Although you'll want to make sure the carrier is small enough to be TSA-approved, you'll also need it to be spacious enough so that your cat has enough space. The cat should able be able to make a 180° full turn. Delta airlines states that "Your pet must be small enough to fit comfortably in a kennel without touching or protruding from the sides of the kennel and with the ability to move around". If you're planning to use the same carrier as when your cat was just a kitten, make sure to try it out to see that your cat has enough room to move around.
It's important for your cat to have plenty of ventilation within the carrier. If your carrier has no outlet for airflow, the inside of the carrier may overheat, making it a very uncomfortable, nerve-wracking trip for your cat. Thus, look for carriers that have mesh windows all around that allow for air circulation.
Nervous cats tend to urinate when feeling confined into a small area and not knowing where he is going. In order to be prepared to handle such situations, buy some potty training pads and line the bottoms of your carrier with them. This way, if your cat has an accident, you can simply throw out the training pad and lay a new one.
Some carriers have removable bottoms pads for washing, which are great as you'll want to keep the carrier clean throughout your many travels. However, we still strongly recommend purchasing disposable potty-training pads to line the bottoms of your carriers.
Also look for carriers that are leak-proof so that in the case that your cat does urinate, it won't get anywhere on the plane seat, carpet or taxi.
Half of your travel will most likely be off the plane, chugging your carrier around through check-in, security, and standby. You'll want to be able to carry your carrier with ease, so it's important to check the weight of the carrier. A weight of about 2-3 pounds is reasonable. Before making your buy, sum up the weight of your carrier with the weight of your cat, and ensure that you'll be able to lift it with one hand. Additionally, look for carriers that come with shoulder straps to displace the load of your weight.
There are two types of carriers - hard-side and soft-side. These describe the outer frame of bag, making for either sturdier or softer edges.
Hard-side carriersare built stronger, and makes it harder for cats to chew their way out of enclosement. However, they may be considerably heavier, so make sure you'll be comfortable carrying the extra weight.
Soft-side carriersare easier to carrier, and can be cozier for the cat. They are generally better for in-cabin air travel, and their flexibility may allow it to fit easily beneath the seat.
Ensure that all zippers are well-built and don't get caught in any of the cloth. Carriers with weak or malfunctioned zipper can become a huge problem, as it does not keep your cat secured. Worst thing you'd want is your cat going missing from its airline bag - a situation you really wouldn't want when traveling overseas!
Once your cat correlates pet carriers with long hours of secluded, uncomfortable sitting, he'll do all he can to avoid being put in. Thus, it's important for the carrier to have a top opening, which makes it easier to place your cat in.
Nowadays, there are bags that can be foldable or extended out to save or utilize more space. When folded up, these travel bags can be convenient for storage; when expanded, it can nice be for your pet when he needs that extra space.
These days, many of the airline carriers come with pockets to place food and water bowls. These aren't necessary, but could be convenient to keep all your pet supplies in one place.
Although the carriers recommended below are sturdy and well-built, you'll still want some sort of manufacturer's guarantee in case something goes wrong. Thus, check to see if the manufacturer has a number of years of guarantee.
Lastly, don't forget to travel in style!
Here is our list of recommended carriers which you can find at a steep discount with fast shipping on Amazon.
The Amazon Basics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier is perfect for casual short travels. The dimensions fit for a mid-sized cat. The carrier includes handles with an adjustable shoulder strap and strong mesh walls for the proper ventilation. While most other carriers can go for well over $80, this budget-friendly pet carrier is offered at a great price point.
If you're going on a longer flight, or will be out on the road for a while, you may want to give your pet extra space. In this case, try going for the Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier. Furthermore, you'll the carrier comes in a foldable design, making storing this carrier much easier.
If you're looking to give your cat the best treatment he deserves, go for the fully Expandable Foldable Travel Carrier. This product will give your car the extra space it needs to overcome its anxiety and nervousness while travelling.
Another great product brand for airline carriers is the Sleepypod. This option is more on the pricier side, but offers maximal spacing to allow comfort for your cat during a long flight.
Hopefully that gave you a good overview as to what to look for when purchasing a pet carrier for your nervous or difficult cat. Any questions or comments? Comment below!