okada, this is a reliable way to ensure food quality and safety. When in doubt, select a larger manufacturer with a long history of making pet food. “If a problem arises, it will likely be discovered sooner if the product is widely distributed,” Okada said.

Calorie content: The calorie content of cat food is listed in kilocalories, or k/cals. According to WSAVA, the average cat weighing between 8 and 10 pounds should consume between 230 to 270 kcals/day. A cat food’s calorie content should be clearly listed on its packaging. 

What are AAFCO standards?

Since its establishment in 1906, the nonprofit Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has set nutritional guidelines for pet food in the United States. AAFCO is not a regulatory agency, but the regulatory FDA is an AAFCO member with a non-voting advisory role. AAFCO does not test, approve, or certify pet food brands. Instead, it defines the ingredient, labeling, and testing standards that establish whether a pet food is nutritionally complete for animals at different life stages.

A cat food that meets AAFCO’s minimum standards is considered complete and balanced at one of two life stages: growth and reproduction, which includes kittens and pregnant or lactating females, or adult maintenance, which is intended for cats over a year of age. 

To meet the minimum AAFCO standard, an adult cat food must contain at least 26% protein, 9% fat, and essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Food for kittens up to a year of age and pregnant or lactating adults must have a minimum of 30% protein, 9% fat, and higher levels of vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus than adult maintenance foods. 

Parker said that almost all commercially made cat foods exceed the minimum standards set by the AAFCO. In order to determine whether a product meets the minimum standards, the manufacturer must conduct a third-party laboratory analysis or feeding trials using AAFCO protocols. A cat food without an AAFCO complete and balanced statement for an individual cat’s life stage should never be fed as the cat’s primary food.

How to read a cat food label

Cat Food_Read Pet Food Label

To really understand what is in your cat’s food and to compare one brand to another, you’ll need to navigate its nutritional content.

Guaranteed analysis: The guaranteed analysis on a cat food label is not at all straightforward, especially if you’re attempting to compare the nutrients in a wet food to those in a dry food. Because the two types of food have vastly different moisture contents (around 75% to 78% in wet food and 10% to 12% in dry food), the percentages of fat, protein, and fiber in wet food must be converted to “dry matter basis.” 

To convert the moisture-containing guaranteed analysis to dry matter basis, check out these directions from the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. You can also call the food manufacturer or ask your veterinarian for help. 

AAFCO complete and balanced statement: To ensure that a cat food is nutritionally complete and balanced, it must contain one of three AAFCO statements on its label.

1. The first AAFCO statement confirms that the food’s minimum nutrient profile has been verified via a third-party laboratory analysis. It reads:

[Product] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles.

2. Instead of submitting a food for laboratory analysis, a company may test the food through controlled feeding trials. These trials are not perfect — the AAFCO requires eight healthy cats to consume a food for six months. At the end of the trial, at least 75% of the cats in the trial must meet four blood test parameters and must not have lost more than 15% of their original body weight. This statement reads:

Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition.

3. A cat food manufacturer whose family of products has already met AAFCO’s feeding trials criteria may carry an AAFCO statement for recipes that were not directly tested. That statement reads:

[Product] provides complete and balanced nutrition and is comparable in nutritional adequacy to a product which has been substantiated using AAFCO feeding tests.

Calorie content statement: The calorie content of cat food is listed in kilocalories, or k/cals. A cat food’s calorie content should be clearly listed on its packaging. 

Other keywords to look for: The AAFCO has rules around how products can be marketed. If a single ingredient makes up 25% to 94% of a food’s dry matter, it must be called a “dinner,” “entree,” “formula,” or “recipe.” If a single ingredient makes up 95% or more of the dry matter, it can be labeled as “Tuna Cat Food,” “Chicken Cat Food,” or another meat-first name.

If the word “flavor” appears on a cat food label, do not assume that it contains the actual ingredient associated with the flavor. A “tuna-flavored cat food,” for example, does not have to contain tuna. The flavor may come from a broth, byproduct, or meal. 

Some cat food labels include the phrase “No artificial flavors,” but don’t be concerned about labels that do not. According to the FDA, artificial flavors are rarely used in cat food.

“Premium” and “gourmet” are purely marketing terms. Foods labeled this way do not necessarily contain higher quality ingredients and they are not required to meet higher nutritional standards.

“Natural” refers to a cat food that does not contain artificial flavors or preservatives unless they come from AAFCO-approved sources.

Our sources

We spoke to the following experts in fall 2020 and winter 2021:

Valerie J. Parker, DVM, DACVIM, DACVN, associate professor, department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Parker is a board certified veterinary nutritionist. She earned her veterinary degree at Tufts University and completed two residencies, one in small animal internal medicine at Iowa State University and the other in clinical nutrition at Tufts University. Her interests include nutrition management of chronic kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease, and endocrine and metabolic disease in pets. We spoke to Parker in a phone interview in September 2020.

Yuki Okada, DVM, CVA. PhD, ACVN Resident, Veterinary Nutrition Specialty Service, San Rafael, California

Okada received a veterinary degree from Michigan State University and has a PhD in veterinary biochemistry from Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Japan. Okada is completing a residency with the American College of Veterinary Nutrition to become a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. We consulted Okada via email in September 2020.

Kelly Swanson, PhD, professor of animal and nutritional sciences at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

Swanson earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Now a professor at the university, he runs an animal sciences laboratory that studies the effects of nutritional intervention on health with an emphasis on gastrointestinal health and obesity. We consulted Swanson via email in March 2021.

The pet nutrition websites below were accessed between January and February 2021:

Association of American Feed Control Officials

AAFCO Methods for Substantiating Nutritional Adequacy of Dog and Cat Foods, Association of American Feed Control Officials

Global Nutrition Guidelines, World Small Animal Veterinary Association 

Calorie Needs for an Average Healthy Adult Cat in Ideal Body Condition, World Small Animal Veterinary Association 

Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets, American Veterinary Medical Association

Pet Food Labels, Food and Drug Administration

Get the Facts! Raw Food Diets Can Be Dangerous to You and Your Pet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Salmonella, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Organic Pet Foods: Optimal Health or Overhyped?, Tufts University Cummings Veterinary Medical Center

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best airline cat carriers in 2021, according to pet safety experts and extensive testing

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An airline-friendly cat carrier should be comfortable to carry, and to ride in, on long travel days.
  • We tested 20 airline-compatible carriers and kennels to select the best options for flying with a cat.
  • The best soft-sided carrier is the Wild One Travel Carrier, a unique bag that doubles as a bed.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

No matter how you slice it, air travel with a cat is stressful. Whether they’re flying at your feet in the cabin of a plane or are being transported in the cargo hold, a well-built, cozy airline-compatible cat carrier is essential for their comfort and your peace of mind.

Over the last year, we’ve extensively tested 20 different airline-friendly cat carriers, including soft-sided carriers, backpack carriers, and hard-sided kennels. That, combined with advice from a veterinarian and pet travel experts, helped us to identify the best carriers for use in flight. Read more about our testing methodology and how to prepare your cat for air travel at the end of this guide.

Here are the best airline cat carriers in 2021

Best soft-sided airline cat carrier

Wild One Travel Carrier for pets

The uniquely designed Wild One Travel Carrier offers comfort and convenience in the air and at your destination.

Pros: Three ways to load, unzips into a bed, machine-washable interior mat, secure luggage strap, padded detachable shoulder strap converts into a leash, folds flat for storage, comes in three colors, limited one-year warranty

Cons: No padded carry handle

The innovatively designed Wild One Travel Carrier converts from an easy-to-transport bag to a comfortable, open pet bed in just a few zips. With a detachable padded shoulder strap that doubles as a leash for a cat harness and a cushioned, machine washable interior mat, this carrier is an ideal home-away-from home both at the airport and your destination.

The Wild One Travel Carrier has two important safety features: an interior tether and snaps on the zippers that prevent them from opening while in transit. On the outside, there are two wide zipper pockets on one side and two small pockets on the other side. The front and back doors both have zip-out privacy screens. A pet can also be loaded through the zippered top.

