9 Best Top Loading Cat Carriers in 2020

Even if you don’t plan to travel with your cat, having a cat carrier handy is a good idea. You’ll need it for trips to the vet and you’ll be glad you have it in the event of an emergency where you have to leave home with your pets. A top-loading carrier is a great choice if you’re looking for something easy to use.

Once you take your cat to the vet the first time, he’ll probably start associating the carrier with something scary. Some cats run and hide at the very sight of their carrier, so why would you want to complicate the process by choosing a carrier that isn’t easy to use? A carrier with a top-loading option allows you to simply pick up your cat and lower him in without trying to stuff him through the door as he clings to the sides with his claws.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of top-loading cat carriers and learn what to look for when shopping for a pet carrier. You’ll also see our top picks for top-loading models.

The Benefits of Top-Loading Carriers


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There are many different types of cat carriers out there. The first choice you have to make is between a hard-sided and a soft-sided cat carrier. Hard carriers are sturdy and easy to clean while soft carriers are lightweight and flexible. The former is usually best for car travel while the latter for air travel.

After you decide between a hard and a soft cat carrier, the next choice you need to make is between a front-loading and a top-loading carrier.

A front-loading cat carrier typically has a single door in the front of the carrier. This is the standard design but it dose pose a challenge for some cats who get nervous around the carrier – you may have trouble getting your cat into it. Sometimes the best cat carrier for difficult cats is a top-loading carrier that has a door on the top. You can simply lower your cat into the carrier feet-first.

Here are some of the benefits of top-loading cat carriers:

  • It makes it much easier for you to put your cat in and take him out
  • They are more comfortable for your cat to enter
  • You can open the door to pet your cat with less risk of him escaping
  • They are generally easier to use with large or heavy cats
Now that you know a little more about the different types of carriers and the benefits of a top-loading design, you’re almost ready to start shopping. Before you see our top picks, however, take the time to think about what you should be looking for in a cat carrier.

What to Look for in a Cat Carrier

Most pet owners don’t travel with their cats and few cats leave the house for more than the occasional vet visit. If you don’t plan to use the carrier very often, you may be wondering if it’s even worth the expense. What it really comes down to, however, is your cat’s safety. A cardboard box certainly could do the trick, but it won’t keep your cat safe during an accident and it might not even keep him contained.

Having a good cat carrier is important and there are a number of factors to consider when you start shopping. Here are some things to look for in cat carriers: 

  • Style – Consider what you’ll be using the carrier for and what will be most convenient for you and comfortable for you and your cat. Traditional cat carriers are great, but there are other options like rolling suitcase-style carriers and the popular cat carrier backpack.
  • Size – Your cat should be able to comfortably sit, stand, and turn around inside the carrier but it shouldn’t be big enough that he slides around. Look for a carrier 1 ½ times your cat’s size.
  • Ventilation – Proper ventilation is important so your cat can breathe comfortably while in the carrier and so he doesn’t overheat. This is particularly important for air travel.
  • Material – Whether you choose a hard or soft pet carrier, it’s important to find one made from durable materials. Sturdy materials keep your cat safer and stand up to clawing and chewing.
  • Regulations – If you’re looking for the best cat carrier for air travel, look up the specific regulations for the airline you’ll be using to make sure it meets the requirements.

Keeping these factors in mind, it’s time to see some of the different options out there. Read on to see our top picks for the best top-loading cat carriers.

The Best Top Loading Cat Carriers

Whether you prefer a hard-sided carrier or a soft one, a roller bag or a cat carrier backpack, there are plenty options to choose from. We’ve done our best to review the options to bring you a varied list of some of the best cat carriers on the market with a top-loading feature.

Here are our top picks for the best top loading cat carrier: 

Frisco Two-Door Top Load Plastic Cat Kennel

Available in two sizes, the Frisco Two-Door Top Load Plastic Cat Kennel is a great option for hard-sided carriers. This carrier can be disassembled into pieces for storage – one half fits neatly inside the other. It is a two-door model which means you can load your cat through the front or the top, whatever works best at the time. This carrier is made from sturdy materials with plenty of ventilation on the sides, but it is covered enough to keep your cat feeling safe and secure.

Pros: Two-door design with top entry, sturdy materials, plenty of ventilation, disassemble for storage

Cons: Some users had issues with pieces not fitting

Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier Bag

If you’re looking for a lightweight cat carrier for air travel, consider this Sherpa Original Deluxe Airline-Approved Cat Carrier Bag. This bag features a patented wire spring frame so the carrier holds its shape, but the bottom can be pushed down to fit under an airplane seat. The carrier has mesh windows for ventilation with both top and side entry, plus locking zippers for safety. It also has a rear pocket for storage and a seatbelt strap to keep your cat safe during car travel.

Pros: Patented wire sprint frame, durable materials, padded shoulder strap, plenty of ventilation

Cons: Fairly expensive model, may be too small for very large cats

JesPet Cat Carrier Backpack

Maintain the convenience of keeping your hands free while your cat stays completely secure with this JesPet Cat Carrier Backpack. This backpack offers both top and front entry options with large mesh panels for visibility and ventilation. It is made from durable polyester materials and has a padded handle and shoulder strap for comfort. This carrier is perfect if your cat likes to sit up and keep an eye on things around him, but it might not be large enough for big cats to lie down comfortably.

Pros: Hands-free design, large mesh windows, padded handle and shoulder straps, durable polyester

Cons: May not be big enough for large cats

Frisco Travel Cat Carrier Bag

Simple and affordable, this Frisco Travel Cat Carrier Bag is a great option. It is designed with a roomy interior and semi-collapsible design to fit in small spaces, plus it can be folded down for storage. This cat carrier bag offers both side and top entry options with shoulder and luggage straps for mobility. It comes with a machine-washable soft Sherpa lining and has auto-locking zippers for safety.

