The 4 best dog life jackets in 2021, with advice from veterinarians and pet safety experts

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A life jacket can prevent a dog from drowning and is recommended when a dog is in or around water.
  • Six experts shared what they look for in a dog life vest, such as strong handles and bright colors.
  • The best dog life jacket is the affordable, sturdy Outward Hound Granby Ripstop Life Jacket.
  • 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.

Some dogs seem born for the water while others would rather keep their paws firmly planted on the earth. But there’s one thing both water babies and poolside loungers have in common: A dog life jacket can keep accidents in and around the water from turning into tragedies.

No one life vest is ideal for dogs of every size, shape, and ability. Fiona McGlynn, contributing editor at BoatUS Magazine, told Insider Reviews that the best life jacket is one that fits properly, is comfortable in water and on land, and has plenty of functionality like durable handles and well-balanced flotation. We carefully considered the advice of McGlynn and five other dog water safety experts when developing our selection criteria for the best dog life jackets in this guide.

Here are the best dog life jackets in 2021

How we chose the best life jackets for dogs

There are currently no standards or certifications to guide pet guardians when selecting a quality dog life vest. “Unlike human flotation devices, canine flotation devices are not regulated,” said Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety in Reston, Virginia. “There has been very little scientific examination of the flotation needs of pets.”

For this guide to the best dog life jackets, we relied on the recommendations and experience of the experts we consulted, as well as two studies conducted on dog life vests in the 2010s. With the help of these resources, we came up with the following checklist of essential features, then used it to conduct a thorough analysis of the dog life jackets currently on the market. Those that best met the criteria were selected as winners.

The best dog life jacket overall

Best dog life jackets in 2021 plus water safety tips for dogs

The Outward Hound Granby Ripstop Life Jacket is built with comfort, safety, and affordability in mind for small and large dogs, alike.

Pros: Neoprene belly band, three adjustable straps, foam chin float, larger sizes have two lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, affordable, available in five sizes

Cons: Only comes in one color, hand wash only

Whether your dog is big or small, a natural swimmer or a natural sinker, the Outward Hound Granby Ripsto Life Jacket offers protection and comfort in and out of the water. In the 2012 dog life jacket evaluation conducted by the BoatUS Foundation, this one excelled in every category and was favored by the testing staff for dogs of all sizes.

The Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket is made of thick, buoyant foam panels inside a ripstop nylon shell. A flexible neoprene band fitted with three Velcro strips and two adjustable, quick-release buckle straps wraps around the belly. A third strap buckles at the chest.

A foam chin panel on the chest strap helps keep a dog’s head above the water, a feature veterinarian Gabrielle Fadl, medical director and vet at Bond Vet in New York City, likes to see in a dog life vest. In their tests, the BoatUS Foundation found the Granby’s flotation foam evenly distributed enough to keep a dog horizontal in the water. Out of the water, they noted that dogs wearing the vest appeared comfortable and their movement was not restricted.

While the extra-small and small sizes have one solid, padded handle for pulling a pup out of the water, the medium, large and extra-large jackets have two handles for better leverage and more comfortable lifting. The vest comes with multiple reflective accents that improve the likelihood of spotting a dog in the water. 

The Granby Life Vest is remarkably affordable, even for extra-large dogs. No matter their size, ability, or familiarity with the water, this is an excellent life jacket for every dog.

The best neoprene dog life jacket

Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket worn by an australian shepherd

The snug, low-profile neoprene Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket is insulated and comfortable in and out of the water.

Pros: Neoprene provides additional insulation and warmth, three adjustable straps, has a foam chin float, larger sizes have two lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in five sizes

Cons: Straps may rub on barrel-chested or chubby dogs, only comes in one color

Neoprene dog life jackets are less bulky and more comfortable than other vests. They also offer insulation to keep a dog’s body temperature from dropping drastically in cold water. Even with its sleek design, the side panels of the Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket are packed with plenty of foam to keep even novice swimmers afloat.

The jacket has a neoprene belly panel fitted with two adjustable buckles. A third adjustable buckle strap at the chest has a foam insert to help keep a dog’s head above water. Unlike some of the other designs we selected for this guide, the straps do make contact with the dog’s skin at the edges, which could cause some discomfort and rubbing after a long day at the water’s edge, especially if your pup has a barrel-chest or a chubby belly.

This life vest comes in five sizes. The extra-small and small sizes have one sturdy handle at the back for lifting a dog out of the water in an emergency, while the larger sizes have two straps for better leverage. The Dawson Life Jacket has reflective accents for better visibility in the water.

In their dog life jacket evaluation, the BoatUS Foundation found that thinner neoprene vests like this one tend to bunch up less on a dog that is sitting or lying down out of the water, making them more comfortable overall. That combined with the additional warmth and insulation provided by the neoprene material make this as good of a choice for dogs who spend a lot of time in the water as it is for dogs who prefer to sun themselves on deck.

The best life jacket for small dogs

Dog wearing Ruffwear float coat dog life jacket while standing on a paddleboard

The high-quality Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Jacket fits snugly for dogs as little as 13 inches in length.

Pros: Two adjustable buckles and an adjustable telescoping chest strap, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in six sizes and three colors, D-ring for attaching a leash, machine washable

Cons: Pricey, no chin float

For smaller dogs, a life jacket should have the right balance of buoyancy and comfort without so much foam or fabric that it overwhelms little swimmers. The Ruffwear Float Coat, available in sizes for dogs as small as 13-inches long, has a tailored fit packed with foam flotation that doesn’t hinder the movement of short legs. 

Mark and Kristi Jagger, dog surfing instructors with the So Cal Surf Dogs Club in San Diego, California, told us that this jacket seems to fit the best and the handle on top of the coat makes for easy water retrieval. A 2017 study identified this vest as the best of those tested for keeping an incapacitated dog afloat in open water

The Float Coat wraps around the belly and secures with two adjustable buckle straps. The chest strap has an adjustable telescoping design that slips over the head. Depending on fit, the belly straps may partially rub against the skin or cause discomfort. Its nylon sides are packed with closed-cell foam, which helps to keep a dog upright while swimming. One sturdy handle is sewn into the back of the vest and there is also a D-ring for attaching a leash and a loop for hanging a light. It does not have a chin float.

This jacket comes in three bright colors, but McGlynn recommends skipping the blue one which would be harder to see in the water, even with the vest’s reflective trim. The jacket also comes in six sizes and can be washed in a machine on the gentle cycle in cold water, then hung to dry. Like all Ruffwear products, the Float Coat comes with a hefty price tag but with its durable construction, it will last and last.

While the jacket will work for any size dog, its snug fit and small sizes will keep little pups afloat in the water without compromising mobility or comfort.

The best life jacket for large dogs

golden retriever wearing Kurgo surf n turf life jacket for dogs.

The Kurgo Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket scallop design and double lifting handles work well for large breeds both in and out of the water.

Pros: Three adjustable straps, two sturdy lifting handles, reflective accents for better visibility, comes in five sizes, two D-rings for attaching a leash, removable flotation layer, doubles as an on-land nylon vest, inner layer is machine washable

Cons: Moderately pricey, only comes in one color, no chin float

Kurgo’s Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket is built tough for large, active dogs. The vest earned the highest score for extra-large pups in the BoatUS Foundation’s evaluation where reviewers particularly liked its two perpendicular lifting handles for hauling a dog out of the water and its scalloped design, which fit the shoulders and rear haunches well.

This jacket is also more versatile than the others we considered for this guide. It has two built-in detachable layers, one stuffed with foam for flotation, the other a simple nylon ripstop shell that can be worn as an extra layer for on-land adventures. This vest has two adjustable buckle straps on its belly panel and a third adjustable strap at the chest. Two metal D-rings are sewn into the top of the vest, one of which doubles as a bottle opener. It does not have a chin float.