Wild One’s carrier shined in testing, earning the highest scores in our scrape, zip, and goop tests and its wide luggage strap kept the bag completely balanced on a rolling suitcase. It also has the most ventilation of any bag we tested.

It was comfortable enough to carry this bag by hand, but it does lack a padded carry strap. While it’s among the pricier carriers we tested, for the wide range of features included in its modular design, it’s well worth the extra cost.

Best expandable airline cat carrier

mr peanuts gold series expandable cat carrier

Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier unzips to almost double in size, providing a cat with extra room on long travel days.

Pros: Front and top-loading carrier, expandable compartment increases carrier’s size by more than 50%, secure luggage strap, padded detachable shoulder strap, washable interior plush bolster bed, comes in five colors, folds flat for storage

Cons: Limited pocket space, expandable section can’t be used in flight, no warranty

On long travel days with endless time spent in airports, Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier offers a jet-setting cat extra space to stretch out. When unzipped, a panel on its right side folds out into a mesh atrium that more than doubles the interior space.

The spacious Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is front- and top-loading with a roll-up privacy flap over the top door. It passed our in-cabin fit tests and offers plenty of ventilation to keep a cat from overheating. Inside, there is a soft plush bolster bed and safety tether. Outside, there is an adjustable padded shoulder strap and a faux leather carry handle. There is just one 10-by-4-inch mesh zip pocket at the back. When not in use, this bag folds flat for storage.

Mr. Peanut’s carrier excelled in testing. The mesh remained intact in the scrape test, the zipper moved smoothly in the zip test, and both the interior and exterior of the bag came completely clean in the goop test. Although the bed is labeled hand-wash only, it looked nearly new after machine washing and air drying. 

On one side, this carrier has a luggage strap for slipping over the handle of a carry-on suitcase. In our luggage test, it remained mostly balanced as we walked, slipping only about an inch to one side. Carrying on the shoulder was comfortable and the strap was easy to adjust to the correct length.

While the expandable section of Mr. Peanut’s carrier can’t be used in flight, the inclusion of this feature in a durable, well-designed bag makes it an ideal option for cross-country air travel.

Best budget airline cat carrier

Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier

The Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier has most of the features of pricier carriers for a rock-bottom price.

Pros: Padded detachable shoulder strap, padded carry handle, secure luggage strap, multiple pockets, washable interior mat, collapses flat for storage, comes in six colors and two sizes

Cons: Not top-loading, seam of interior mat ripped in washing, no warranty

The convenient, cozy Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier is an excellent budget option for feline air travel. The bag not only has many of the features of pricier options, it scored well in testing, too.

The Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Carrier has a soft fleece mat and safety tether inside and five different pockets outside, one of which unzips to convert into a luggage strap. When slid over a suitcase handle, the luggage strap kept the carrier well balanced on curbs and sidewalks. There is also an adjustable padded shoulder strap and a padded carry handle, both of which are comfortable to use. When carried on the shoulder, the bag does flex inward some.

A whopping 27.5% of the Elite Field is covered in mesh ventilation and it earned the highest scores in our scrape and zip tests. While both the bag’s exterior and its mat washed completely clean in our goop test, a seam along the length of the mat split open in the washing machine. It still fits over its interior panel and, because that panel is covered in polyester, the rip doesn’t compromise the mat’s utility. It collapses inward to store flat.

The only major features the Elite Field is missing is a top-loading door and a warranty. The carrier comes in two sizes, 17-inches long and 19-inches long, and is flexible enough that even the longer version we tested will fit beneath the seat on United Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights.

While it’s not perfect, the affordable Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Carrier is easy to carry, rides smoothly on a carry-on suitcase, and has comfort and safety features that are almost as good as its more-expensive competitors.

Best airline backpack carrier for cats

Mr peanuts backpack pet carrier

 Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier is comfortable to wear and has a spacious interior for your precious cat cargo.

Pros: Comfortable padded back and straps, plush wrap around interior mat for comfort when upright or laid flat, fits under the seat in most airlines, has several exterior pockets, has locking zippers, folds flat for storage, sold in four colors

Cons: Backpack straps are not removable, no warranty

If you won’t be traveling with a rolling carry-on suitcase, a backpack carrier may be a more comfortable way for both you and your cat to navigate the airport. Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier has adjustable padded straps, padded back panels, and an adjustable chest strap for you. For your cat, it has a luxurious plush mat that wraps around the interior for a soft ride on the back and when laid flat beneath an airline seat.

This backpack has two important safety features: an interior tether and buckling safety zippers. A rollup privacy flap over the panel at the top of the backpack serves as the front-loading door when laid flat. There is a 7-by-7-inch zipper pocket on one side and a mesh water bottle holder and two smaller pockets on the other. At the end of the journey, the carrier folds flat for storage. 

Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier did well in testing, earning the highest scores in our scrape, zip, and goop tests. It also has more ventilation than any of the other backpacks we tested, with 17.5% of its surface area covered in mesh. While the carrier has very little flexibility in its frame, it was compact enough to pass our in-cabin fit test. The interior mat is labeled hand wash-only, but it held up well to machine washing and air drying.

Convenient, durable, and comfortable for both you and your cat, Mr. Peanut’s backpack is an ideal carrier for use before, during, and after a flight.

Best crate for flying a cat in cargo

Gunner G1 Kennel

The super strong Gunner G1 Medium Dog Kennel was the only pet carrier durable enough to pass our tests with flying colors.

Pros: Five-star crash-test rating, extremely tough, escape-proof, lifetime warranty

Cons: Expensive, heavy, does not fold for storage, limited ventilation

With double walls, a reinforced aluminum door frame, and a welded nylon-and-aluminum door, Gunner’s G1 Kennel is the strongest, toughest crate we’ve ever seen. In crash tests conducted by the Center for Pet Safety in 2018, the Gunner G1 Medium Dog Kennel earned a five-star safety rating for pets up to 45 pounds and it was the only kennel to withstand our drop testing. 

The Gunner G1 Kennel’s door is escape-proof with a built-in lock that comes with a key and a door that can be hung to open from the left or the right. At the bottom of the crate are elevated nonslip feet and there are two extra-sturdy handles and built-in stainless steel tie-down pins on the top. The interior floor is recessed so that if your cat goes to the bathroom or spills their water in flight, the liquid will be funneled away from their bedding. 

At 38 pounds, the Gunner G1 Medium Kennel is the heaviest of those we tested, but that weight lends itself to the kennel’s durability. It did not suffer any damage after being dropped 10 feet with a 10-pound weight inside, and when a bag of 30-pound weights was dropped on it from 10 feet above, it left behind only a small exterior divot.

The Gunner G1 Kennel does not have much ventilation or fold down for easy storage. At $599, it’s also the most expensive carrier we tested by far. Despite these downsides, there’s no stronger, safer crate on the market. Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty. If you want to be sure that your cat will reach their destination safely when flying in cargo, Gunner’s G1 Kennel is your best bet.

Our methodology

Throwing airline pet crate off play structure

With the exception of the Good2Go Expandable Pet Carrier, which I had previously purchased, the carriers in this guide were provided to Insider Reviews as editorial review samples by their manufacturers. The 20 carriers reviewed for this guide went through an extensive series of tests, which include:

Feature comparison: After conducting interviews with our experts, I created a point rubric for scoring each of the 17 soft-sided carriers based on the following features:

  • Shape and design
  • Interior mat
  • Loading doors
  • Carrying straps and handles
  • Pockets
  • Ventilation
  • Interior safety tether
  • No-escape petting hole
  • ID tag
  • Luggage strap
  • Dimensions and in-cabin airline capability
  • Safety certifications
  • Storage

In-cabin airline fit test: I made two boxes out of cardboard with the same dimensions as the underseat space in two major airline carriers, United Airlines (18-inches long, 11-inches wide, 11-inches high) and Southwest Airlines (18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches wide, 13.5-inches high). I then slid each soft-sided carrier and backpack into the boxes to see if they fit.