Pros: Top and side entry, mesh windows for ventilation, auto-locking zippers, washable pad

Cons: May be too small for some cats

Pet Gear Signature Cat Cart Seat & Carrier

If your cat travels well and you’re just looking for something to keep him contained in the car, this Pet Gear Signature Cat Cart Seat & Carrier might be a good option. This 2-in-1 car seat and carrier works for cats up to 20 pounds and it provides ample space for comfort. It features front and top zippered mesh windows you can use to load your cat that will also ensure proper ventilation while he’s inside. This carrier also comes with rear storage pouches and a machine-washable fleece pad.

Pros: Dual purpose car seat and carrier, cats up to 20 pounds, mesh windows for ventilation

Cons: May be too large to carry outside the car

Mr. Peanut’s Platinum Series Double-Expandable Cat Carrier Bag

For extended travel, this Mr. Peanut’s Platinum Series Double-Expandable Cat Carrier Bag is a great choice. It’s a convenient size for air travel but it has two expandable fold-out sides to give your cat a little extra space when you have downtime. This carrier is made from military-grade nylon which makes it not only a lightweight cat carrier, but also very durable, easy to clean, and waterproof. It features a leash tether, self-locking zippers, fleece pads, and storage pockets with a padded handle and strap.

Pros: Expandable compartments for extra space, durable military-grade materials, waterproof

Cons: Can be tricky to put the sides back up after expanding them

Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Cat Carrier Bag

Take a load off with this Sherpa Ultimate on Wheels Cat Carrier Bag. When you get tired of carrying your cat around, simply place the carrier on the floor and roll it along. This carrier is airline approved and made with mesh panels for ventilation. It features a washable faux lambskin liner and padded carrying straps you can detach to use as a pull strap. This carrier is a little pricier than some models on the market, but it offers plenty of versatile and convenient features.

Pros: Wheels for rolling, mesh panels for ventilation, lambskin liner, padded carrying straps

Cons: Fairly expensive, may be too large for some airlines

Kurgo Wander Airline-Approved Cat Carrier Bag

Keep your cat safe and comfortable during travel or on trips to the vet with this Kurgo Wander Airline-Approved Cat Carrier Bag. This bag is made from durable materials with a padded interior for comfort, plus it’s collapsible for simple storage. This carrier has side pockets to store toys and treats, and it has an interior tether to keep your cat secure. It has an adjustable, removable shoulder strap as well.

Pros: Padded interior for comfort, side pockets for storage, collapsible design, airline approved

Cons: Zippers on top don’t lock for security

Gen7Pets Geometric Roller with Smart-Level Cat Carrier Backpack

Available in two sizes, this Gen7Pets Geometric Roller with Smart-Level Cat Carrier Backpack does double duty as a roller bag and a cat backpack carrier. This carrier keeps your cat extremely comfortable thanks to the Smart-Level platform and Smart-Comfort pad. It includes a seatbelt strap and interior tether for safety as well. This cat carrier has top and front zippered openings for easy access as well as mesh ventilation panels, two side storage pockets, and hide-away backpack shoulder straps.

Pros: Converts to backpack or roller bag, top and front entry, storage pockets, hideaway shoulder straps

Cons: May be too small for very large cats

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the safest cat carrier? The safest cat carrier may differ depending on the type of travel you’re doing. For car travel, you want something that keeps your cat contained and that will provide some protection in the event of an accident – hard-sided carriers are generally best. Soft carriers are ideal for air travel because they can be placed under the seat in front of you. Remember, there are multiple factors to consider for your cat’s safety. It’s also important to find a carrier that keeps your cat contained so he can’t get out.
  2. How do I get my cat into a carrier? If your cat starts to associate the carrier with a stressful event, he may start avoiding it. It might help to give your cat some time to get used to the carrier before you use it the first time. Place the carrier out in the open and start giving your cat some treats in it, leaving the door open. The easiest way to get your cat into the carrier if you have a front-entry model is to set the carrier on its end, so the open door faces the ceiling. Pick your cat up and lower his rear end into the carrier before closing the door and gently turning it to the correct position. If you have a top-entry carrier, all you need to do is open the top door. If you have a top-loading carrier, simply lower your cat in feet-first.
  3. How long can a cat stay in a carrier? The best rule of thumb to follow is to not leave your cat in the carrier longer than you have to. Even if the carrier is properly sized to give him space to stand up and turn around, he won’t be able to stretch his legs or use the litter box. Avoid keeping your cat in the carrier for more than 6 hours (maximum) and try to break up long trips into shorter chunks of 2 hours or so.
  4. What should I put in my cat carrier? Don’t clutter your cat’s carrier with toys because it will only eat up space. Line the bottom of the carrier with something soft like a towel, blanket, or crate pad. If your cat gets nervous during travel, it wouldn’t hurt to use a pee pad liner to absorb liquid. Depending on the type of carrier and your mode of travel, you can consider adding a water bowl as long as it attaches to the carrier, so it won’t spill. Some cats like to have a toy with them, or you can throw in a few pieces of kibble to calm your cat down.

All cat carriers are not created equal. Certain types are better for different types of travel and one model might be best for your cat, depending on his personality. Because cat carriers come in all sizes and designs, it can be tricky to choose among the myriad options.

Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work to bring you our top picks for the best cat carrier with a top-loading door. Check out our recommendations above!

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