When Kit Kat came to his appointment this week, he got carsick on the way and vomited his last meal in his carrier. Then he accidentally got his feet in the pile. After that, he was so upset that he had a bowel movement and smeared this on his fur on his rear end. Kit Kat needed a bath and his carrier needing a good hose down.
Choosing an appropriate carrier for your pet can be confusing. There are so many different options and sizes. Here are 7 things to consider when shopping for a pet carrier.
How secure is it? How does the carrier close and will this closure keep your pet from escaping? Cardboard carriers are notorious for being easy to get out of. All an insistent pet needs to do is push on the lid from inside with his head and the handles will pop open. Cardboard carriers are also not a great option for heavier pets because the bottom can give way, spilling your pet out onto the ground.
If you have a Houdini for a pet, consider getting a carrier with latches that cannot be manipulated by paws. Zippers and Velcro are okay, but look for a carrier that has a secondary way to secure the pet inside, such as a clip to hold zippers together.
How large is my pet and will I need to fit multiple pets into one carrier? A carrier should be big enough for your pet to comfortably lie down and stretch out and turn around. Cats feel more secure in small carriers, but make sure they have adequate room, especially if you plan on keeping your cat in the carrier for an extended period. If you must put more than one pet in the carrier, make sure it is large enough to accommodate all of them.
How easy is it to clean and store? Cardboard carriers can’t get wet, but they do collapse flat when not in use. Some soft carriers can also be folded down for easier storage, but they are harder to keep clean. If you have a soft carrier, line the inside with a towel or blanket to absorb any accidents. If your soft carrier has Velcro, check the fastenings from time to time to ensure no fur is stuck in the surface of the Velcro, keeping it from gripping together. Hard carriers are usually plastic and very easy to clean, but they don’t break down into a smaller size.
Do I need an airline approved carrier? If you plan to travel with your pet in the cabin of an airplane, you will need a carrier that is approved for such a purpose. Carriers that meet airline standards are usually labeled as such.
Once my pet is in the carrier, how will we be traveling? If you live close to your vet’s office and plan to walk to your appointment, can you carry the pet carrier that far? Some carriers come with carrying straps or in a backpack style, which are easy to carry hands free. If you are traveling by car or mass transit, make sure the carrier fits in the vehicle easily. If your pet is very heavy, consider a carrier with wheels, similar to a rolling suitcase, or a “pet stroller,” which look like baby strollers but have a secure section for pets to ride in.
How does my pet feel about the carrier and how easy or difficult will it be to get him into it? In the picture above, Ollie is just hanging out in his carrier at home. He loves the carrier and never has to be coaxed to get in it. As soon as it appears, he hops in and looks at his mom as if saying, “Hey! Where are we going? I’m ready!” His brother, however, dislikes the carrier and has to be stuffed into it. If your pet dislikes his carrier and you struggle to get him into it, consider a model with multiple openings. Many cat owners find it easier to put a cat into a carrier from a door that opens on the top. If your pet doesn’t like to come OUT of the carrier once at his destination, get a carrier that dismantles easily. Some hard carriers have sliding latches or pieces that snap into place that make it easy to take the top off of a carrier to get a pet out. This is a great option for pets with carrier aggression, because no one has to place their hand into the door of the carrier and risk a bite.
How long do I need the carrier to last? If you’re investing in a carrier that you want to last for years, or that will be used frequently, get a sturdy model. If you don’t mind replacing cardboard carriers as they fall apart, they are generally cheaper.