Scrape test: I scraped a mesh section of each soft-sided carrier 50 times with a fork to test its durability. When complete, I noted any damage or discoloration. 

Zip test: To test the durability of each carrier’s zipper, I completely zipped and unzipped one of its loading entrances 50 times. In the process, I noted any changes in the zipper’s ability to smoothly run its course.

Luggage test: Each soft-sided carrier with a luggage strap was attached to a suitcase handle, then rolled over a curb, up a ramp, and along the sidewalk and street of a city block. Inside the carriers, I placed a 10-pound weight and watched to see how well they remained balanced as we traveled.

Ventilation test: According to Wolko, ventilation is important to prevent a cat from overheating during travel. I measured the dimensions of each carrier’s mesh panels and calculated the percentage of the total surface area they comprised. I favored those bags with more ventilation. 

Walk test: I took each soft-sided carrier containing a 10-pound weight on a 15-minute walk around my neighborhood. Each was carried using the shoulder strap and held at the front of my body the way I would if I had a real cat inside. For the last block, I switched to using the carrier’s hand-carry straps. The backpack carriers were taken on the same walk but were not carried by hand. With each, I paid attention to how comfortable it was to carry, how much it bounced, and whether it collapsed inwards as I walked.

Goop test: I devised the goop test to determine how easy the carriers would be to clean if a cat vomited or defecated in transit. I mashed together cat kibble, canned food, and water with a mortar and pestle to make the goop, then spread a tablespoon on the exterior wall and interior mat of the contenders. After 48 hours, I wiped the goop from their exteriors using dish soap and water and washed the mats in the washing machine. 

Drop test: This test was designed for the hard-shelled cargo kennels. I brought the candidates to a local park and, with the help of my partner, loaded each kennel with a 10-pound weight and threw it off of a 10-foot play structure, looking for any damage that occurred upon landing. In the second test, we dropped a bag of 30-pound weights on top of the kennel from the 10-feet play structure to test for structural integrity.

What else we considered

Cat carriers we tested

Soft-sided airline-friendly cat carriers

Sleepypod Atom: This Sleepypod carrier, which earned a five-star crash-test rating from the Center for Pet Safety, has a unique design with a zipper that runs around the perimeter of the top of the bag. Unfortunately, the only way to load a cat is through that elevated opening. That, combined with a shoulder strap buckle that dug into my skin, kept this carrier from the top spot.

Away Carrier: I love this carrier by Away, which also earned a five-star crash-test rating from the Center for Pet Safety. It comes with a hefty price tag, though, and does not fold down for storage. While it beats out the Wild One Travel Carrier for car travel, the lower cost Wild One is a better value for flying.

Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Carrier: This is yet another good carrier by Mr. Peanut’s that has two points of entry, a padded shoulder strap, a luggage strap, and a safety tether. It lacks an expandable section and has fewer bells and whistles than the Wild One Travel Carrier.

Mr. Peanut’s Soft-Sided Carrier: This carrier is just like the Gold Series but is missing a privacy flap over the top door.

Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier: The Original Deluxe is a solid carrier, but it was less comfortable to transport than many of the other bags. The buckle on the strap dug into my shoulder and it was difficult to balance the bag on a rolling suitcase. 

Sherpa Element Carrier: At 14.75-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 10.5-inches tall, Sherpa’s Element is tiny compared to other carriers. It also lacks padding in the shoulder strap and a safety tether, has only one tiny pocket, and provides less ventilation than most of the other carriers we tested. 

Bergan Comfort Carrier: This cozy carrier has a comfy bolster bed inside and zippers with safety buckles. But in our luggage test, it shifted dramatically while rolling on top of a suitcase, which could put a cat in danger of falling. This carrier also does not fold flat for storage.

Frisco Travel Carrier: I really like this carrier and it scored well in our testing. But with no padding on the shoulder strap, it’s less comfortable to carry than the Elite Field. It also comes in only black, a color which Wolko recommends avoiding in pet carriers to prevent a cat from overheating.

Expandable airline-friendly cat carriers

Mr. Peanut’s Platinum Series Double Expandable Carrier: I love the expandability of this carrier, which nearly triples in size when fully unzipped. It performed just as well as the Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable on all of our tests and has all of the same features, plus a second expandable atrium. Because the Platinum Series has slightly less ventilation and a slightly higher price, we ultimately chose the Gold Series as our favorite.

Good2Go Expandable Pet Carrier: I like this expandable carrier, but it was the priciest of the expandable carriers we tested and is only sold in black, the color most likely to lead to overheating.

Petmate See and Extend Carrier: For the price, this top- and front-loading carrier was somewhat disappointing. Its expandable section was spacious, but it has no luggage strap for easy airport rolling, no safety tether, and limited pocket space.

Airline-friendly backpack cat carriers

Sherpa 2-in-1 Backpack Carrier: Sherpa’s carrier is innovatively designed with removable backpack straps, one of which converts into a shoulder strap to turn the bag into a traditional carrier. It was missing some of the features of Mr. Peanut’s, though, including safety buckles on the zippers, a privacy flap, a chest strap for balancing the pack’s weight, and a safety tether. It also has a less substantial interior mat. 

Kurgo K9 Carrier Backpack: I love the look of this backpack, but that’s about it. This carrier has very little ventilation and a molded base that digs into the back while carrying. Additionally, it only fit under the seat of one of the airlines we tested (Southwest) and our goop test left both the exterior and interior worse for wear.

Crates for flying a cat in cargo

Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier: If Gunner’s G1 Kennel is out of your price range, the Sky Kennel is your next best option. This sturdy crate held up to our drop tests better than the Ultra Vari, remaining structurally sound through both trials. The Sky Kennel is also one of those recommended by Elaine Matthis, pet travel specialist and project manager at Happy Tails Travel in Tucson, Arizona.

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel: Although this kennel withstood being dropped from 10 feet above the ground, dropping 30 pounds of weights on it completely destroyed the cover. Had a cat been inside, they would not have survived the impact.

FAQs on flying with a cat

Most cats are just small enough to comfortably fly in the cabin of an airplane at your feet. This is always the preferred way to travel with a cat for Wolko. “We have had videos shared with us in which operators drop kennels, sometimes the kennels roll off the moving band, sometimes they flip, sometimes they roll off, sometimes they fall,” she explained. “Those risks are far less likely if your cat remains in your possession at all times.”


How much does it cost to fly with a cat? 

Fees for flying with a pet in the cabin of a plane vary between carriers. At United Airlines, a one-way flight for your cat adds $125 to the price of your ticket. At Southwest Airlines, a pet fare is $95 each way. Flying a cat in the cargo hold on a domestic flight is typically around $300 pet flight. Sending a cat on an international flight can cost up to triple that amount.


What are the age restrictions for flying with a cat? 

Age restrictions for flying with a pet differ from airline to airline. At United Airlines, cats must be at least 16 weeks of age to fly in the cabin while on Southwest, kittens as young as 8 weeks can accompany their guardians on a flight. Eight weeks is also the minimum age for most kittens flying in cargo. Always check the pet policy of the airline you’ll be flying to make sure your cat meets their requirements.


How do you properly size a cat carrier for a flight? 

To fly with a cat in the cabin of a plane, a soft-sided carrier must fit within the dimensions allowed by the airline, which vary a little from company to company. United Airlines, for example, requires carriers to fit in a space 18-inches long, 11-inches wide, and 9-inches high while Southwest Airlines allows carriers 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches wide, and 13.5-inches high. Within these parameters, make sure your cat has enough room to stand up, turn around, and comfortably lie down inside, said Wolko. Additionally, there should be at least 2 to 3 inches clearance from the top of their ears to the interior roof of the crate.


How much ventilation should a carrier have? 

For soft-sided carriers, Wolko said mesh ventilation should be on at least three sides of the bag. In cargo, airlines require that a kennel is ventilated on all four sides.


