Soft vs Hard Cat Carrier: Which Is Right for Your Feline?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

soft vs hard cat carrier

When it comes to transporting your furry feline friend, whether it’s for routine check-ups, addressing health concerns, or even having family trips, choosing the right and reliable cat carrier is essential for their safety and comfort.

Cat carriers (aka kennels) come in two main varieties: soft and hard. Each boasts its own distinct features and advantages!

In this article, we’ll delve into the details of both types of carriers, comparing their attributes, pros, and cons.

By the end of this friendly feline guide, you’ll already be well-equipped with information on which carrier type: soft vs hard cat carrier, will suit your cat’s unique needs!


An Overview Between Hard vs Soft Cat Carrier

  • Soft cat carriers, crafted from fabric or nylon, are popular for their lightweight and adaptable design!
  • Hard cat carriers, on the other hand, are typically fashioned from robust materials like hard plastic or metal compositions. They are renowned for their durability, earning them the distinction of being heavy-duty cat carriers!

Now, let’s take a closer look at the features and pros and cons of the two primary types of cat carriers: soft and hard carriers.

1. Soft Cat Carrier



  • Lightweight and Portable: Soft cat carriers are typically lightweight and easy to carry.
  • Flexible and Collapsible: Most soft carriers have a flexible frame, allowing them to collapse or fold for compact storage when not in use.
  • Ventilation and Comfortable Interior: Often has mesh or ventilated sides to provide proper airflow. This type also usually has a padded and cozy interior, providing a comfortable space for your cat during travel!
  • Exterior Pockets: Some soft carriers come with exterior pockets for storing essentials like treats, toys, or documents.
  • Variety of Styles: They often come in various styles, colors, and designs like totes and backpacks, and include adjustable shoulder straps and handles for carrying convenience!
  • Offers a cozy and comfortable space for your cat
  • Effortlessly portable, suitable for short trips
  • Lightweight
  • Storage-friendly, collapsible and stowed away easily when not in use
  • Offers a variety of styles, colors, and designs
  • May not be resilient and durable
  • Limited protection in instances of uncooperative cats or rough handling
  • More difficult to clean

2. Hard Cat Carrier



  • Rigid and Durable: Generally made out of sturdy materials like hard plastic or stainless steel, ensuring durability and longevity!
  • Solid Construction and Safety Latches: Have a solid, non-collapsible structure, offering superior protection and security during travel. Feature secure locking mechanisms, preventing accidental openings and escapes.
  • Easy to Clean: Their solid surfaces are easy to wipe clean, and they are less likely to retain odors, making maintenance a breeze.
  • Large Size Options: You can find hard carriers in a range of sizes, including options for big cats and multi-door designs.
  • Approved for Air Travel: Some hard carriers meet airline requirements for pet cargo travel, making them suitable for long-distance trips!
  • Offers robust safety and security
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean and are less likely to retain odors
  • Suitable for long-distance travel, including air-travel
  • Large and roomy
  • Tend to be heavier than soft carriers
  • Less space-efficient regarding storage in your home
  • Can cost a lot more than soft kennels

Which is Right For You?


The selection between a soft and hard cat carrier should be based on a range of factors, including your cat’s temperament, the nature of your trips, and your personal preferences. To aid you in making an informed choice, consider the following:

1. Soft Cat Carrier Considerations


  • Cat’s Temperament: If your cat tends to be anxious or doesn’t take well to confinement, a soft carrier may provide a more reassuring and comfortable environment.
  • Trip Type: Soft carriers excel in short trips such as vet visits or grooming appointments, thanks to their comfort and flexibility.
  • Storage Space: If you have limited storage space or prefer carriers that are foldable when not in use, a soft carrier may be the practical choice.

2. Hard Cat Carrier Considerations


  • Durability: If your cat has destructive tendencies or you anticipate rough handling during travel, a hard carrier’s robust design provides peace of mind.
  • Long Journeys: For extended journeys or travel involving flights, the added protection and security features of hard carriers are highly advantageous. These products may also come with bowls for feeding.
  • Safety Concerns: If safety is your main concern, especially when transporting your cat in a vehicle or other bulky objects that can fall on the kennel, hard cat carriers are often the wise choice.

3. Other Things to Consider

For Difficult Cats

If you have a difficult or anxious cat, safety is always the priority. Hard shell cat carriers or hard plastic cat carriers can provide peace of mind that your feline companion won’t escape and get lost while traveling.

However, because these designs are tough, you should put some padding in them to ensure comfort for your cat.

Finding the Right Fit and Size

It’s crucial to select a cat carrier size that accommodates your pet comfortably. For larger felines, spacious and large cat carriers should be 1.5 times the cat’s height and length, or a little bigger if you add food bowls and a litter box.


Cat carriers can range in price from around $20 to $100. Research and set a budget before you start shopping so that you don’t overspend!

Soft Carriers Hard Carriers
  • Short trips to the vet or groomer
  • Taking your cat on public transport
  • Traveling with your cat by car
  • Air travel in a cabin
  • Long road trips
  • Transporting anxious or difficult felines
  • Transporting a cat who is sick or prone to making messes
  • Air travel in a cargo area


The choice between a soft and hard cat carrier depends on specific requirements and of course, your cat’s personality and well-being. If you’re not satisfied and still looking for the purr-fect and safest cat carrier, worry not, dear fur-parent!

There are indeed a lot of vet-recommended cat carriers that you can browse through online! And you can always consult your feline’s veterinarian for recommendations.

Vets often have insights into what carriers are safest and most suitable for your cat’s needs, especially if your companion has special requirements or anxiety issues.

Hopefully, this friendly guide about soft vs hard cat carrier has provided valuable insights for your decision.

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