Traveling in a confined space is stressful for cats, who like having control of their routine and environment. Many cats also associate carriers with scary trips to the veterinarian. But a backpack cat carrier can provide a different experience, offering a well-ventilated, protected space and a heightened vantage. Plus, it’s a lot easier for a human to carry the weight of a cat and carrier on their shoulders than by hand.
We consulted with expert Dr. Georgina Ushi-Phillips, a practicing veterinarian and veterinary writer for BetterWithCats.net, who emphasized specific features that deserve extra attention.
“When it comes to backpack carriers, you’ll also need to pay special attention to the entry points (top entry is a requirement), comfort (for both you and your cat), and some additional features like a hitch or tether to attach your cat’s leash,” Dr. Ushi-Phillips told The Spruce Pets.
To find the best backpack cat carrier, we also tested more than two dozen cat carriers, including ten backpacks, comparing each to find the best combination of build quality, performance, and features. We purchased a wide range of the most popular and well-reviewed backpack cat carriers, then shipped each one to a different real-world tester. They tested backpacks with their cats and provided detailed feedback on their use and how they felt about each carrier.
Halinfer Expandable Space Capsule Cat Backpack
Fun modern design
Expandable mesh panel allows for extra space
Can get hot when bubble is allowed to warm in direct sunlight
Plastic can scratch
Hand wash only
Not suitable for very large cats
The entire front panel of the Halinfer Space Capsule Bubble Window Cat Backpack Carrier is a clear, durable plastic bubble that provides your cat with an unobstructed view while riding safely on your back. Nine vent holes and two mesh side windows allow for good air circulation.
Our tester tried out the Halinfer with two adult cats and two kittens, and three of her cats instantly took to the backpack’s combination of rigid structure and full visibility, and our tester found themselves leaving out the fully expanded backpack for her cats to play inside of between walks.
More comfortable than standard cat carriers, the Space Capsule backpack is made from a durable polyester that our tester felt was heavy-duty and “exceptionally sturdy,” with beefy zippers.
However, our tester also advised that the Halinfer is best used for temporary trips, such as a walk to the veterinarian since the capsule portion of the backpack is relatively small. When used as a backpack, your cat will primarily be in a standing position atop a plush mat, and there’s a built-in leash with a clip to secure it to a harness or collar. The Space Capsule backpack is suitable for cats up to 12 pounds. Halinfer also offers a model suitable for larger cats, but it primarily uses a well-ventilated mesh instead of the rigid bubble design.
While it’s not super roomy when walking around, one of our favorite features of the Halinfer backpack carrier is its expandible back side, which more than doubles the interior size of the backpack by folding out like an accordion. This makes it a cinch to provide your cat with a lot of extra lying down or wiggle room when the backpack is off your shoulders. It also substantially improves ventilation.
While our tester loved the backpack for short walks, they did note that it’s tricky getting your cat into the carrier. Your two options are either unzipping the plastic bubble—which makes the carrier a little too open, letting your cat easily slip back out while you’re trying to close them inside—or through the round door on the side of the backpack, which is a little small.
Price at time of publish: $43
Backpack Weight: 3 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 13 pounds | Colors: Black, blue, green, gray, pink, printed puppies, printed space
PETKIT Pet Backpack Carrier
Includes light and fan
Comfortable to wear and well-padded
Powering light and fan requires separate USB battery
Soft back panel impedes on cat’s interior space
This structured backpack is full of amenities like an air-circulating fan and LED lighting. The fan has three different settings—low, high, and automatic—quietly sucking in fresh air from the side and circulating it out through vents on the top and bottom of the cat compartment. The embedded LED lighting ramps up gradually at night, expanding your cat’s visibility.
Unfortunately, the PetKit Breezy Dome Cat Backpack Carrier doesn’t come with its own power source, but it does provide a lot of flexibility by allowing you to hook it up to a USB power bank of your choice. The power bank side pocket can easily accommodate 3 x 6-inch charging bricks, similar to what you might carry to recharge a cell phone. The ability to quickly swap between multiple power packs makes for a lot of flexibility, even if it’s disappointing to make another purchase on top of the backpack’s price.
Suitable for cats up to 17 pounds, the Petkit backpack carrier combines a rigid structure with lightweight materials, which makes for a comfortable wearing experience while providing your cat with a comfortable and protected vantage point. A multi-layered back plate, combining breathable mesh, a layer of moisture-wicking pearl wool, and a hard EVA pad, makes the Breezy Dome Cat Backpack especially comfortable for the wearer. However, our tester did note that the flexible backing sometimes impeded their cat’s interior space.