Do cats need to go to the bathroom on a flight? 

Unless a cat suffers from a medical condition, they will be fine without access to a litter box for the duration of a flight. “Just based on the physiology of cats, they could probably go from Boston to Hawaii and without needing to void,” said Bob Murtaugh, veterinarian and chief professional relations officer at Pathway Vet Alliance in Austin, Texas.

In the cargo hold, kennels cannot be outfitted with a litter box or anything other than an absorbent liner and a soft bed or blanket. “If the travel day will be more than eight hours, during a layover pet owners can arrange a comfort stop for cats to be let out of their carrier,” said Matthis.


Do cats need food and water on a flight? 

On shorter in-cabin flights, your cat is unlikely to require food or water. However, if you’re flying your cat in cargo, Matthis explained that a food bowl and water bowl should be in the carrier regardless of the length of the flight. She recommends using dishes that fasten to the door of the crate and can be refilled easily from the outside such as Lixit’s Quick Lock Crock 10-ounce bowls.


What else does my cat need to fly?

Most airlines require a health certificate provided by a veterinarian to prove that a cat is safe to fly in the cabin or cargo hold.


What are the signs that my cat may be in distress in flight?

According to Murtaugh, there are a few obvious signs that may indicate your cat is in distress during a flight, either due to fear or excessive heat. A cat that is panting, restless, and vocalizing could be experiencing significant anxiety or overheating. If the membranes in their gums turn bright red, the latter is most likely and it’s important to cool them off quickly. Placing the carrier on your lap so they can feel the air blowing from the vent above your seat or wiping them down with a wet cloth may help lower their body temperature.

How to set up a cat for flying success

cat sitting on wild one carrier

The best way to combat a cat’s flight anxiety is to tackle it before getting on the plane. In the weeks before their trip, introduce your cat to their carrier or kennel in a positive way. “Make the carrier feel like a cave or a home or something that’s comfortable, something that they’re not just jammed into the first time they’re on their way to the airport,” said Murtaugh.

Place the carrier in an area of the home where your cat spends a lot of time and encourage them to explore it by placing catnip and treats inside, or by playing with them in and around the space. 

Taking your cat on a car ride or on other forms of transportation while in their carrier may also be helpful in the weeks before the flight, said Murtaugh. He recommends placing a bed or blanket that smells like home inside the carrier and using a pheromone spray or collar to help take the edge off. 

If your cat has a record of experiencing debilitating stress during travel and will be flying in the cabin, you can speak to your vet about prescribing an anxiety-relieving medication. It’s important, however, to test medication out before your flight. “Make sure there won’t be any untoward side effects. Your vet can help you tailor that to your cat’s needs,” said Murtaugh. 

Sedating a cat prior to flying in the cargo hold is not recommended by the International Air Transport Association and can be potentially fatal for old, chronically sick, or highly stressed animals.

Rules for flying with a cat in cargo

While working with an animal shipping professional can help make preparing your cat for travel less stressful, it is not a requirement in the United States. International destinations may have other regulations for air-shipping pets. Always confirm your airline’s requirements well in advance of your pet’s flight. 

To air ship a cat, the kennel must meet the following standards established by the International Air Transport Association:

Crate size: The interior width of a crate or kennel must be at least two times the width of a cat. The kennel’s length must be at least the length of a cat plus half their height. The height of a carrier must be at least as tall as the animal’s natural height in a standing position from the tip of the ears to the floor. Matthis recommends using a medium-size crate for cats that is at least 2 to 3 inches taller than this minimum. If you have a cat with a snub nose or smooshed face, the kennel must be 10% larger than for non-brachycephalic pets.

Crate material: A crate must be made from rigid plastic, wood, or metal with a solid roof containing no doors or ventilation. There should be only one metal door that closes securely. “If the crate looks cheap and flimsy, it’s not suitable for air travel,” said Matthis. 

Crate extras: Crates in cargo cannot have wheels, plastic doors, or plastic latches. They also cannot be collapsible or have a door in the roof.

Crate interior: The only items allowed inside an animal crate during a flight are an absorbent liner or potty pad, a soft pad or blanket, and clip-in water and food bowls that attach to the crate door

Our sources

We consulted the following experts and internet sources for this guide to the best airline-friendly cat carriers:

 

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The 6 best cat bridges in 2021

  • Wall-mounted cat bridges can be installed in small spaces to give your cat plenty of room to climb.
  • Climbing and perching can relieve stress and entertain a cat.
  • We chose the best cat bridges, including those with added features like scratching posts.

Cats instinctively like to climb and perch. Up high where they have a bird’s eye view of their home, they are both safe from “predators” and less likely to be disturbed in the middle of a nap. In addition to providing stress relief, going vertical is also an outlet for entertainment. Standard cat trees can satisfy these needs, but wall-mounted cat bridges turn unused space into a feline playground and are ideal for small living spaces. Below, read more about our favorite cat bridges, from multilevel jungle gyms to minimalist walkways.

Here are the best cat bridges in 2021

The best cat bridge overall

Best cat bridges - Two cats on the CatastrophiCreations Play Place Hammock
A customizable bridge that supports multiple cats

CatastrophiCreations Play Place‘s ramps, bridges, and platforms can be configured in a variety ways to increase your cat’s interest.

What we like: Customizable design, machine-washable fabric, available in two colors

CatastrophiCreations Play Place is a sturdy modular bridge made from durable bamboo and cotton canvas. Designed with hidden brackets, the floating bridge can be set up as one level or several and includes a platform with an escape hatch and a ramp with wooden steps for stability. The Play Place can support multiple cats — up to 62 pounds on each hammock and up to 85 pounds on each platform. It’s sold in two colors to fit your decor: natural wood and onyx wood. The removable hammocks are machine washable. Mounting instructions and hardware are included.

The best budget cat bridge

Best cat bridges in 2021 - A cat climbing down the Fukumaru Cat Climbing Shelf
An easy-to-install, affordable cat bridge

The affordable Fukumaru Cat Climbing Shelf has four steps for climbing, perching, and playing.

What we like: Made from jute and wood, affordable, easy to install

Fukumaru’s Cat Climbing Shelf is an affordable way to liven up the walls in your home while giving your cat a place to climb and perch. The rubberwood bridge has four steps wrapped in jute fiber. They’re all fixed to a single board that can be anchored to the wall with the included mounting hardware. Each step is 8.7 inches wide and the shelf is 15.7 inches long. It’s sold in two orientations to fit a variety of setups and you can combine shelves to create a more complex playground. 

The best rope bridge

Best cat bridges - The Trixie Wall Mounted Cat Board against the wall, above a dresser
A rope cat bridge with three sturdy platforms

Trixie’s Wall-Mounted Cat Bridge has two hanging wooden bridges and three sturdy platforms from which a cat can observe their kingdom.

What we like: Two bridges, three platforms, can be mounted horizontally or diagonally

The Trixie Wall-Mounted Cat Bridge enhances your home’s vertical space with two hanging bridges mounted between wooden platforms. The three platforms can be arranged horizontally or diagonally. The bridge’s wooden-planks are held together with sisal rope and will give more adventurous cats a bit of a challenge as they steady themselves. Trixie’s bridge is available in espresso or white and comes with metal mounting hardware.

The best wooden cat bridge

Best cat bridges - A cat sitting on the My Zoo Floating Cat Walkway attached to a yellow wall
A cat bridge that can be combined with additional pieces to form an epic vertical playground

The minimalist design of My Zoo’s Floating Cat Walkway will complement any decor.

What we like: Two levels, additional walkways can be combined to form longer bridge, made from durable spruce

The sleek My Zoo Floating Cat Walkway is a chic way to add cat-approved vertical space to your home. The sturdy spruce wood bridge consists of two levels and a ramp spread across 29.5 inches. The bridge extends out about a foot from the wall. The Floating Cat Walkway can be purchased with a raised right-side or left-side orientation and multiple bridges can be put together to form a more extensive jungle gym. Each bridge can support up to 33 pounds and mounting hardware is included.

