Pet Carrier Guide

Published: June 10, 2021
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If you plan to take your pet with you on a plane, you will be required to put your pet in a carrier that meets the specific requirements of the airline. However, air travel isn't the only time when a pet carrier comes in handy. A carrier can also be useful for ensuring your pet stays safe when traveling in your car or for when you need to temporarily confine your pet while you are in your home.

Airline Travel Requirements

If you have more than one pet and you will be traveling by plane, each pet must have her own carrier. A small pet may be able to travel with you in the passenger cabin. Larger pets, or pets on international flights will need to ride in the hold. Regardless of where your pet rides, she will need an International Air Transport Association-approved carrier.

Airlines allow both hard and soft-sided carriers in the cabin, but the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Soft-sided carriers are easier to fit because they can be compressed a little. A carrier with a shoulder strap can make walking around the terminal more comfortable. If you have a snub-nosed breed, choose a carrier with a lot of ventilation .

For travel in the hold, the carrier must be non-collapsible and made from metal, fiberglass, solid wood, rigid plastic or plywood. It must have ventilation on all sides, bolts and nuts to secure the top and bottom, a front door with a lock and a solid, leak-proof floor covered with absorbent material, such as a crate pad or blanket.

The Right Size Carrier

Measure your pet's height and length before you select a carrier. Your pet should be able to sit, stand and turn around in her carrier. The carrier should be approximately one and a half times the size of your pet.

A carrier that is too large may be difficult to transport and may cause your pet to slide around inside. A carrier that is too small may be uncomfortable for your pet. You should also check your pet's weight against the weight limit of the carrier you are considering. Wearable carriers, such as backpacks and slings , are intended to be snug because your pet is supported against your body.

If you will be traveling a long distance, choose a carrier with enough space to accommodate food and water bowls. If you are traveling with a cat, you may also need space for a litter box. If you have multiple pets, it is usually better to put them in separate carriers, instead of trying to transport them in one large carrier.

Cardboard Carriers

Cardboard carriers are intended for temporary transport. Because pets can chew through these carriers and the openings are difficult to secure, they are not recommended for long-term use.

Soft Carriers

Soft carriers are made from firm, but flexible materials. They are not as sturdy as hard carriers, but they are lighter, less bulky and easier to transport. Many of these carriers come with shoulder or backpack straps to make them easier to carry. These carriers may not be appropriate for pets who tend to have accidents or get carsick, because they are more difficult to clean. They may also be a poor choice for pets who like to chew or are a risk for breaking out.

Rolling Suitcase Style Carriers

These carriers resemble a rolling suitcase . They tend to have more interior room than traditional carriers and are easier to transport because they can be rolled instead of carried. This makes them ideal for small dogs and heavier cats. However, some pets may find the noise and bumpy movement frightening.

Hard Plastic Carriers

Hard carriers are easy to clean, more durable and more difficult for pets to chew or break out of. They are also bulkier and more difficult to carry.

Multiple Door Carriers

If you have a pet who is resistant to going in a carrier, a multiple-door carrier can be useful. A pet who resists going in a front-loading carrier may be easier to place in a carrier that opens on the top.

Duffle Bag Carriers

Duffle bag carriers resemble gym bags. These carriers are appropriate for cats and small dogs. They are usually not large or sturdy enough for medium to large size dogs and may not be appropriate for some very large cats. These carriers are well-ventilated and the shoulder strap makes them easier to carry than some other models. However, they are not as sturdy as hard-sided carriers and may not work well for pets who chew or attempt to escape.

Fashion Carriers

Fashion carriers are usually intended for small dogs and cats. They are often designed to look like purses or fashionable bags. These carriers can be functional, but may not be the best choice for long trips. If you choose a fashion carrier, it is probably a good idea to also have a more practical carrier for trips to the veterinarian or long car rides.

If you plan to do a lot of traveling with your pet, it is important to choose a durable carrier that can accommodate all of your pet's needs on long trips, while keeping her safe and comfortable. For occasional trips to the vet or use around the house, your options are more open. However, if you plan to take your pet on a plane trip, you will need to meet the specific requirements for airline travel.

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