Kurgo’s Surf N’ Turf Dog Life Jacket comes in five sizes but only one color: red with grey reflective trim. The inner layer is machine washable on the gentle cycle after removing the flotation device. It should be hung to dry. While the jacket is moderately pricey, it comes with Kurgo’s lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects.

With its two-layer design, solid double lifting straps, and athletic fit and styling, the Kurgo Surf N’ Turf is a sturdy option for large breed swimming and sea-faring dogs.

FAQs about dog water safety

dog wearing ruffwear life jacket and dog without life jacket, both in water.jpg

Learning about the risks dogs face when in and around the water can help ensure they stay safe. We tackle some of the most frequently asked questions below.

Can all dogs swim?

 “While doggy paddling is instinctual to many dogs, not all dogs know how to swim,” said Fadl. “It’s crucial to allow your dog time to learn, and their time in the water should always be supervised for their safety.”


What dogs are more vulnerable to danger in the water?

Whereas some dogs are natural water babies, others may be more likely to experience challenges, even if they’ve entered the water willingly. McGlynn told us that older pups or those with limited mobility may be more likely to tire out when swimming and, when tired, may be more susceptible to dangers like rip currents. Dogs with lower body fat like greyhounds and boxers may also struggle in the water if their body temperature drops too low.


For what activities should a dog wear a life jacket?

Anytime a dog is in or around water, even if it’s just a swimming pool, a life vest is worth considering. Accidents can happen even if you have a strong swimmer. Boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are all activities in which a dog should wear a life vest and in dog surfing, life vests are mandatory. “A lot of dog owners use them for fun on the beach, too,” said McGlynn. “Just swimming and retrieving, there could be currents that pull them out.” Ultimately, though, it’s up to pet parents to determine whether their dog should wear a life jacket based on the dog’s experience in and around the water, said Wolko.


Should my dog wear a life jacket around the pool?

If you have a dog that has spent little time around a pool, putting them in a life vest is just common sense, said Wolko. Only after a dog has been properly introduced to a pool, including how to use the stairs to exit the water, is it okay for strong-swimming dogs to go life vest free. Even if your dog has pool experience, they should wear a life vest when visiting unfamiliar pools that may be designed differently.


What color life jacket is best spotted in the water?

All of the experts we consulted told us dog life vests are easiest to spot in the water when they are brightly colored. “Colors like blue and gray are not going to stand out as well in the water,” said McGlynn. Reflective accents sewn into the exterior also help improve visibility.


Can a dog still drown while wearing a life jacket?

Unfortunately, it is possible for a dog to drown while wearing a life vest. “Dogs who are not well supported from a flotation perspective can panic or tire from treading water, increasing the risk of drowning,” said Wolko. Dogs wearing life jackets may also face extreme danger if they become trapped under the water or if waves or rapids are splashing in their nose and mouth, McGlynn added. A life jacket that is properly fitted can help minimize the risk, as can educating yourself about canine water safety before enjoying the water.

How to fit your dog for a life vest

A life jacket that fits properly is essential to keeping a dog safe in and around the water. The best way to ensure proper fit is to take your pup into a brick-and-mortar store to try your options rather than ordering online, according to several of our experts. Because dogs come in so many different shapes and sizes, what fits one comfortably may not be appropriate for another.

When fitting a dog for a life jacket, McGlynn told us to look for a vest that fits snugly but has no buckles or straps that are tight enough to ride up or rub against the skin. She also suggested examining how the life jacket fits both when a dog is lying down and standing up. If your dog will be wearing a life vest for several hours, it should be comfortable in every position.

Chest girth, neck girth, and weight are also crucial considerations when fitting a dog for a life jacket. Take the following measurements to narrow down the size that’s right for your pup.

Chest girth: A dog life vest is fitted according to the width and shape of a dog’s chest. To get their chest girth, measure the circumference around the widest part of the chest right behind the front legs. You’ll get the most accurate reading when your dog is standing in a relaxed position. If their chest girth falls between sizes, choose the larger option.

Neck girth: A dog life vest should not be so tight around the front of the chest and neck that it may press against the windpipe. To determine girth, measure the circumference of your dog’s neck around it’s thickest part, just below the collar. When in doubt, size up! 

Weight: While you can’t fit a dog for a life jacket by knowing their weight alone, it’s important to make sure the vest size you’ve chosen can support their weight in the water. If your dog is heavier than recommended for the life jacket that fits them best, either size up or look for a different brand that is labeled for their weight.

Our sources

To come up with the selections for this guide, we consulted with a variety of experts on dog water safety including a veterinarian and surf dog instructors. Each answered questions via phone or email in March 2021. Our advisors include:

We also consulted the following online sources:

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.

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

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

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

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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:

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best dog shampoos in 2021, according to a veterinarian

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bathing your dog helps keep their skin and coat clean, healthy, and moisturized.
  • Dog shampoos are gentle on a dog’s sensitive skin and can be used to manage skin conditions, such as allergies.
  • Our top pick for the best dog shampoo is Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo, an organic, all-natural shampoo.
  • 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.

Bathing your dog is a key aspect of responsible dog ownership. A good bath with a high-quality dog shampoo helps keep a dog’s skin and coat clean, healthy, and moisturized. Whether a dog bath is fun or feels like a chore to you, the dog shampoo you use plays a big part in maintaining optimal skin and coat health.

As a veterinarian, I understand that a dog’s skin and coat are windows into a dog’s health. Many factors, such as environmental allergies, can make a dog’s skin itchy, dry, and irritated. Likewise, systemic health conditions like malnutrition can cause a dog’s hair to become dry, brittle, and possibly fall out. Regular bathing, along with a healthy diet and routine preventive care, plays an important factor in a dog’s overall health and well-being.

Dog shampoos are not one-size-fits-all, though. For example, there are whitening shampoos for dogs with white fur. There are also dog shampoos that are formulated to kill fleas and ticks, as well as shampoos that cater specifically to a puppy’s sensitive skin.

With so many types of dog shampoos, it can be challenging to decide which one is best for your dog. To help you narrow down your choices, I researched 14 dog shampoos and evaluated them using multiple criteria, including ingredients, ease of use, and purpose (e.g, flea and tick prevention).

For additional insight on dog shampoos, I interviewed Karen Todd-Jenkins, a relief veterinarian in Trenton, New Jersey, and Cherese Sullivan, a relief veterinarian in Houston, Texas.

Individual dogs can have specific bathing needs, so work with your veterinarian to determine how often you should bathe your dog and what type of shampoo you can use to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy.

Here are the best dog shampoos in 2021

The best dog shampoo overall

earthbath oatmeal and aloe shampoo bottle

Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo is an organic, all-natural, hypoallergenic shampoo that soothes and moisturizes the skin without causing any additional irritation.

Pros: All-natural and organic ingredients, soothes and moisturizes the skin, does not wash away topical flea and tick treatments, lathers well and rinses easily, free of soap and synthetic fragrances, 100% biodegradable, safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age

Cons: Might not be effective if a lot of dirt is present

The ideal dog shampoo will do more than just clean your dog and make them smell good; it will also restore moisture to their skin and leave their fur feeling soft. Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo does all of these things, while also being gently formulated and safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age, making it our top overall choice.

The shampoo is especially useful for dogs with sensitive skin. Skin conditions like environmental allergies to dust and pollen can make a dog’s skin itchy and extra-sensitive. Other substances, such as synthetic fragrances, can also irritate a dog’s skin and cause persistent itchiness. Dogs with sensitive skin need a shampoo that is hypoallergenic, meaning it is free of ingredients that could irritate the skin.

The colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera in this shampoo relieve itchiness and restore the skin’s moisture. It is free of ingredients like soap and synthetic fragrances that could cause further skin irritation or allergy flare-ups. Its fragrance is from natural vanilla and almond oils.

The shampoo is 100% biodegradable, cruelty-free, and will not wash off topical flea and tick treatments.

The best flea and tick shampoo for dogs

image of a bottle of sentry flea tick shampoo for dogs

Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo with Oatmeal for Dogs and Puppies works quickly to kill fleas and ticks for up to 10 days.

Pros: Free of pyrethrin, kills fleas quickly, soothes irritated skin, lathers well, safe for puppies at least 12 weeks of age

Cons: May stop working sooner than expected, scent may fade quickly

Flea and tick prevention comes with the territory of dog ownership. Although flea and tick preventives, such as topical spot-on treatments, are the primary and most effective form of prevention, flea and tick shampoos can provide additional protection from these tiny pests.

Sentry Flea and Tick Shampoo with Oatmeal for Dogs and Puppies earned the top spot for flea and tick shampoos. Importantly, it is free of pyrethrin, a synthetic insecticide that is commonly found in flea and tick shampoos. “Pyrethrin-based flea shampoos should be avoided because pyrethrin can be toxic to puppies and small dogs,” says Sullivan.

Instead of pyrethrin, this shampoo has the synthetic insecticide permethrin, which quickly and effectively kills fleas and ticks, including deer ticks. It also contains piperonyl butoxide, which enhances permethrin’s flea- and tick-killing abilities.

This formula includes oatmeal to soothe skin that’s become red and irritated from the near-constant scratching from flea and tick bites. It is safe for puppies at least 12 weeks of age.

The shampoo should be left on for at least five minutes to work most effectively. It lathers well, so a little goes a long way.

Flea and tick shampoos are medicated shampoos and should be used only when directed by a veterinarian. Skin conditions often have similar symptoms, like irritated skin. So, what looks like a flea problem might be something else, such as a yeast infection. “I normally discourage using a medicated shampoo unless we know what we’re treating,” says Todd-Jenkins.

The best waterless shampoo for dogs

a dog being sprayed with begleys waterless dog shampoo

Begley’s Natural No-Rinse Waterless Pet Shampoo provides a thorough waterless clean with natural ingredients.

Pros: Natural ingredients, distributes quickly across the skin and coat, does not leave a residue, 100% biodegradable, cruelty-free

Cons: Sprayer may break, scent is short-lived

There are times when a full dog bath isn’t convenient or practical. Begley’s Natural No-Rinse Waterless Pet Shampoo is an easy-to-apply, lightly scented shampoo that cleans and deodorizes without drying the skin.

This shampoo for puppies and adult dogs contains a proprietary natural enzyme blend that provides a deep clean by removing the residues of protein, fat, and starch from a dog’s fur and skin. It also contains naturally occurring biosurfactants, which are produced by microbes and give an extra boost to the shampoo’s cleaning power.

It is available in four different natural, essential oil-based fragrances: lavender, citrus, oatmeal mango, and tea tree. The ingredients are biodegradable, making it a safe choice for dogs and the environment.

The shampoo distributes quickly and easily across a dog’s skin and coat and doesn’t leave any product residue after it’s wiped off with a towel. For the face, the manufacturer recommends spraying the shampoo on a damp cloth first and then gently rubbing the face, being careful to avoid a dog’s eyes.

“Waterless shampoos are often helpful in specific situations, such as after surgery when a dog’s incision site has to stay dry,” says Sullivan. Dogs that suffer from incontinence or don’t like being bathed can also benefit from the quick cleans that a waterless shampoo provides. Waterless shampoos are a good solution when there’s a long time between grooming appointments.

Be mindful that waterless shampoos might not provide the same level of cleaning that a bath can provide. Bathing a dog with water and shampoo does a superior job of mechanically removing dirt and debris from the fur, says Todd-Jenkins.

The best shampoo for puppies

earthbath ultra mild puppy shampoo bottle

Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo is a gentle, tear-free shampoo that contains natural and organic ingredients for cleaning puppies and detangling their coats.

Pros: Tear-free formula, natural and organic ingredients, does not wash away topical flea and tick treatments, free of soap, lathers and rinses well, safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age

Cons: Cherry scent may be off-putting

Unlike other puppy shampoos that we considered that contained synthetic ingredients, Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo uses natural and organic ingredients to clean, condition, and detangle, making it our top choice for puppy shampoos.

A puppy’s skin is more sensitive than an adult dog’s skin. Because of this, puppy shampoos are formulated to be extra-gentle while still being effective at cleaning and moisturizing the skin and coat. This shampoo contains ingredients such as aloe vera and various vitamins to moisturize and nourish a puppy’s skin and coat.

The shampoo is safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age and does not wash off topical flea and tick treatments. For the first few weeks of life, puppies have trouble regulating their body temperature, so they can get cold easily. Because of this, it is recommended that puppies not be bathed until they are at least 6 to 8 weeks old, after they’re better at regulating their body temperature.

Earthbath Ultra-Mild Puppy Shampoo lathers well and rinses easily, which helps if you have a squirmy puppy that doesn’t like to hold still for a long bath. The gentle, tear-free formula will not sting a puppy’s eyes, but it’s a good idea to take extra care to avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth when bathing a dog.

The best whitening shampoo for dogs

chris christensen white on white dog shampoo bottle

Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo for Pets is gently formulated to whiten and brighten a dog’s coat.

Pros: Free of bleaching ingredients, gentle formula does not irritate the skin, lathers and rinses easily, light scent, can be used on all coat colors, lasts up to 4 weeks

Cons: May leave a purple tint on the fur if not used properly, puppies may not sit still for the 10 minutes that the product must stay on

Dogs with white fur need more than just a regular shampoo. They need a shampoo that also removes discoloring stains (e.g., urine and food stains) that are more obvious on white coats.

Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo for Pets whitens and brightens a dog’s fur for four weeks without relying on harsh chemicals like bleaching agents. It also removes yellow stains and provides a deep clean. As a bonus, the shampoo can be used on dogs with any coat color to increase the fur’s luster.

Whitening shampoos are primarily classified as bluing, enzymatic, or clarifying. Bluing shampoos, also called optical brighteners, contain blue or purple color enhancers that absorb and reflect light to hide stains. Enzymatic shampoos break down proteins that cause discoloration. Clarifying shampoos strip dirt from the hair cuticles.

This shampoo has a purple color that provides the optical brightening effect. It should be left on for up to 10 minutes; if left on for longer, it may leave a slight purple tint on the fur.

Although the shampoo’s formula is gentle, the manufacturer recommends testing the shampoo in a small skin area if a dog has allergies. It is safe for use in puppies at least 16 weeks of age and adult dogs.

How we selected dog shampoos

We consulted with two veterinarians to learn more about dog shampoos. They did not provide specific product recommendations but did lend their clinical expertise regarding how dog shampoos can be used for different purposes, such as soothing itchy skin or whitening the fur.

We also researched how dog shampoos work. For example, we studied the common insecticides — permethrin and pyrethrin — found in flea and tick dog shampoos.

Here are the selection criteria that we used to evaluate shampoos:

  • Ingredients: We analyzed the ingredients list of each shampoo to identify natural and synthetic ingredients. Preference was given to shampoos that contained 100%, or nearly 100%, natural ingredients.
  • Age: Except for puppy shampoos, shampoos were rated higher if they were safe for puppies and adult dogs. They were rated lower if they were for use only in adult dogs or did not specify an age group or life stage on the product label.
  • Ease of use: We read customer reviews to determine how convenient the shampoos were to use. For example, more preference was given to shampoos that lathered and rinsed out well than those that lathered poorly.
  • Scent: Shampoos with light, long-lasting scents were rated more highly than shampoos with an off-putting or short-lived scent.
  • Purpose: Shampoos that delivered on their claims, according to customer reviews, were rated more highly than those that were not as effective as promised.
  • Safety for puppies: Preference was given to shampoos that were safe for use in puppies over those that were either only for adult dogs or did not indicate safety for puppies on the product label.