The best cat bridge-cat tree combo

Best cat bridges - Two cats playing on the CatastrophiCreations Climb Activity Center
A multi-level cat bridge with a scratching post

With multiple levels, an escape hatch, and a floating scratching post, CatastrophiCreations Climb Activity Center has plenty of features to keep your cat entertained.

What we like: Customizable design, includes a wall-mounted scratching post, comes in six color combinations

The ultimate in vertical cat entertainment, CatastrophiCreations Climb Activity Center has multiple levels, bridges, and a scratching post. The center is made from bamboo and cotton canvas and mounted on hidden brackets. In addition to a 4-foot-tall sisal scratching post for claw conditioning and stretching, it includes an escape hatch and a separate floating shelf that can be configured in a variety of ways to suit your cat and your home. The Climb Activity Center can support the weight of multiple cats and its removable canvas sections are machine washable. The wood comes in three different colors — onyx, English chestnut, and natural bamboo — and you can choose from charcoal gray or natural fabric. Mounting instructions and hardware are included.

The best cat condo with bridges

Best cat bridges  - Five cats on the Go Pet Club Cat Tree Condo
An enormous cat condo with a bridge, hammock, scratching posts, and more

Go Pet Club’s Cat Tree Condo is an all-inclusive freestanding playground with bridges, scratchers, and perches.

What we like: Two large cat trees in one, multiple perches and cubbies for snoozing, includes sisal scratching posts 

The king of the cat trees, the Go Pet Club Cat Tree Condo is a massive vertical play space that doesn’t require wall mounting. Measuring 70-inches wide and 18-inches deep, this faux-fur-lined cat condo has two triangular houses, two baskets, four hoops, and a hammock, plus bridges, ladders, and multiple sisal scratching posts. The whole thing is anchored by adjustable poles (from 92 to 106 inches), which can be attached to the ceiling if desired. With an interior made from durable compressed wood, the entire cat condo weighs 68 pounds. Assembly is required and hardware is included.

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The 6 best cat litter boxes in 2021, based on extensive testing

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A veterinary behaviorist and a cat behavior consultant told us what to look for in a litter box.
  • We then tested 23 litter boxes, including disposable, hooded, top-entry, and self-cleaning boxes.
  • Our top pick is the affordable Nature’s Miracle Oval Hooded Litter Box, which can be used three ways.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Cats have very specific preferences when it comes to toileting. Not only can placing a litter box in out-of-the-way corners or at high-traffic bottlenecks discourage a cat from using it, they may also refuse to go if their box is too small or too dirty, or if there are several cats all sharing the same one.

The number of litter boxes in a household can also be a major problem from a cat’s perspective. Wailani Sung, DVM, DACVB, veterinary behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA Veterinary Hospital, typically recommends having the same number of litter boxes as they do cats, plus one extra. Those who are living in small spaces, though, may be able to get away with fewer, frequently cleaned larger boxes, she said.

Over the last year, my two cats and I have tested 23 different litter boxes. We also consulted two cat experts, Sung and cat behavior consultant Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi, for advice on how to select the best litter boxes. Our favorite litter box overall is the versatile, affordable Nature’s Miracle Oval Hooded Litter Box, which can be used in three different ways according to a cat’s preference.

Here are the best litter boxes in 2021

The best litter box overall

natures miracle hooded litter box

The versatile Nature’s Miracle Oval Hooded Litter Box is spacious, affordable, and easy to modify for sensitive cats.

Pros: Can be used uncovered, covered, or partially covered; simple design; spacious pan; no swinging door; snaps and handle on cover make it easy to remove and attach; charcoal filter odor absorber; affordable

Cons: Basic design might not be appealing to some people

Often what a cat desires in a litter box is not the same thing that appeals to our human interests. Over the last several months, I saw this firsthand as my two cats tested the litter boxes for this guide. From observing them and speaking to Quagliozzi and Sung, what I’ve learned above all is that cats need choices in order to feel secure.

I selected Nature’s Miracle Hooded Flip-Top Litter Box precisely because it allows me to give my cats different options to best meet their toileting needs. The first option with this box is to use the base alone without adding the cover. With high, rounded sides, the 25.25-by-18.75-inch pan is spacious and sturdy.

The second option is to add the cover. It snaps into the base in four places and has a handle and a charcoal filter for absorbing odors. Unlike some covered litter boxes, there is no plastic door a cat will need to push through that may also swing disconcertingly once the cat is inside the box. 

The third option is to flip the front of the cover up so it opens up about a third of the box. This makes for easy cleaning and, if left in this position, also creates a hybrid covered-uncovered box that may better meet the requirements of both cat (easy entry and no over-confinement) and guardian (odor control and less visible waste). 

While the Nature’s Miracle Hooded Flip Top isn’t particularly stylish, the large, versatile box will satisfy the whole family — two-legged and four-legged, alike — for a very reasonable price.

The best litter pan

smart cat ultimate litter box

The spacious Smart Cat Ultimate Litter Box helps prevent litter scatter and is easy to clean.

Pros: Spacious size; high, ramped sides help decrease litter tracking; affordable

Cons: Only one color option

Simplicity and spaciousness are the first two factors Quagliozzi and Sung look for in a litter box. “Most of the traditional litter boxes offered are [too] small,” Sung said. A litter box should be at least 1.5 times the length of a cat. SmartCat’s Ultimate Litter Box  is among the largest of the litter boxes we tested at 25 inches y 18.5 inches.

At approximately 1.5 times the length of an 17-inch cat, there is plenty of room for them to comfortably stretch out and cover waste. Even better, this pan has relatively high, ramped sides to decrease litter scatter.

SmartCat’s litter box is made from durable plastic resin that is easy to clean and has an oversized rim for convenient lifting. At $20, this litter box is priced right, too, but it’s only available in one color: bright blue.

The best top-entry litter box

modkat litter box

The modern Modkat XL Litter Box has top and front entries and a unique folding lid for easy cleaning.

Pros: Modern design, front- and top-entry, perforated folding lid for capturing loose litter and easy cleaning, reusable rip-free plastic liner, scoop, three color options

Cons: Kittens and older or anxiety-prone cats may have trouble using this box, expensive

Most cats require athletic ability to enter a top-entry box, and, once inside, the cat can only go in a place that allows them to pop their head out of the hole. With a higher lid and entries at the top and front, Modkat’s XL Litter Box fits the needs of a wider variety of cats.

Good-looking and well-designed, the Modkat XL is 21-inches long, 16-inches wide, and 17-inches tall and is sold in three colors (white, gray or black). The lid entrance is a generous 10.25 inches in diameter and the front opening measures 8.5-inches wide by 9.75-inches tall. If you’d rather your cat not use that opening, just close the built-in sliding door.

The lid folds back for easy cleaning and litter tracked onto the roof returns to the pan through perforations. The box comes with two rip-resistant reusable plastic liners, which will last up to three months each, and a scoop. 

While the front-entry makes this litter box more accessible, aging cats and kittens may still struggle to access the door that hovers about 6 inches above the floor. My senior cat had no trouble, though, and used this box frequently. Although he didn’t use the top-entry, he tracked no more litter out of this box than the others we tested. 

The Modkat XL’s biggest flaw is its price tag. Nevertheless, for a well-designed litter box that actually looks somewhat stylish, the Modkat XL is a solid investment.

The best self-cleaning litter box

petsafe self cleaning litter box

Simply designed for cat comfort, the Petsafe Scoop Free Self-Cleaning Litter Box removes solid waste so you don’t have to.

Pros: Easy to set up and use, covered compartment holds solid waste, uses odor-absorbent and dust-free proprietary litter, tracks how often a cat uses the box, disposable trays can be easily thrown out

Cons: Proprietary litter is pricey; litter may be harmful to cat if ingested, waste compartment is small

Self-cleaning litter boxes are controversial among cat experts. Sung does not recommend them because they can frighten cats and guardians may miss the signs of intestinal or urinary problems.

