Most cats hate car rides and get very nervous when they see you pulling that cat carrier out of the closet. Cat’s don’t like change, so traveling is very stressful for them. Having a durable and comfortable carrier is absolutely essential for anyone traveling with their cat on a regular basis.

With that in mind, let’s figure out the best cat carrier for difficult cats. We’ve tirelessly scoured the market for the safest, most comfortable crates that will accommodate your scared or anxious cat. Take a look below at our top picks.

What to Look for in a Cat Carrier for Difficult Cats

Hard vs. Soft

When choosing a cat carrier, the first choice you’ll be confronted with whether to buy a hard or soft model. Soft carriers are usually made out of nylon and polyester materials, while hard carriers are generally hard plastic with a metal grill.

When it comes to difficult cats, hard carriers are the way to go. Cat’s don’t like leaving their normal stomping grounds and may lash out when forced to do so. You want a kennel that is durable enough to withstand any scratching and biting.

Safety

Another benefit of hard carriers is they provide more peace of mind. The chance of your cat successfully escaping are almost none. Conversely, it wouldn’t take much for your troublesome feline to rip open and crawl through some nylon- especially when they’re anxious or nervous.

If you’re planning on long distance travel by plane or car, you’re going to want to pay extra attention to the safety factor. If the worst should happen, you’ll be happy you spent a little extra to get the safest cat carrier possible. Obviously, your furry friend will be the safest surrounded by thick, durable plastic as opposed to polyester or nylon.

Even if you’re not planning bringing your cat along on an excursion, you’ll still need a cat carrier for vet visits. So why not have the best? Depending on how aggressive your cat gets, a soft carrier just won’t hold up. You certainly don’t want to keep buying new carriers every other visit to the vet!

Doors

Before we look at the cream of the crop, I want to bring up one last factor to keep in mind when making your purchase- the door(s). When you think of regular kennel or carrier, you think of a box with a metal grate in the front, right? Well, since you have a tricky kitty on your hands, you’re going to want an additional door. A skylight, if you will.

These types of crates are called top loading cat carriers and they can be very useful. If your cat is feeling uncooperative and won’t enter through the front door, it’s a lot easier to get them inside through the top- loading door. Just pick them up and drop them in. Also, if you’re at the vet and the little furball just won’t leave their crate, the vet can get access through the top door. The vet obviously won’t be able to perform surgery this way, but for routine checkups the top door can prove valuable.

Now that we’ve covered the most important criteria to keep in mind when choose our carrier, let’s take a look at the best on the market!

Top Picks

The Best Cat Carriers for Difficult Cats

AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Pet Carrier Kennel

Best Overall Carrier

best cat carriers for difficult cats

After scouring the internet and reading hundreds of reviews, we have ultimately chosen the AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Pet Carrier Kennel as our overall best cat carrier for difficult cats.

I picked this carrier based on four primary factors: safety, durability, convenience and affordability. I have to say, this model ticks all the boxes quite nicely.

The heavy-duty design of this carrier is guaranteed to keep your cat protected from any bumps in the road or turbulence in the sky. Not only that, the durable plastic is capable of withstanding any sort of damage your anxious cat inflicts upon on it.

Additionally. the steel-wire front door means there’s no way your cat can pull off a disappearing act.

For added convenience, this carrier is made with a second top-load door that makes getting your cat in and out super easy. Plus, the front door features a spring-loaded latch. It uses levers your devious cat couldn’t possibly manipulate.

There are four heavy-duty latches that secure the top to the bottom, and the screws included can be used as added reinforcement. This is what really sealed the deal for me when it came to safety- especially if you’re buying a cat carrier for long distance car travel.

On top of all that, it doesn’t put any strain on your budget. You won’t find another cat carrier with more bang for your buck.

Key Features:
  • 2 door, top-load carrier
  • Screws included for added security
  • Made of durable plastic
  • 4 heavy-duty latches
  • 2 sizes: 19″ & 24″
  • Weight: 2.9 lbs

Potential Drawbacks:

According to some buyers, the top lid may not be secure for cats over 10 pounds. There are complaints of the latching mechanism not functioning properly due to a design flaw.

However, 74% of reviewers gave a 5 star rating and reported no issues. The takeaway is that if you have a larger cat use the screws provided to make sure the top lid stays secure.

Petmate Two Door Top Load Carrier

Runner Up

best cat carriers for difficult cats

Coming in at number two on our list for cat carriers for difficult cats is the Petmate Two Door Top Load Carrier.