What else we considered

  • Oster Oatmeal Essentials 4-in-1 Dog Shampoo: Oster Oatmeal Essentials 4-in-1 Dog Shampoo contains natural oatmeal, vitamin B5, and coconut-based cleansers to clean, condition, soothe, and detangle. We liked that this shampoo is multipurpose. However, the product label did not indicate whether it was safe for puppies, earning the shampoo a lower ranking.
  • Natural Chemistry Natural Flea and Tick Shampoo for Dogs: Natural Chemistry’s Flea and Tick Shampoo is free of pyrethrin and contains natural botanical extracts, such as cedar oil, to repel fleas and ticks. It also targets other pests, such as mites and mosquitoes. However, natural flea and tick repellents are less effective than synthetic insecticides. “By the time an owner spends weeks or months trying to use a natural product to control fleas, their house (and all their pets) might be infested,” says Todd-Jenkins.
  • Greenbone Lavender and Chamomile Dog Shampoo: Greenbone Lavender and Chamomile Dog Shampoo uses natural ingredients to repel fleas and ticks. It did not earn our top choice because, like Natural Chemistry Natural Flea and Shampoo for Dogs, its natural repellants are less effective than synthetic insecticides. Also, products that contain essential oils are not safe for use in households with cats, Sullivan told us.
  • Well & Good Hypoallergenic Shampoo: Well & Good Hypoallergenic Shampoo contains natural ingredients: shea butter to moisturize the skin and honey to add luster and shine to the coat. It is unscented, making it a good choice for dogs that are sensitive to fragrance. This shampoo lost out to Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo because it is more expensive for the same quantity of product.
  • Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Hypoallergenic Shampoo: This shampoo contains natural ingredients, such as lactic acid, to maintain skin moisture and allantoin to relieve dry, scaly, and irritated skin. It did not earn our top ranking because it is indicated for use in adult dogs only.
  • Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo with Apple and Honey for Dogs: Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo is a 99.7% natural shampoo that can be used when a bath with water isn’t practical. We liked the natural ingredients in the shampoo, but the shampoo’s scent is off-putting and short-lived.
  • Hartz Groomer’s Best Waterless 3-in-1 Solution Dog Shampoo: Hartz Waterless Shampoo cleans, freshens, and deodorizes without the need for water. Also, a little goes a long way, and the shampoo does not leave residue on a dog’s coat or skin. However, its ingredients are nearly all synthetic, including synthetic fragrance, earning this product a lower rating.
  • Synergy Lab’s Veterinary Formula Solutions Puppy Love Shampoo: Synergy Lab’s Puppy Shampoo is a gentle, tear-free formula that is safe for puppies at least 6 weeks of age. It lathers well, but its thick consistency makes it challenging to rinse out. The shampoo’s scent can last for up to a week after a bath, but the light fragrance may not be enough for some pet parents.
  • Wahl White Pear Brightening Shampoo for Pets: Wahl’s White Pear Brightening Shampoo contains plant-derived ingredients and has a pleasant pear scent. Although the shampoo is purple, it does not turn the dog’s coat purple. It has a thick consistency and lathers well but may come out of the bottle too quickly at bath time. And it contains more synthetic ingredients than what we found in Chris Christensen White on White Shampoo for Pets, our top choice of whitening shampoos.
  • Nature’s Miracle Supreme Odor Control Natural Whitening Dog Shampoo: Nature’s Miracle Whitening Shampoo contains natural ingredients, such as awaphui extract, to naturally whiten a dog’s coat. It lathers and rinses out easily and has a pleasant scent that is not overpowering. It did not earn the top ranking because it’s formulated for use only in adult dogs.

FAQs

a person drying a dog off with a towel after a bath

Deciding on a dog shampoo can be challenging, so pet parents like yourself commonly have questions about the shampoos and dog skin conditions.

Can I use human shampoo on a dog?

The short answer is no. The skin has a pH, which indicates how acidic something is: the lower the pH, the more acidic. The pH of human skin is approximately 5, while canine skin pH is slightly higher (5.5 to 7.5), meaning that human skin is more acidic than canine skin.

Shampoo for human skin is too acidic for a dog’s skin and could irritate a dog’s eyes. “In general, I advise pet owners to use pet-specific shampoos whenever possible,” says Todd-Jenkins.

When should I see the vet for my dog’s skin problems?

Dog shampoos can work well at managing various skin conditions in dogs, but they are not a cure-all for skin problems. Skin conditions often need veterinary care to be adequately controlled and treated. Here are some indications for when you should take your dog to your vet for skin issues:

  • Hair loss
  • Bad odor on the skin
  • Skin lesions, such as ulcers
  • Lumps and bumps on the skin
  • Excessive chewing, scratching, and licking
  • Skin problems that appear suddenly and worsen quickly

The earlier that you can take your dog to the veterinarian, the better, notes Sullivan. “Early intervention leads to quicker recovery, comfort, and, often, less expense,” she says.

What is the best type of shampoo for my dog?

That depends on various factors, such as your dog’s skin and coat health. For example, if your dog has dry and itchy skin from environmental allergies, a shampoo for sensitive skin would be a good choice. If you live in an area with abundant fleas and ticks, a flea and tick shampoo could accompany your dog’s flea and tick preventative. Puppies need specific puppy shampoo that is formulated for their extra-sensitive skin.

Your veterinarian can help you determine the type of shampoo that would be best for your dog.

The importance of bathing your dog

Bathing is part of the overall grooming process, which includes regular brushing and nail trims. But why is bathing so important? Bathing has many benefits, which our experts pointed out:

  • Prevents matting of the hair
  • Promotes skin exfoliation
  • Removes loose hair
  • Cleans dirt and debris from the coat

Bathing your dog also allows you to check for external parasites, such as fleas and ticks, explains Todd-Jenkins. Bath time also gets a dog used to being touched, promoting a strong human-animal bond, she adds.

Bathing Do’s and Don’ts

Whether you’re new to dog baths or have been bathing your dog for a while, there are some bathing do’s and don’ts that are good to keep in mind, according to our experts.

Do’s

  • Do bathe your dog regularly to prevent matting. Most dogs do just fine with one bath a month, but check with your veterinarian to determine a good bathing frequency for your dog.
  • Do contact your veterinarian if you notice any skin abnormalities, such as scabs, hot spots, or bald spots, at bath time.
  • Do use age-appropriate shampoos. This is especially important for puppies because shampoo product labels might not indicate a minimum age (e.g., 6 weeks of age). “When in doubt, err on the side of caution,” advises Todd-Jenkins.
  • Do pay attention to your dog’s behavior at bath time. Are they anxious or uncomfortable? Your veterinarian can recommend strategies to reduce your dog’s bathing anxieties.
  • Do go to a groomer if bathing your dog at home is proving to be too difficult for you. If your dog needs a medicated shampoo, take that shampoo to the groomer.

Don’ts

  • Don’t use human shampoos, unless advised by your veterinarian, because the pH is too acidic for a dog’s skin.
  • Don’t use medicated shampoo unless recommended or prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Don’t assume that all herbal or organic ingredients in dog shampoos are safe. Check with your veterinarian if you are unsure about the safety of a particular shampoo’s ingredients.

Our sources

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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 4 best dog dewormers and parasite prevention medicines in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Intestinal parasites pose serious risks to your dog’s health.
  • The best dog dewormers treat many common intestinal parasites and are easy to administer.
  • We did the research to determine the best topical and oral parasite prevention medicine for dogs.
  • 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.