Still, if you’re struggling to clean your cat’s litter box(es) at least once daily, a self-cleaning model can help. Of the four I tested, my cats preferred the one that most resembled a generously sized standard litter box: the Scoop Free Self-Cleaning Litter Box by Petsafe.

This easy-to-setup box is designed with a sensor rim and a built-in rake that sits on top of a 23-by-15.5-inch disposable litter tray. Sensors recognize when a cat enters the box. Twenty minutes after they have exited, the rake automatically pushes solid waste toward a covered compartment at the opposite end. A health counter keeps track of how often your pet does their business. 

The Scoop Free box must be used with Petsafe’s disposable or reusable litter tray and its proprietary blend of crystal cat litter. The litter is absorbent, drying, and 99% dust-free, but must be replaced every two to four weeks at a cost of $16.95 per disposable tray or about $17 per bag. Chemical-based litters may also be harmful to a cat if they accidentally ingest them.

Just because the box is self-cleaning doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook. The small compartment that collects waste may need to be emptied several times before it’s time to change the litter tray. All things considered, this box works hard to keep the pan constantly clean and fresh, ensuring a pleasant toileting experience every time.

The best budget litter box

sterilite storage box used as litter box

Though not traditionally marketed as a litter box, the Sterilite 41-quart Storage Box offers expert-recommended size and simplicity at an affordable price.

Pros: Large size with plenty of room for natural toileting behaviors, made from durable plastic, snap-on lid for easy moving, low sides for easy entry by most cats, inexpensive

Cons: Shallow sides don’t prevent litter from being kicked or tracked out of box

Because many traditional litter boxes are too small for cat comfort, both Quagliozzi and Sung often recommend that their clients use a wide, flat plastic storage container instead. With their large size and simple design, they make excellent, affordable stand-ins for the real thing.

Sterilite’s 41-quart Storage Box is made from durable, clear plastic and measures approximately 35 inches by 17 inches, providing a cat with tons of room to perform natural toileting behaviors like digging and covering their waste. Because the box is waterproof, it won’t leak any excess urine that goes uncaptured by litter.

While the included white plastic lid will need to be stored away most of the time, it can be pulled out and snapped in place to easily move the box to a different location without spillage. With sides that are approximately 6 inches high, this box is shallow enough for most cats to easily enter and exit.

Guardians with cats who aggressively scratch and kick their litter, however, may need to do more floor cleanup than they would with a litter pan with higher sides. Sterilite’s 41-quart Storage Box performed just as well as our best litter pan pick (minus the built-in pockets for supplies) and just about half the price.

The best disposable litter box

natures miracle disposable litter box

Made from recycled paper and infused with baking soda, Nature’s Miracle Disposable Litter Box holds up against leaks and odors for 30 days.

Pros: Recycled materials, leakproof and tear-proof, infused with baking soda to keep smells at bay, comes in 2-pack, lasts 30 days, ideal for temporary use or travel

Cons: More challenging to scrape stuck-on clumps than in a plastic box, generates a lot of waste when used long-term

Whether you’re looking for a sturdy stand-alone litter box or a liner for a plastic box, Nature’s Miracle disposable boxes are an excellent worry-free option. Even after a full month of use by my two cats, the bottom of the pan was fully intact. Nowhere had urine even started to penetrate the recycled paper material.

Nature’s Miracle currently makes two versions of their disposable litter box: regular and jumbo. Unfortunately, the style we liked best, the 23-by-18-inch triangular corner box, has been discontinued. The next best option for comfortable toileting based on the recommendations of Sung and Quagliozzi is the 21-by-14.5-inch jumbo-size rectangular box, which is sold in packs of two

Nature’s Miracle Disposable Litter Box is made of dense, compacted recycled paper that the company advertises as leakproof and tear-proof. In our monthlong test, I found both claims to be true. The box is also made with baking soda to help keep bad odors in check. Nature’s Miracle disposable boxes can be used with any type of litter  — I chose a clumping clay version — and when it’s at the end of its 30-day life cycle, the landfill-safe pan can be easily thrown out.

Because the disposable litter box is made of paper instead of plastic, its biggest flaw is that clumps that get stuck to the bottom or sides are a little harder to remove than they are in a smooth plastic box. And although this is a great option for travel or temporary care, sending a pan to the landfill every month seems unnecessary when there are so many reusable options available.

Nevertheless, both guardians who are ultra-fastidious with regard to their litter boxes and those who need a reliable temporary box will find a great solution in the Nature’s Miracle Disposable Litter Box.

What else we considered

litter-robot 3 automatic self-cleaning litter box

Self-cleaning litter boxes

  • Litter-Robot 3 Connect: This box is an expensive lesson in how cat preferences and human preferences often don’t align. The technology is very impressive — it even comes with an app to help track your cat’s business — and it appears to work well. I say “appears” because after two months my cats still haven’t dared to enter the Litter-Robot. In my own tests, it had no trouble dealing with the various objects I tasked it with filtering out: pencils, erasers, and water to activate urine-like clumps. Unfortunately, the box’s tight interior prevents a cat from being able to toilet on even ground — a deal-breaker for my cats. Luckily, the machine comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee for cats who refuse to give it a try.
  • Omega Paw Roll’N Clean Cat Litter Box: This self-cleaning box has received plenty of good reviews, but it missed the mark for me. Rolling the box to filter waste often resulted in pouring litter onto the floor and I still had to regularly scrape clumps stuck to the bottom of the pan. At just 10 by 15 inches, the interior of the pan is also extremely small when the filter is in place. 
  • Littermaid 3rd Edition Multi-Cat Self-Cleaning Litter Box: This self-cleaning litter box was riddled with problems. Clumps of urine-soaked litter frequently stuck to its rake or  the door of the waste disposal compartment and plenty of soiled litter was left behind on the base of the pan. The lifting waste compartment lid frequently got stuck and had to be manually lowered.

Litter pans

  • Petmate Giant Litter Pan: Formerly our top pick, this pan is no longer available for purchase. The spacious pan was made with antimicrobial material to fight odors and had built-in pockets for supplies, making it ideal for both cat and guardian.
  • Petmate Jumbo Litter Pan: Petmate’s jumbo-size litter pan is a solid 21.25-inches long, but that’s only 125% the length of my smaller cat and 115% the size of my larger one. Sung recommends litter pans be at least 150% the length of your largest cat.
  • Van Ness High Sides Cat Litter Pan, Giant: While this is a decent standard litter pan with a great price tag, it is significantly smaller, 19.25 inches-long, than the other pans we tested.

Budget litter boxes

Covered litter boxes

  • Catit Jumbo Hooded Pan: This litter box was a close second to our best overall pick. Like the Nature’s Miracle hooded box, it can be used uncovered, covered, or with the front section flipped up. It was only the cost — more than twice that of the Nature’s Miracle pan — that kept this box out of the top spot.
  • Frisco Hooded Cat Litter Box, Extra Large: This is a good all-around box that is spacious and easy to enter. The door flap is lightweight and removable, but the cover has to be completely lifted off of the base for cleaning.
  • Booda Dome Cleanstep Litter Box: While I like the look of this litter box, it devotes too much space to design and not enough to the litter (the pan is only 12 by 21 inches). The inclusion of the stairs also makes this box unnecessarily complicated for more sensitive cats who prefer simple access.