It was a tough decision choosing between the AmazonBasics model and the Petmate. Both models provide fantastic functionality and security, but ultimately it came down to price and the AmazonBasics carrier won out.

However, don’t write off the Petmate just yet. This cat carrier’s ergonomic design was made with plane travel in mind, meeting most airline cargo specifications.

The ventilated sides make for comfortable and airy transport, while the top entry door gives you easy access to your cat. Additionally, the steel-grated doors offer maximum security and added ventilation.

On top of the durability and security, you have got some options as far as size and color. Choose between four pearlescent colors and whether you’d opt for the 19″ or 24″ model. Keep in mind that cats do enjoy confined spaces, so if your cat is on the small size then stick to the 19″ model.

Key Features:
  • 2 door, top-load design
  • Meets most airline cargo specs
  • Comfortable and durable
  • Easy-squeeze door latches
  • 4 colors choices
  • 2 sizes: 19″ & 24″
  • Weight: 6 lbs

Potential Drawbacks:

The overwhelming majority of the reviews on this carrier are positive, with not too many complaints. However, a handful of reviewers have reported that their carrier was delivered defective or with missing parts.

My suspicion is that these are the few who couldn’t follow the straightforward assembly directions properly.

SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier

Best Carrier for the Vet

best cat carriers for difficult cats

If you’re just looking for a cat carrier to take your difficult cat to the vet, then SportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier is the carrier for you.

Unlike the previous two models, this crate was designed specifically for cats. It features a reliable locking mechanism that keeps your sneaky feline in place. Moreover, this cat carrier is recommended by vets since cats feel so comfortable getting in and out of the large opening.

This really is the best cat carrier for difficult cats who dread visits to the vet. It’s really compact too: the collapsible design assembles with just a snap and is perfect for cat parents who needs to save some space.

The base model is comes just just the carrier, but for a measly extra two bucks you get a super comfy cat bed too! Don’t worry about cleaning up any accidents either because the bed is machine washable.

If you need a cat carrier for multiple cats, then you’ll want to upgrade to the XL carrier that has plenty of space to accommodate at least two felines.

Key Features:
  • Collapsible design for convenient storage
  • Designed specifically for cats
  • Large opening cats are comfortable with
  • Comes with a comfy bed
  • Secure latch
  • 2 sizes: 15″ & 24″
  • Weight: 5.2 lbs

Potential Drawbacks:

There have been some complaints that the clasps that make this carrier collapsible are too flimsy and don’t stay in place.

Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier

Best Airline Carrier

best cat carriers for difficult cats

Last but not least is our best cat carrier for plane travel, the Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier.

Designed and manufactured for air travel in particular, this carrier reaches the peak of security and comfort for your cat. Featuring wire vents, tie-down holes and a raised interior, your furry child will be getting the first-class treatment they deserve.

The durable plastic shell and strong steel wire of this cat carrier combine to make sure your nervous cat stays in place. To boot, the 4-way vault door provides the best possible security and keeps the door in place.

You have a ton of choice when it comes to size, although I doubt you’d need to go bigger than a 32″ crate. Unless you’re hauling around an entire litter of kitties.

Petmate cat carriers have a great reputation and are really built to last. If you often fly with your feline companion then you can’t go wrong here.

Key Features:
  • Compliant with most air travel requirements
  • Durable plastic shell
  • 4-vault door for extra security
  • Raised interior for added comfort
  • Sizes ranging from 21″ to 48″
  • Weight: 11 lbs

Potential Drawbacks:

Beware of the sizing dimensions as they seem to be a bit underestimated. It would be wise to double check your required dimensions and possibly order a size up. Reviewers have also complained that the carrier arrived broken, though this could potentially be blamed on logistics.

Best Cat Carriers for Difficult Cats Comparison Table

Editor’s Picks PictureBrand Rating
Best Overallbest cat carriers for difficult catsAmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Pet Carrier Kennel 4.5
Runner Upbest cat carriers for difficult catsPetmate Two Door Top Load Carrier 4.5
Best Carrier for the Vet best cat carriers for difficult catsSportPet Designs Foldable Travel Cat Carrier 4.5
Best Airline Carrier best cat carriers for difficult catsPetmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier 4

Guide to Traveling With a Difficult Cat in a Carrier

How to Prepare Your Cat for Travel

Cat’s are inherently suspicious creatures and are wary of any sort of a change. This is why it’s so important to get them used to the new carrier as soon as possible. It’s recommended that you buy your cat carrier well in advance of your trip.