Intestinal parasites, often called worms, are microscopic organisms that live inside your dog, where they silently cause harm. Common intestinal parasites in dogs include roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Some worms, like roundworms and hookworms, can take up residence in humans, too.

If your dog has worms, you need to eradicate them quickly and prevent them from returning. Deworming medications kill the parasites your dog already has, and intestinal parasite preventives, most of which are given monthly, prevent future worm infections. Some products also kill fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

Choosing among the many safe and effective parasite preventives for dogs can be difficult. After speaking to veterinarians, we chose products based on safety, efficacy, number of parasites targeted, and products’ ease of use. Read more about how we selected products at the end of this guide.

Different drugs kill different worms, so you must always visit your veterinarian for a fecal test before giving your dog a dewormer. Your veterinarian can advise you on what product might be best depending on your dog’s temperament and lifestyle and the parasites that are most prevalent in your area. Many of these treatments also require a prescription from your veterinarian.

Here are the best dog dewormers and parasite preventives in 2021

The best broad-spectrum dewormer for dogs

drontal plus dewormer for dogs

No other dog dewormer kills as many different types of worms as Drontal Plus.

Pros: Veterinarian recommended, kills four types of worms, safe and reliable, kills all parasites within seven days, low risk for side effects

Cons: Not for puppies younger than 3 weeks old or those weighing less than 2 pounds

Drontal Plus is a safe and effective broad-spectrum dewormer that eliminates multiple types of parasites with one dose. It kills tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms within seven days. Just offer the Drontal Plus Taste Tab flavored chewable tablet to your dog alone or with a small amount of food.

Drontal Plus features three powerful active ingredients: pyrantel pamoate, praziquantel, and febantel, which together cover four species of tapeworms, two species of hookworms, two species of roundworms, and whipworms.

The dewormer has a very low risk for side effects and is safe for puppies as young as 3 weeks old and weighing at least 2 pounds. It requires a prescription from your veterinarian, and a vet visit is also important because your dog may have other parasites that even a broad-spectrum dewormer can’t eliminate.

When using a broad-spectrum dewormer like Drontal Plus, your dog may require one or more follow-up treatments to make sure all the worms are eliminated. If your dog has fleas, they should also be treated with a flea control product to prevent future tapeworm infections.

The best tapeworm dewormer for dogs

droncit tapeworm medicine for dogs

A single dose of Droncit safely and quickly kills tapeworms within 24 hours.

Pros: Kills four species of tapeworms, works within 24 hours, easy-to-administer tablet, long-trusted brand, affordably priced per pill

Cons: Some dogs may experience salivation, vomiting, or diarrhea after taking; not for puppies less than 4 weeks old

One Droncit tablet works to paralyze and eliminate the four most common species of tapeworms within 24 hours. Its active ingredient, praziquantel, is effective and safe for adult dogs and puppies 4 weeks of age and older. The tablet can be fed whole or crumbled and mixed with food.

The treatment is conveniently and affordably sold per pill, unlike the other tapeworm dewormer we considered, Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer, which contains the same active ingredient praziquantel but is only sold in a five-pack.

Dogs commonly become infected with tapeworms by ingesting fleas. For this reason, it’s important to treat your dog for fleas to prevent future infections.

The best oral parasite preventive for dogs

trifexis oral dewormer

Trifexis treats and controls three common intestinal parasites, kills adult fleas, and prevents heartworm infection with just one monthly chewable pill. 

Pros: Protects against three intestinal parasites, heartworms, and adult fleas; once-monthly treatment; safe for dogs and puppies 8 weeks of age and older weighing at least 5 pounds; tablet is easy to administer

Cons: Does not kill or treat tapeworms, not labeled for use in puppies younger than 8 weeks or weighing less than 5 pounds

Our pick for best oral parasite preventive for dogs is Trifexis, a chewable tablet that treats and controls hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. It also kills adult fleas and prevents heartworm.

Given once every 30 days, Trifexis uses spinosad and milbemycin oxime to prevent, treat, and control parasites. While it does not kill or treat tapeworms, it kills adult fleas, which are responsible for transmitting the parasite. The beef-flavored flavored chewable tablet should be given with food for maximum effectiveness.

Trifexis is safe for puppies as young as 8 weeks old and weighing at least 5 pounds. However, puppies less than 14 weeks of age might experience a higher rate of vomiting than older dogs. This parasite preventive requires a prescription from your veterinarian as well as a current negative heartworm test. It should be used with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or breeding females.

The best topical parasite preventive for dogs

advantage multi for dogs

With just one simple monthly application, Advantage Multi for Dogs treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other topical product.

Pros: Kills and prevents six types of parasites, once-monthly treatment, easy to administer, safe for use in puppies older than 7 weeks and weighing at least 3 pounds

Cons: Does not kill ticks; not labeled for use in puppies younger than 7 weeks or breeding, pregnant, or nursing dogs

No single preventive covers every parasite that could harm your dog, but Advantage Multi comes close. Containing the active ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin, the topical treatment prevents three common intestinal parasites: roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. It also prevents flea infestations by killing adult fleas before they can lay eggs and prevents heartworm and mange mites.

Choosing between an oral or topical parasite product can be a tough decision. Sometimes dogs do better with one versus the other. “Some animals can’t tolerate or have a food allergy to an oral product so they must use a topical,” said veterinarian Melissa Smits, a partner at Fort Morgan Veterinary Clinic in Colorado. “Or their skin may be sensitive to a topical so an oral is better.” If there are no tolerance issues, it usually comes down to owner preference.

Advantage Multi is easy to use: Just apply it every 30 days to your dog’s skin at the base of the neck between the shoulder blades. The liquid medication is absorbed and dries within hours. Unlike with some of the other topical preventives, you do not need to wear gloves to apply Advantage Multi. If you get the product on your hands, simply wash them with soap and water. For the first 30 minutes after application, keep dogs from licking the application site, either on themselves or other treated dogs in the house. Children should not touch the application site for two hours after application.

You must obtain a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase Advantage Multi. As with all medications that prevent heartworm, your dog needs a heartworm test prior starting Advantage Multi and annually thereafter.

How we selected products

While researching and writing this guide, I drew from my eight years of experience as an assistant in veterinary hospitals and two decades of experience as a writer and editor in the pet and veterinary fields. I conducted research using the quick product reference guide published by the independent, nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council. This helpful reference, which includes all FDA- and EPA-approved parasite control products for small animals, lists each product’s active ingredients, how the product is used, and which parasites it controls. 

Here are the main attributes I looked for:

  • Safety and efficacy: Only FDA-approved products were considered for this guide.
  • Number of parasites treated: In general, products that covered more parasites received higher ratings. This did not apply to tapeworm dewormers, which are only intended to treat one parasite.
  • Ease of use: Products received lower ratings if they were more complicated to use than a similar product. An example: Lower ratings were given if gloves must be worn to apply the product or if children and pets need to be kept away from the treated animal for a period of time after application.
  • Minimum age/weight: When comparing similar products, higher ratings went to preventives that can be used in younger animals.