Disposable litter boxes

  • Nature’s Miracle Disposable Cat Box: The regular-size disposable litter pans by Nature’s Miracle are made of the same great stuff as the jumbo version I selected as the best disposable box. This one is significantly smaller with 25% less space.
  • Kitty’s Wonder Box Disposable Litter Box: This disposable litter box is well made, but it’s tiny, just 13.5 by 17 inches. The size makes the Wonder Box a decent option for travel, but it’s not appropriate for long-term daily use. 
  • So Phresh Disposable Cat Litter Box: This box made from sustainable bagasse fiber was on par with the Nature’s Miracle disposable box except that it’s almost 3 inches shorter and has lower sides.
  • Kitty Sift Disposable Sifting Litter Box: I really liked the concept of this box that filters out waste with three layers of perforated recycled cardboard. It remained leak-free throughout our testing period, but I found sifting the litter made a big mess and I had to remove clumps that stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Top-entry litter boxes

  • Modkat Top-Entry Litter Box: We previously named this the best top-entry litter box, thanks to its functional, appealing design. It is, however, much smaller than its cousin, the Modkat XL, and can only be entered from the top. It also comes with a hefty price tag, especially if your cat turns out to dislike entering the litter box from the top.
  • Petmate Top-Entry Litter Pan: The dimensions of this affordable box are similar to those of the Modkat, but style is lacking with this pan and it doesn’t come with a liner. I also found that every time I attempted to clean the Petmate, the lid slipped out of the hinges and pulled completely off of the top.

Our methodology

We identified the best litter boxes available at major retailers based on criteria established by our experts. Each box was put to use for a minimum of one month, undergoing the following tests during that period. Unless a litter box required a specific litter to operate effectively, all litter boxes were filled with our favorite budget litter, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Strength Cat Litter.

Ease of entry test: Because not every cat is agile enough or motivated enough to jump up into a litter box, I considered ease of entry. I measured the sides of each box and the height of any openings and watched to see whether my cats appeared to have difficulty accessing the boxes. I also observed how my cats responded to each box, noting which they preferred to toilet in more frequently.

Tracking test: For each box, I collected the litter tracked onto the floor over a period of three days, then compared the quantity of litter between boxes. Surprisingly, I found that the litter tracked from every box we tested was roughly equivalent.

Cleaning test: I cleaned each litter box twice daily, noting how easy it was to access and remove the waste and how much litter stuck to the bottom and sides of the pan. After a month of use, I thoroughly cleaned each box, disposing of the litter and wiping it out completely. I noted how challenging the boxes were to clean and approximately how long it took to go from full and dirty to empty and clean.

Size test: Sung explained that cats need a space that is at least 1.5 times their length to scratch at the litter and bury their waste. For this test, I began by measuring the length of each of my two cats when standing in a relaxed position. I then measured the length of each of the litter box contenders and compared the numbers. Larger litter boxes were favored over their smaller counterparts.

FAQs about litter boxes and cat toileting

cat using litter box

How frequently does a cat use their litter box?

The typical cat uses the litter box as many as half-a-dozen times a day, urinating two to four times and defecating once or twice. Every cat, however, is an individual and some go more or less frequently on average. Cleaning your litter boxes daily will help you monitor for behavioral changes that may indicate a health problem such as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

How many litter boxes do I need and what size should they be?

A good general rule of thumb for litter boxes is to have one per cat plus an extra, Sung told us. Each litter box should have enough space to comfortably dig and bury waste with dimensions that are at least 1.5 times the size of the cat.

How often should I clean the litter box?

To keep fastidious felines toileting happily, our experts recommend cleaning the litter box at least once, if not several times, each day.

Do cats like open or closed litter boxes?

Some cats may be intimidated by hooded or covered litter boxes, especially if they are low enough that the cat must crouch to do their business. An open-topped litter pan is the most universally accepted by cats of all types.

What if my cat stops urinating?

Cats are highly susceptible to FLUTD, a range of conditions that affect the bladder, urinary tract and/or urethra. Male cats, in particular, are commonly afflicted with urinary stones or crystals which block urine from being expelled from the body. And when a cat can’t urinate, the toxins that build up can be deadly. A vet has just 24 to 48 hours to remove a blockage and save their life. If a vet is unable to identify FLUTD or other medical problems, a cat who refuses to urinate is likely doing so out of anxiety. To get to the root of the problem, seek out a behaviorist who can help identify and overcome a cat’s triggers.

Why is my cat peeing outside the litter box?

There are a variety of reasons why a cat may urinate outside of their litter box. Inappropriate elimination can occur when a cat dislikes the size or design of their litter box or the style of litter in the pan and has found another location—a pile of laundry, a potted plant, a fluffy rug—that better satisfies their desire to scratch and dig. Inappropriate elimination can also be a sign that a cat dislikes the location of their litter box. A box placed next to a washing machine or too close to the dog’s bed, for example, may cause anxiety that induces them to look for an alternative place to urinate. Lastly, a cat who suddenly begins to urinate outside of their litter box may be attempting to communicate a health issue such as an oncoming FLUTD.

Why am I finding urine on vertical surfaces?

Urine left on vertical surfaces is called marking. Marking is not urination, per say, but the spraying of pheromones, a behavior which they accomplish by raising the tail and backing up to a wall, bookcase, sofa or other location. Most cats who mark do so out of anxiety or because they are experiencing conflict with another animal. Any cat can mark but it most commonly occurs in intact males.

Who we consulted

Prior to making the selections for this guide, we consulted two experts:

  • Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi, cat behavior consultant and owner of Go Cat Go! in San Francisco, California. For two decades, Quagliozzi has worked with cats at the San Francisco SPCA, San Francisco Animal Care and Control, and through his private practice, Go Cat Go! Quagliozzi’s expertise has been featured on Animal Planet and in a variety of other media outlets. We spoke to Quagliozzi via phone in August 2020.
  • Wailani Sung, director of behavior and welfare programs and board-certified veterinary behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA Veterinary Hospital in San Francisco, CA. Sung attended the University of Georgia for both a master’s degree and doctorate in psychology with a special interest in animal behavior. She went on to earn a second doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Sung is one of fewer than 100 board-certified veterinary behaviorists in the United States. She currently directs the San Francisco SPCA’s Behavior Specialty Service and writes on animal behavior for Vetstreet, PetMD, and Healthy Pet magazine. We interviewed Sung via email on March 30, 2020.

We also accessed the following website in March 2020:

 

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The 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An airline-friendly cat carrier is a must if you’re traveling with your pet in cabin.
  • The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier offers an unbeatable combination of quality, durability, pet comfort, and safety features.

If you are traveling by plane, then you’ll need to purchase a pet carrier that meets a particular airline’s regulations, both in terms of size and design. We evaluated cat carriers that are suitable for in-cabin travel based on a number of factors, including durability, size, ventilation, security, and comfort, as well as feedback from experts and our testing results.

While these cat carriers are generally acceptable for use in airplane cabins, check your airline’s requirements before purchasing. Different airlines have different rules and regulations. For instance, United Airlines requires that a soft-sided carrier be no larger than 18-inches long by 11-inches wide by 11-inches high. However, Southwest Airlines allows a slightly larger maximum size of 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches high, and 13.5-inches wide, while Delta Airlines has varying requirements according to the specific flight that you’re on.

You should also research an airline’s general rules for pets before you book, and be sure to have documentation that the airline might require. Your pet may need a veterinary examination and particular vaccines to fly, and if necessary, schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure your travel plans go smoothly.

Here are the 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

The best airline-friendly carrier overall

sleepypod air in cabin pet carrier

The Sleepypod Air offers the durability and comfort your cat needs for frequent travel.

Pros: Compresses to fit under plane seats, durable construction, straps can anchor to a car seat belt, crash-tested

Cons: Heavier than other soft-sided carriers

The Sleepypod Air in-cabin pet carrier offers an ideal blend of a highly durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior to keep your cat both comfortable and safe during travel. The exterior is made of luggage-grade ballistic nylon for strength, and tear-resistant mesh makes this carrier a long-lasting choice.

The Sleepypod Air’s unique design allows you to expand or compress the carrier’s size. When you’re in the car or the airport, your pet can enjoy increased space. Then, compress the carrier when you board so it meets your airline’s requirements and fits underneath a seat.  