Present the carrier in a positive light and teach your cat that it’s an awesome hangout. Keep the door open at all times and make it as inviting as possible. To create a positive association with the carrier, try putting your cat’s dry food inside. The addition of a cat bed also works nicely.

Most cats will warm up rather quickly and may even take to sleeping in the carrier at night. If that’s not the case after a few weeks, try baiting them in with some scrumptious treats. Make sure to keep to door open so they can leave whenever they please

If you’re cat is STILL not sold on their new fancy new carrier, you’ll have to get a bit creative. Here are some ideas to get your cat comfortable with the notion of being in the crate:

  • Place the carrier somewhere your cat frequently relaxes
  • Use a pheromone spray or wipe to provide a calming effect
  • Even when you get back from vacation or the vet, keep the carrier out and the door open
  • Get your cat to associate the carrier with comfort, rest, feeding or playtime

Now that your feline is comfortable spending time in the carrier, you’re almost good to go. The last step before walking out the door is to double check your cat’s ID tags and make sure they’re valid and up-to-date. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Ideally, you’d have a microchip already implanted. If that’s the case you won’t have much to worry about if your tricky kitty decides to pull a Houdini.

How to Calm Down a Cat in the Car

Some cats absolutely hate travelling in cars. It’s no surprise why most cat parents try to minimize car trips in general. The sights, the sounds, the smells– all these abrupt changes in sensory input can drive a cat up a wall… literally.

But you have to go to the vet sometime, and you don’t want to walk the 5 miles to get there. So how do you keep your cat calm in the car?

Mostly through preventive measures before you actually have to go to the vet. We discussed getting your cat acclimated and comfortable both in and around the carrier, which is a good start.

Try playing with your cat for a while right before you leave to tire them out. Once in the carrier they’ll be too exhausted to be nervous or scared and will just pass right out.

Make sure your cat is secure inside the carrier and that the carrier is secure inside the car. You don’t want it bouncing around in transit, so a seat belt is a good idea if it’ll fit.

If you find yourself in the car with a panting and anxious cat, try simply talking to them in a soothing tone. The gentle familiarity of your voice will keep them calm and present. Another trick is to angle the carrier in such a way that your fearful feline can draw comfort from your lovely face.

Above all, take it slow and drive carefully. Leave with plenty of time to spare so you’re not rushing around and upping the anxiety of your cat even more. Stay calm in the car and your cat will follow suit.

Cat Sedation for Travel

If your cat is extra high-strung and won’t be calmed down, you will probably want to consider sedating your cat for travel.

The main over-the-counter go-to sedative is Benadryl. With the right dose, your cat will be laid back and minding its own business for the duration of the trip. Keep the option for strictly ground travel- don’t use Benadryl if you’re taking your cat on a plane.

It’s important that you pay close attention to the dose you use and consult your vet beforehand to make sure there won’t be any problems.

Another option is the use of a synthetic pheromone that creates a calming response and establishes familiar scents and territory. A popular brand called Feliway makes a spray that works quite nicely.

If all else fails, consult your vet and see if they think a prescription is necessary. Sedating your cat for travel makes the trip so much easier and less stressful for both man and beast. Just make sure you make the proper preparations and conduct thorough research.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats prefer hard or soft carriers?

Both and neither. How much they like the carrier you’ve chosen is up to you. Make positive associations by putting your cat’s meals (or treats) inside and keeping the door open 24/7 so they can enter and exit at will. Play with your cat around and inside the carrier as well, and keep a soft pillow or blanket inside to make it as comfy as possible.

What’s the best way to put a cat in a carrier?

Open the top- loading door or place the carrier such that the door is facing the ceiling. After putting a towel in the bottom (in case of an accident), pick your cat up by his front legs and lower your cat rear- end first while supporting his bottom. Once the latch is secured, drape a light towel or blanket over the carrier.

What is the safest cat carrier?

Hard carriers are the best if safety is your number one priority. For any long trips, especially in a car, a hard carrier is a must. Use the detailed analysis of the best hard cat carriers above to choose the one that fits your needs.

How secure is a cat carrier in a car?

As secure as you make it. Once your cat is safely inside the carrier with the latch secured, loop the seatbelt through the top handle. Buckle it up once you’ve wrapped the seatbelt around both sides of the cage. If the carrier is big enough then wedging it between two seats may also be an easy solution. Either way, make sure you take it slow and use extra caution on the road.

Can I put two cats in one carrier?

Typically it’s not a good idea to put two cats in the same carrier. Travelling is stressful enough for cats without having to share their personal space.

best cat carriers for difficult cats

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