What else we considered

  • Bayer Tapeworm Dog Dewormer: This product contains the same active ingredient (praziquantel) as our top choice for tapeworms, Droncit, but it’s only sold in a five-pack unlike Droncit which is affordably priced per pill.
  • Heartgard Plus: Given monthly, Heartgard Plus (ivermectin and pyrantel) treats and controls heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Our top pick for best oral preventive, Trifexis, is effective against an additional parasite: adult fleas, which are also responsible for transmitting tapeworm. Heartgard requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Interceptor Plus: Given monthly, Interceptor Plus (milbemycin oxime and praziquantel) treats and controls roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms and also prevents heartworms. Trifexis beat out Interceptor Plus because it kills adult fleas in addition to preventing three common intestinal parasites and heartworm. Although Trifexis doesn’t prevent tapeworms, it kills fleas, which transmit tapeworms. Interceptor Plus requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Iverhart Max Soft Chews: Given monthly, Iverhart Max treats and prevents heartworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. It does not prevent whipworms or kill fleas like Trifexis. Iverhart Max requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Sentinel Spectrum: Given monthly, Sentinel Spectrum treats and controls tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworm, flea larvae, and flea eggs — almost as many parasites as our category winner Trifexis. Trifexis doesn’t prevent tapeworms, but we gave it a slight edge because it kills adult fleas, which transmit tapeworms. Sentinel Spectrum requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
  • Simparica Trio: Simparica Trio treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other oral product, including adult fleas, flea larvae, ticks, heartworm, hookworms, roundworms, mange mite, and chewing lice. However, because intestinal parasites are the primary consideration in this guide, Trifexis gets the nod for preventing three intestinal parasites compared to Simparica Trio’s two. Simparica Trio requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.

Types of worms and their signs and symptoms

dog with parasites

Most dogs will contract intestinal parasites at some point in their lives. Some of the most common worms seen in dogs are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. In adult dogs, parasite infestations may cause mild to moderate digestive symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. However, heavy infestations, especially in young puppies, can lead to severe issues.

“They can cause intestinal problems, malnutrition, anemia, growth problems in puppies, and even potential autoimmune issues,” Smits said. “Also important is the zoonotic risk — potential spread to human family members.”

  • Roundworms: These parasites are common in dogs, especially puppies, and are 3- to 6-inches long, smooth, and round-bodied. You might not know your dog has roundworms, particularly if they have only a few. In puppies, large numbers of worms may cause a pot-bellied appearance, vomiting, diarrhea, low appetite, dull coat, and restricted growth. You might also see roundworms in your dog’s stool or vomit. Roundworms are zoonotic, which means they can be spread to human family members.
  • Tapeworms: Dogs pick up tapeworms when they ingest an infected adult flea. As the tapeworm grows, segments break off and pass in your dog’s stool. If you see something in your dog’s feces that resembles grains of white rice, or you notice them licking or biting the area under their tail, they could have a tapeworm infestation.
  • Hookworms: Hookworms are blood-sucking parasites that attach to the wall of the intestines. These tiny worms are nearly invisible without the assistance of a microscope. Signs of hookworm infection in dogs include anemia, weight loss, bloody diarrhea, dull coat, and growth restriction. Hookworms are zoonotic so they can be spread to human family members.
  • Whipworms: Whipworms are relatively large intestinal parasites (about a ¼-inch long) that reside in the cecum and large intestine, where they wreak serious havoc. Dogs with heavy whipworms are likely to experience concerning symptoms, such as watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

What you should know about parasite prevention for dogs

Best dog dewormers in 2021

Dogs should be on parasite prevention year-round.

Veterinarians recommend a broad-spectrum parasite preventive that treats, prevents, or controls intestinal parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms; heartworms; fleas; and ticks.

“Many adult dogs may be asymptomatic carriers,” according to Kelley Lay, a relief veterinarian who practices in Nashville, Tennessee. “Parasites are not always able to be seen in feces and so you may not even know the problem is there. This can lead to infections that linger undetected for a long time.”

Veterinarians recommend keeping dogs on a broad-spectrum parasite preventive all year, not only in the spring and summer months. Different parasites are active during different months, and parasite activity varies. Parasites can also become active earlier than expected, including during the winter.

“You cannot fully predict or control the environment your dog is in,” Smits said. “I live in Colorado, which overall has a low incidence of heartworms and [has] freezes with no mosquitos in the winter. Except, I have killed mosquitos in my house in February. My dogs find rodents in the backyard with tapeworms and potentially fleas. We just found tapeworms in February.”

Your veterinarian can help you choose the best product or combination for your dog.

Although different parasite preventives cover many different parasites, no one product covers every single internal and external parasite that could affect your dog. For instance, one product may cover fleas, heartworm, and intestinal parasites, but not ticks. Another may cover fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites, but not heartworm. Talk to your veterinarian to help you decide which product will be best for your dog.

“This is the most important part of having a relationship with a veterinarian in your area,” Smits said. “We are trained to know what parasite problems we have in our area are, what lifestyle risks are important to consider, and overall, what is best for an individual pet and lifestyle.”

You should always take your dog to the vet before giving them a dewormer.

If you suspect your dog has worms, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian for a physical exam and a fecal test to determine what type of worms they have.

“Not all intestinal parasites are created equal and there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to deworming medications,” Lay said. “Your veterinarian will perform the appropriate tests to diagnose which type of intestinal parasites are present, and therefore which medication will appropriately target the problem.”

Even though some dewormers do not require a prescription, do not skip the vet visit since different drugs treat different worms. Although a broad-spectrum dewormer kills several different types of worms, certain single-celled microscopic parasites (protozoa), including coccidia and Giardia, cause symptoms similar to those caused by intestinal parasites, but they are not true worms. They require different prescription medications to treat them.

In addition to conducting a fecal test, your vet can also determine if your dog may have other health issues that need to be addressed. Depending on the type of worms found, your dog might need follow-up deworming and a follow-up fecal exam to ensure no parasites remain.

Natural dewormers aren’t necessarily a better option.

Check with your veterinarian before using natural dewormers with your dog. “While ‘natural’ deworming products may have some effect on intestinal parasites, I’ve consulted with numerous clients over the years who have tried them with repeated failure,” Lay said. “Also, there’s unfortunately still many unknowns and variables when it comes to many of the natural products.”

Lay noted that conventional, veterinarian-recommended dewormers are both effective and safe to use. “Like any medication, we can’t assume there will be zero side effects 100% of the time, but the veterinary-approved products have been around a long time, have gone through stringent drug trials and studies, and are proven to carry minimal to no risk,” she said.

Expert sources

We consulted with two licensed veterinarians for advice regarding the treatment and prevention of intestinal parasites like tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms as well as heartworms and ectoparasites like fleas, ticks, and mites. Although this information guided us in our product selection, our experts did not specifically endorse or recommend any of the products in this guide.

  • Melissa Smits, DVM, partner at Fort Morgan Vet Clinic
  • Kelley Lay, DVM, a relief veterinarian and student program director and operational coach at Blue Heron Consulting
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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 3 best bark collars and deterrents in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Bark collars are designed to help break excessive barking habits. We spoke with veterinary behaviorist Katherine Houpt, a professor at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, to better understand how these collars work.

It’s important to understand that barking is a natural way that dogs communicate with each other and with humans. Training your dog to stop barking by identifying the root of the behavior and using positive training techniques should always be your first attempt.

“Dogs hardly ever bark just for the sake of barking – they usually have a reason for it,” Houpt said. “If you can find the reason for it, you might be able to eliminate the barking without having to punish the dog.”

The collars in this guide work by administering an unpleasant stimulus when your dog barks. The stimulus could be a vibration, high-pitched sound, or scented spray. Other anti-bark collars administer a static shock, but we do not endorse their use as they can cause both physical and psychological harm to a dog. You can read more about each type of collar at the end of this guide.

The various types of no-shock bark collars can be safe and effective when used properly. Houpt explained that timing is important with these collars. The collar must be triggered immediately after the bark in order for the dog to make the association. The stimulus is meant to deter a dog from barking through causation – a dog will associate barking with discomfort. However, if used incorrectly, they can create additional stress for a dog.

Based on this information, we researched the best spray, ultrasonic, and vibration bark collars. If you’ve been thinking about getting one for your pet, be sure to consult your veterinarian first.