A large opening provides easy entry, and there are zipper pockets on both sides for ample storage. Straps on both sides of the carrier can secure to a car seat belt for increased travel safety. This carrier also passed crash-testing conducted by the Center for Pet Safety

The best expandable airline-friendly carrier

mr peanuts gold expandable cat carrier

The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is compact enough to meet most airlines’ size regulations, but also expands to offer your pet extra space.

Pros: Expandable panel for extra room, two entry doors, folds flat for storage, washable interior bed, lightweight

Cons: Hand-wash only, no warranty

To comply with airline regulations, most pet carriers are small and offer limited space. The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier solves the issue with a side flap that folds out — just unzip and, voila, your pet has extra space to stretch out while staying securely inside the carrier.

Top and front entrances make it easy to load and unload your cat and a privacy flap can help keep cats calm. The luggage sleeve and comfortable shoulder strap are particularly beneficial when you have to carry your pet long distances through the airport.

The carrier is made from durable nylon and includes a sturdy but lightweight plywood base. An interior fleece bed is removable and hand-washable. When not in use, the carrier folds completely flat for easy storage. 

The best hard-shell airline-friendly carrier

frisco hard shell kennel

Affordable and easy to assemble, the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers extra protection.

Pros: Sturdy hard shell, ventilation on all sides, easy assembly

Cons: Only two color options, low weight limit, may be too large for some airlines

The Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers your cat the extra protection and spaciousness of a hard-shell carrier in a size that meets most airlines’ regulations. Thanks to the plastic kennel’s durable construction, you don’t have to worry about the occasional bump or nudge to your cat.

There are secure wire mesh doors on both the front and top of the carrier and ventilation openings on all sides. The doors latch securely and the top-mounted handle is strong.

It arrives in two pieces and requires assembly with the included bolts. The carrier is available in a larger 24-inch size, but it’s likely it won’t meet airlines’ regulations.

The best wheeled airline-friendly carrier

katziela rolling carrier

The Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier is easy to pull through the airport and removable wheels ensure it meets size regulations.

Pros: Removable wheels, mesh top can be compressed to fit under a seat, carrying handle and shoulder strap for convenience

Cons: Can tip over if wheels aren’t properly centered, may be too large for some airlines

With the Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier, you can pull the carrier with a telescopic handle, or opt for the handle or shoulder strap. Whichever way you choose to transport your cat, this carrier makes traveling with pets easier.

Six wheels give the carrier extra support, but they’re also easily removable to keep the carrier within the size limit of most airlines.  You can also squish down the top of the carrier to make it fit under a plane seat.

A mesh top and windows give your cat plenty of ventilation. Pockets can hold small supplies, a name tag attached to the handle allows for easy identification, and zippers can be locked to prevent your cat from opening the side flap and escaping. Just make sure you can unlock it, in case of an emergency.

The best budget airline-friendly carrier

frisco travel pet carrier

Affordable and appropriately sized, the Frisco Travel Carrier is a practical option for the occasional trip.

Pros: Front- and top-loading, secure luggage strap, washable interior bed, folds flat for storage, one-year warranty

Cons: Less ventilation, shoulder strap is uncomfortable for shorter individuals

For an affordable option, the Frisco Travel Carrier offers a combination of comfort, durability, and features to make traveling with a pet easier for cats up to 16 pounds.

The durable nylon bag includes doors at top and front and includes privacy flaps. Along with a shoulder strap, there is a luggage sleeve and convenient carrying handles. The removable interior mat provides your cat a soft place to rest.

The downsides: This bag’s ventilation is more limited than that of our top picks. We also found that the shoulder stap lacks padding and can be uncomfortable to carry.

What we’re looking forward to

We’re testing additional airline-friendly carriers for an update to this guide, including the following:

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The 6 best dog tents in 2021 for indoors, camping, and the beach

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Dog tents give pets a safe and comfortable space to relax indoors and outdoors.
  • We found the best dog tents for small and large dogs for use at home, the beach, or when camping.

Dog tents serve many purposes. Tent-shaped beds for indoor use give your pet a comfortable place to relax without distractions, something shy or anxious dogs may benefit from. Outdoor dog tents made from durable materials and with mesh windows for airflow give pooches a chance to rest under shade after a day of outdoor adventures. These convenient tents can be transported for outings, be it to the beach, a camping trip, or an RV adventure.

Here are the best dog tents in 2021

The best dog tent overall

Good for pups who appreciate a cozy place to rest

The Pickle and Polly Dog Teepee Tent will keep your small to medium-size dog cozy, while standing up to rough playtime.

What we like: Sturdy materials, comfortable fabrics, easily washable

If you have a small to medium-size playful companion who loves covered safe spaces, this tent bed will provide them comfort. A thick cushion also ensures that the tent will be a welcoming refuge come bedtime. Made of medium-weight materials and pine wood supports, the tent can withstand the antics of puppies and roughhousing dogs and washable fabrics and a removable cushion make for easy upkeep. It comes in gray or white. 

The best tent bed for small dogs

Privacy for small dogs with plenty of room to stretch

The Best Pet Supplies Tent Bed provides an enclosed yet surprisingly spacious area for your small furry companion.

What we like: Contemporary design, spacious for its dimensions, durable and washable materials

For your small dog who enjoys privacy, this tent offers a surprisingly roomy space for dogs. With a cushion bed and thick soft walls to keep warmth in, this tent will be inviting to your dog. The bed’s polyfoam lining molds to your pet’s body to provide comfort. The tent is wrapped in a classic linen fabric and comes in nine different colors and patterns to match any home decor. Washable materials ensure that it can be your pet’s clean and comfortable resting spot for a long time to come.

The best tent bed for large dogs

An easy-to-assemble and portable safe space for large dogs

The roomy K&H Pet Products Original Pet Cot House provides even the largest dogs with a space to relax and keep cool.

What we like: Safe for dogs up to 200 pounds, multiple windows for good airflow, waterproof mesh bed, easy to assemble

The K&H Pet Products Original Pet Cot House is a sturdy covered cot that is ideal for large dogs. The nylon mesh bed and elevated legs will help keep your dog dry and cool on a porch or lawn. It’s roomy, measuring 30 inches by 42 inches, and has two windows plus an open entrance that provide good air circulation. The cot is easy to assemble and both the cover and canopy are machine washable.

The best dog tent for camping

A lightweight and airy dog tent for camping adventures

The Alcott Pup Tent is a lightweight, durable tent that ensures you never have to leave your dog behind when going camping.

What we like: Portable and lightweight at only 1.5 pounds, 5 windows for air circulation, ground stakes to keep in place, roomy enough for a large dog

The Alcott Pup Tent is easy to transport but still roomy for your dog at 28 inches by 45 inches in size. The green nylon tent comes with durable tent poles and four ground stakes. Five mesh windows in addition to a zippered entrance keep your dog cool while providing them with ample opportunity to take in their surroundings. It’s a good idea to apply waterproofing spray before your outing.   

The best outdoor dog tent

Great for keeping your pup by your side in the heat of summer

The Midlee Dog Cot with Canopy has an elevated mesh platform and a sun shade to keep your dog cool all summer long.

What we like: Comes in sizes ranging from small to extra large, wide canopy coverage, mesh bed for air circulation, easy to assemble.

This airy and shady cot with a removable canopy is a great way to spend time with your dog outdoors in the summer. The raised mesh bed will ensure your dog gets a lot of ventilation, and the generous canopy coverage will keep the sun off your dog at almost any time of day. This green cot can be easily disassembled and brought along for outings to the beach and park or on RV road trips.

The best dog play tent

A convenient tent for both dogs and their owners

The Purrfect Fence Play Tent is a secure way to let small dogs enjoy the outdoors safely.

What we like: Spacious, easy to set up, lightweight and portable, comes with weather cover

The Purrfect Fence Play Tent is a roomy 76 inches by 62 inches in size and perfect for keeping small dogs safe and secure outdoors. Pups can easily see through the mesh panels to observe all the happenings. If the sun is harsh or there is light rain, you can place the included weather guard over the top of the tent. We also recommend covering the mesh floor with a comfortable blanket.

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