Every cat parent’s been there: Your beloved feline needs to take a trip to the vet, but as soon as you put them in a cat carrier the meows and protests begin. My own cat makes a sound reminiscent of a cow’s moo — and it tugs at my heartstrings every time I hear it. I’ve always wondered if there was a better way to transport a cat than in a cage-like carrier. Turns out, there is an alternative: the cat backpack.
This quirky carrier is exactly what it sounds like: a specially-designed backpack that allows you to carry your cat with ease. Lately, I’ve seen them everywhere. I reached out to some experts to find out if they’re good for cats.
Do cat backpacks work better than traditional carriers?
So, why should you consider putting your cat in a backpack instead of a carrier? “The idea of a cat backpack versus a regular carrier is increased practicality and easier mobility,” explains Dr. Paola Cuevas Moreno, a veterinarian who consults for the cat furniture brand Hepper. She believes that cat backpacks offer benefits that regular carriers cannot, “especially during long distances when extra weight distribution is an advantage, or when the person has to move around limited spaces.” However, she says, “the real advantage is more for the owner than for the cat: the ease the cat backpack offers creates more bonding opportunities.” In a backpack, a cat is physically closer to their human parent (you can even wear the backpack on your front, baby carrier-style) and they can get a better sense of their surroundings.
Carrying a cat hands-free is also easier for owners than a traditional carrier, which requires a person to hold the straps in their hands or sling them over their shoulder. Your cat may even feel more at ease due to the increased visibility: most cat backpacks have plastic or mesh windows that allow them to peer out. Conversely, seeing more might trigger anxiety in some cats — so consider your pet’s personality before buying a backpack.
How can I introduce my pet to the cat backpack?
As with any carrier, a cat needs to be “properly desensitized and introduced” to it first, so that they “recognize it as a safe space,” recommends Dr. Cuevas Moreno. Whether you’re using a traditional carrier or a newfangled cat backpack, make sure to let your furry friend get a feel for it before you leave the house. Let them sniff and explore it a little on their own (if they’re willing), and make sure to offer them plenty of treats so they have positive associations with the bag.
“Introducing your cat to a carrier backpack can be a big adjustment for them,” says Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, a veterinarian and pet expert author at FluffyDoodles.com. “It’s important to take things slowly and give them time to get used to it. Once they’re comfortable going in and out, you can start taking them on short trips.” Just don’t keep your cat in the backpack for too long, and watch for any signs of discomfort.
Dr. Cuevas Moreno agrees that a cat shouldn’t be left inside a backpack for too long without a break. Additionally, she advises that you don’t leave your cat unattended or force them to stay in the backpack if they appear stressed. Remember, cat attributes vary greatly; some cats can happily be picked up and taken anywhere, while others aren’t going to like being transported in any form — and that’s okay.
“There are a number of reasons why some cats love being in a carrier backpack, and others don’t,” notes Dr. Whoriskey. “Some cats feel more secure in a smaller space and enjoy being close to their owners, while others may simply feel claustrophobic.” She points out that while “some cats may enjoy the movement and stimulation that comes from being in a carrier backpack and seem to relish the excellent vantage point to survey their surroundings” — because it helps them to feel like they’re in control of the situation — other cats “just don’t like being handled unless it is on their terms, and prefer staying on the ground and at home.”
What should I look for in a cat carrier backpack?
Cat carrier backpacks are sold on Amazon, but don’t just grab the first one you see — it’s important to know what to look for and take the time to check out sizes, materials, and customer reviews. “As long as the backpack is right for the cat’s size, well-ventilated, and breathable, a cat will be safe inside a backpack carrier,” confirms Dr. Cuevas Moreno; she also notes that you must make sure the carrier has sufficient space and proper ventilation. Here are eight factors that Dr. Cuevas Moreno urges pet owners to consider when carrier shopping:
- Material. Look for a sturdy and durable material like polyester, acrylic, or even faux leather.
- Size. You want your carrier to be at least one and a half times longer than your cat’s height and length.
- Ventilation. Make sure the case has ventilation in the form of a mesh cover on the top and/or additional openings on the sides so your kitty can breathe.
- Visibility. Screens or windows will allow your cat to enjoy some visibility and see where they are going.
- Mat. A removable mat or cushion on the inside of the carrier will make it easier to clean (especially if your fur baby throws up or accidentally goes to the bathroom on the trip!).
- Clips. Attached bungee clips will come in handy if you have a leash for your cat or a portable water bowl you want to bring along.
- Pockets. Side pockets are perfect for storing any supplies, toys, or treats you may want for the trip.
- Straps. Padded and adjustable straps will make the backpack more comfortable to carry; additional chest and waist straps can also help keep things sturdy.
For a top-rated cat backpack that won’t break the bank, try COVONO’s expandable pet carrier backpack, which has over one thousand positive reviews (Buy from Amazon, $39.99). If your cat is — ahem — fuller-figured, the aptly named “Fat Cat” backpack, which can hold up to 25 pounds of cat, will be your new best friend (Buy from Your Cat Backpack, $119). And if you’re looking for an especially cute tote, try the “Space Bubble” backpack, which will make your cat look they’re in a science -fiction movie (Buy from More Than a Backpack, $64.99).
Your fur baby’s trip will be a breeze if you follow three simple steps: 1) Choose a well-made carrier that’s suited to your cat’s needs; 2) Offer them plenty of treats and pets; 3) Check in on them throughout their journey. Just be warned: Even after you’ve made the backpack feel as comfy and safe as possible for your furry pal, whether or not they actually enjoy being carried this way will depend entirely on the inner workings of their notoriously mysterious minds. Good luck!
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