Here are the best bark collars in 2021

The best spray bark collar

PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer product image

With three levels of correction, a spray, a tone, and a vibration, the Petsafe Remote Spray Trainer Collar is one of the more versatile bark collars available. 

Pros:Three training options, remote range of 300 yards, includes one unscented and one citronella cartridge, rechargeable

Cons: Not for dogs under 8 pounds, manual control only, refills needed frequently

Spray collars work by releasing a plant-based fragrance, usually a citronella spray, each time a dog barks. While we humans may enjoy the smell, dogs typically do not.

Houpt conducted a study comparing citronella collars to shock collars and found the spray collar to be more favorable. “The owners of the dogs were happier with the citronella collar. Also, it may annoy them, but it doesn’t hurt the dog,” she said.

The Petsafe Remote Spray Trainer comes with three training options: a spray, a tone, and a vibration. Each training option must be manually activated using the remote control when within a range of 300 yards of the rechargeable collar. A tone can be set to accompany either a spray or a vibration.

The collar can be loaded with a scented or an unscented canister. The scented canister emits a lemon odor that is 1% citronella and 99% aerosol, while the unscented canister is 100% aerosol. Each canister provides up to 35 sprays and can be used on dogs larger than 8 pounds.

According to Houpt, the use of citronella won’t have any adverse effects on the dog or make the dog sick. Although this is her preferred type of bark collar, she said that some dogs, particularly larger ones, will get used to it and it will lose its effectiveness.

According to Houpt, the use of citronella won’t have any adverse effects on the dog or make the dog sick. Although this is her preferred type of bark collar, she said that some dogs, particularly larger ones, will get used to it and it will lose its effectiveness.

The best vibration bark collar

Dogrook Collar Main

With seven levels of vibration and sound, the DogRook Bark Control Collar is a shock-free alternative to static shock collars. 

Pros: Seven levels of vibrations and sounds, water-resistant

Cons: Not for dogs under 11 pounds, may not work for large dogs or those with thick coats

Instead of emitting a shock, the Dog Rook Bark Control Collar vibrates when it detects barking, offering seven levels of sound and vibration. When your dog barks, the collar will administer a short beep, then a longer beep, then a beep plus vibration, and so on up to seven levels. Once the collar reaches the seventh level, it will enter a one-minute hibernation mode.

The Dog Rook Bark Control Collar comes with two sets of plastic prongs, one shorter and one longer, for both short- and long-haired dogs. The prongs are designed to detect movement of the vocal cords so the collar should not activate if another dog is barking nearby.

Dog Rook’s anti-bark collar is adjustable for dogs weighing 11 to 110 pounds, of all breeds and ages. When fitting the collar, make sure that it is not too tight or restricting but that the probes are within a finger’s thickness of the dog’s skin so they feel the vibration.

Although Houpt doesn’t have experience using vibration collars, she said in general, “I think they can wear their [bark] collars all the time, but you have to be careful because if you have them tight enough to be effective, it may actually do skin damage.” The manufacturer advises that the collar be worn no longer than 8 to 12 hours at a time. If worn longer or fitted improperly, the probes can rub and irritate the skin.

The best ultrasonic bark deterrent

modus ultrasonic bark control device

The Modus Ultrasonic Bark Control Device is a manual, standalone device that you can use to help curb your dog’s barking or discourage other unwanted behavior.

Pros: Simple and easy design

Cons: Manual control only, some dogs will habituate to the sound, any dog within range can hear it

The Modus Ultrasonic Dog Bark Deterrent emits a high-pitched frequency when a dog’s bark is detected. When your dog barks, just press the battery-powered control device and a 25,000-Hz signal will sound. Most ultrasonic deterrents start at frequencies around 25,000 Hz so that only dogs can hear them. Dogs are capable of hearing frequencies as high as 47,000 Hz to 65,000 Hz, while adult humans cannot hear frequencies above 20,000 Hz, according to the American Kennel Club.

With this collar, your dog will hear the sound when they are within 16.4 feet of the device. But, remember, any dog within range can pick up the frequency, so it’s best to use it in a single-dog home. It should also not be used with puppies younger than 6 months old.

Although there is a range restriction, this device is a great tool because it allows you to correct different types of barking in various situations. Houpt explained that dogs bark for many reasons. Sometimes they bark to alert us of an intruder, and sometimes they bark because they want the Thanksgiving leftovers. 

But this collar may not be a long-term solution. “The ultrasound usually works at first, and then the dogs habituate to it,” Houpt said. What works on one dog may not work on another. Users have found similar results using the Modus, while others have been able to curb their dog’s barking when necessary.

Prior to using the Modus, it’s best to have a veterinarian check your dog’s hearing and assess their demeanor to determine if an ultrasonic deterrent is the best bark-control tool for them.

Types of bark collars

Houpt helped us understand how each type of bark collar works. These are the four types of bark collars:

  • Spray bark collar: These collars release an unpleasant plant-based scent around your dog’s nose. Most spray collars use citronella, which is a natural repellent. While we may enjoy this smell, bugs and animals do not.
  • Ultrasonic bark collar: A dog’s hearing is far more sensitive than ours, making them able to hear pitches and frequencies we cannot. Ultrasonic bark collars, when triggered, will produce an “annoying” high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear.
  • Vibration bark collar: When triggered by your dog’s bark, this type of collar will activate a series of vibration intensities. These are more of an annoyance to the dog, and if used properly, the dog will associate the vibration as a result of the bark.
  • Static shock collar: Houpt advises against the use of a shock collar and some retailers, like Petco, no longer sell these static collars, which can cause both physical and psychological harm. When a dog barks, this type of collar emits a static shock through electrodes on the collar. These shocks are similar to what we feel when we get shocked by static electricity. Many collars offer various settings and intensities depending on the dog’s size and severity of the barking. 
  • Static shock collar: Houpt advises against the use of a shock collar and some retailers, like Petco, no longer sell these static collars, which can cause both physical and psychological harm. When a dog barks, this type of collar emits a static shock through electrodes on the collar. 
    Static shock collar: Veterinarians, including Houpt, do not recommend these collars and some retailers, like Petco, no longer sell static collars, which can cause both physical and psychological harm. When a dog barks, this type of collar emits a static shock through electrodes on the collar. According to a study by the University of Lincoln in the UK, positive reinforcement training is more effective than a shock collar when training a dog not to bark.

What we’re currently testing

Below are the bark collars we’re testing for an update to this guide in summer 2021. 

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The 6 best dog shampoos in 2021 for fleas and ticks, grooming, and skin irritation

  • Bathing your dog regularly helps keep their skin and coat clean, healthy, and moisturized.
  • Dog shampoos are formulated to be gentle on a dog’s sensitive skin and free from harsh ingredients and fragrances.
  • Our top pick is Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo, which cleans and deodorizes without irritating sensitive skin.
  • 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.

Bathing your dog is a key aspect of responsible dog ownership. A good bath with a high-quality dog shampoo helps keep a dog’s skin and coat clean and moisturized. Whether a dog bath is fun or feels like a chore to you, the shampoo product that you use plays a big part in maintaining optimal skin and coat health.

Many dog owners use human shampoo on their dogs, but these products can damage a dog’s skin and leave the skin vulnerable to problems like flaky skin and infections. The best option is to purchase a shampoo designed specifically for dogs. The products below are formulated for a dog’s pH and gentle on sensitive skin.

Keeping a dog’s skin and coat clean is important, but know that you can have too much of a good thing. Too-frequent shampooing could strip their coat of the natural oils that nourish and moisturize the skin and coat. So, not only is it important to avoid bathing them too often but you also need to use a high-quality product when you do wash them.

The shampoos recommended here are not intended to treat medical conditions. Speak to your veterinarian and read our guide to the best medicated dog shampoos if you are looking to manage a specific condition.

Here are the best dog shampoos in 2021

The best overall

Earthbath dog shampoo

Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo combines all the good things that you’d want in a dog shampoo into one product.

Pros: All-natural ingredients, soap-free formula, relieves itching, soothes dry skin, promotes healing, moisturizes skin, pH-balanced to clean and deodorize, won’t wash away flea and tick products,100% biodegradable, cruelty-free

Cons: May not be suitable for dogs with allergies and extra-sensitive skin, scent may fade over time, may not be powerful enough for very strong odors

When shopping for dog shampoo, look for a product that will clean and deodorize a dog’s skin and coat without irritating their sensitive skin. We recommend Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Pet Shampoo, which is a gentle and effective formula for animals 6 weeks and older.

The shampoo contains natural ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera to soothe skin irritation, relieve itching, and moisturize a dog’s skin The soap-free, pH-balanced formula effectively cleans and softens the coat, and vanilla and almond extracts leave a pleasing scent. It is light enough that it won’t wash away flea and tick control products.

In addition to being all-natural, it is 100% biodegradable and cruelty-free.

The best for puppies

Isle of Dogs dog shampoo

Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo gently cleanses a puppy’s sensitive skin and coat and can be used as a face wash without irritating the eyes. 

Pros: Gentle enough for puppies and as a face wash, fresh orchid scent, natural odor-neutralizing ingredients, lathers well for deep cleaning, no harsh fragrances

Cons: Orchid scent may be overpowering, may not be powerful enough for strong odors

Like adult dogs, puppies can have sensitive skin. To care for your puppy’s skin, choose a formula that is strong enough for deep cleaning but gentle enough not to irritate or damage your puppy’s skin. Isle of Dogs Tearless Puppy Shampoo is a puppy-safe shampoo that cleans and deodorizes without the use of harsh chemicals or fragrances.

The shampoo is made with gentle cleansers that are safe for your puppy’s sensitive skin and coat. It is a tearless formula that won’t irritate their eyes if you use it as a face wash, and it leaves behind a fresh orchid scent. The formula’s odor-neutralizing ingredients provide long-lasting freshness.

Even though the shampoo can safely be used to wash your puppy’s face, take extra care not to get the product in their eyes, nose, or mouth.

The best for fleas and ticks

Adams dog shampoo

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo is made with natural pyrethrins and an insect growth regulator to kill fleas on contact and provide 28 days of protection.

Pros: Made with natural pyrethrins instead of synthetic permethrins, contains Precor insect growth regulator, kills fleas and ticks in all life stages, protects for a full 28 days, contains natural ingredients to soothe and moisturize skin, gently cleanses and softens coat, safe for puppies over 12 weeks

Cons: Not recommended for puppies under 12 weeks, some users find the odor to be too strong, must  be worked into a thick lather for maximum efficacy  

Not only can fleas make your dog’s skin irritated and inflamed, but these tiny, pesky parasites can make their way into your pet’s bedding, your furniture, your carpet — and eventually onto you.

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo is a highly effective formula that kills fleas in all life stages and is also effective against ticks and chewing lice.

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo contains natural pyrethrins to kill adult fleas, ticks, and lice in puppies 12 weeks and older. It also contains Precor, an insect growth regulator that prevents eggs and larvae from developing into biting adults. While these ingredients are safe for dogs, they are toxic to cats and potentially fatal. Never bathe your cat with this product.

In addition to powerful active ingredients, this formula also contains natural ingredients like coconut extract, oatmeal, and aloe to help soothe and moisturize your dog’s dry, irritated, and itchy skin. The gentle formula works into an easy lather to cleanse your dog’s coat, leaving it soft, shiny, and clean. It also provides a full 28 days of protection against fleas, ticks, and lice.

Be aware that flea shampoos kill adult fleas that are currently on a dog but are less effective — and harder to use — than flea preventatives. An oral or topical spot-on flea preventive is the best line of defense against fleas and should be the first choice to prevent flea problems on a dog.

The best for sensitive skin

4 legger dog shampoo

4 Legger Conditioning Shampoo is free from the synthetic and harsh ingredients that might irritate a dog’s sensitive skin.

Pros: No synthetic ingredients, no detergents or sulfates, biodegradable and cruelty-free, gently cleanses and moisturizes, safe for dogs with allergies and sensitive skin, mild but pleasant scent, safe for puppies and dogs of all ages

Cons: May not be strong enough for dogs with thick double coats, thin consistency

Shampoos, particularly all-natural shampoos, that are free of harsh ingredients are generally the safest option for dogs with sensitive skin and seasonal allergies. Our recommendation for organic dog shampoo is 4 Legger Conditioning Shampoo because it is USDA-certified organic and free from synthetic ingredients that might irritate your dog’s skin. This formula is safe for dogs in all life stages.

4 Legger Conditioning Shampoo gently cleanses and moisturizes your dog’s skin and coat, leaving them smelling fresh and clean. It is minimally processed, meaning that the ingredients remain as close as possible to their original, natural form.

Ingredients are sustainably sourced and biodegradable.

The best heavy-duty shampoo

Synergy dog shampoo

With three times the cleansing action of ordinary dog shampoos, Veterinary Formula Triple Strength Dirty Dog Concentrated Shampoo tackles even the toughest dirt and odors.

Pros: Contains three times the cleansing power of ordinary shampoos, lathers well for a deep clean, made with an exclusive “dirt repel” formula, natural ingredients to soothe and moisturize skin, doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue, concentrated formula doesn’t require mixing, does not remove topical flea and tick control treatments, gentle enough to be used frequently

Cons: Triple strength formula may be too strong for dogs with very sensitive skin, bottle may leak when not stored or handled properly, green apple scent sometimes wears off quickly

For a shampoo to take on even the dirtiest, smelliest of dogs but gentle enough to soothe and moisturize their skin, our top choice Veterinary Formula Triple Strength Dirty Dog Concentrated Shampoo.

The Triple Strength Dirty Dog Concentrated Shampoo contains three times more active cleansing ingredients than the average dog shampoo. Free from harsh ingredients and irritating fragrances, this formula contains a variety of foaming agents and natural ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter to leave your dog’s skin healthy and their coat clean.

This shampoo also contains a “dirt repel” formula to keep your dog’s coat cleaner longer.

Despite this shampoo being heavy duty, it is gentle enough that it won’t remove topical flea and tick control products on your dog’s skin or strip away the skin’s natural oils. Also, it can be used frequently, if needed. Always talk with your veterinarian about how often you should shampoo your dog.

The best for sensitive skin

Vets Best dog shampoo

The Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Dog Shampoo uses a soap-free, tearless formula that works fast to soothe dry and irritated skin.

Pros: Hypoallergenic formula, soap-free, tearless, cleans and moisturizes sensitive skin and coats, helps relieve itching and dryness, does not interfere with flea and tick products

Cons: Scent may be too strong for some people, may not be effective against severe allergic reactions, not recommended for nursing or pregnant dogs

Seasonal allergies can cause dogs to feel persistently itchy, leading to constant scratching and licking that damages the skin and leaves it vulnerable to infection and other skin problems.

Our top pick for a hypoallergenic dog shampoo that gently cleanses while soothing dry skin and relieving itching is Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Dog Shampoo. This soap-free, tearless formula won’t interfere with your dog’s flea and tick control products, either.

Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Dog Shampoo removes allergy-inducing substances like pollen from the skin and features natural ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E to soothe itching, relieve allergies, and moisturize dry and brittle coats. It won’t irritate their sensitive skin or leave behind a sticky residue. Plus, it will leave them smelling clean and fresh.

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