“I would definitely recommend this for people who want to take their cats out for leisurely activities,” our tester said. “The backpack is cute, lightweight with cool features, and is high quality. The only thing I would want is for the back panel to be harder and more stable, so my cat doesn’t get nudged around so much when I walk.”
Designed to accommodate a cat that’s standing (and presumably enjoying the view), the Petkit Breezy Dome may be excellent for walks but isn’t recommended for long trips where your cat may need to rest.
Price at time of publish: $70
Material: ABS, PC, mesh | Backpack Weight: 3 pounds | Maximum Capacity: 17 pounds
Mancro Expandable Cat Backpack
Plenty of room
Will stand upright on its own
Only one color
Doesn’t sit well if worn on your front
Our tester loved the Mancro Expandable Cat Backpack Carrier for its roomy interior, even before it’s been expanded. The pack holds its form and sits upright when you set it down, so it’s easier to put your cat in and out. When opening the zippers and expanding the back, the interior size of the pack is doubled, which gives your cat more space to stretch out in the airport or plane, in the car, or in other circumstances when you’re not wearing the backpack.
Our test cat loved being able to see out of the clear front and sides. The pack also has a built-in leash that can connect to your cat’s collar or harness, allowing you to open the top so your cat can ride with an unobstructed view (assuming your cat will stay in position while the pack is open). This pack also has excellent ventilation with holes in the clear sides and a mesh top.
Price at time of publish: $37
Backpack Weight: 3.7 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 15 pounds | Colors: Gray/black
Ibiyaya Eva 5-in-1 Pet Carrier
Five functions in one purchase
Easy conversion between forms
Stroller folds flat for easy storage
Not a fit for large cats
If you like to take your cat everywhere, consider the Ibiyaya 5-in-1 Pet Carrier. Not just a backpack, this durable combination includes the option to convert it to a shoulder carrier, a pet car seat, a pet carrier with wheels, and easy attachment to a stroller.
The backpack carrier has a large opening for getting them in and out, plus a tether with a snap hook to keep them secure. The sturdy mesh window and perforated holes ensure ventilation while your kitty enjoys the view. You’ll appreciate the roll-up flap for privacy and the machine-washable padding.
The pet carrier itself has passed environmental stress-cracking resistance and SGS quality tests, making it safe as a car seat and airline carrier.
The stroller is a bonus for longer strolls and to save your back. The Ibiyaya is manufactured according to baby stroller standards. Customers like the sturdy wheels and one-handed fold mechanism.
When not in use, pieces can be disassembled quickly with smooth zippers and flattened for space-saving storage and transportation.
Price at time of publish: $197
Backpack Weight: 4 pounds | Carrying Capacity: 16 pounds | Colors: Blue, brown, green, orange and pink
Our favorite cat backpack carrier is the Halinfer Space Capsule Bubble Window Cat Backpack Carrier, which was a hit with our tester cats, and combines great visibility with an expansive mesh compartment. If you’re interested in something a little more high-tech and don’t mind buying your own USB battery pack, check out the Petkit Breezy Dome Cat Backpack Carrier.
How We Tested
We purchased and tested a total of 30 popular and well-reviewed cat carriers, including a wide range of backpack carriers. Our 24 volunteer testers were mailed individual products for use with their cats. While their primary feedback stems from regular, day-to-day use, testers were also sent a methodology written in advance with advice from cat veterinary and behavioral experts. This methodology guided our testers through multiple evaluations, and testers provided both detailed written feedback and 1-5 scores in various categories, including performance, portability, quality, and value. Testers will continue to use their backpack cat carrier for several months, providing periodic feedback that will be used to continuously update this article with the latest product information.
What to Look for in a Backpack Cat Carrier
Spaciousness and Entry
The size and capacity of backpacks vary widely, with weight limits between just 10 pounds on up to 25 pounds. The same goes for spaciousness. Measure your cat’s standing height and compare it to your chosen carrier’s interior dimensions. Choose a pack that is big enough so your cat can easily turn around and change positions.
“Opting for a backpack with a sturdy base is usually a good start, and while this may mean that the backpack doesn't fold down quite as small, it also means your cat will have more room without having to adjust to the shifting shape of the backpack,” Dr. Georgina Ushi-Phillips, a practicing veterinarian and veterinary writer for BetterWithCats.net, told The Spruce Pets.
Also, consider entry points. Some pet parents like a pack that opens from both the top and side for versatility when getting your cat into the pack. Some cats prefer one entry method over another. With a removable top and door, your cat can remain in the pack during veterinary examinations. You want zippers that open easily when you need them but not so easily that your cat’s weight or paws will open them.
Style and Materials
You can choose from a range of styles and materials, and no one type is best because our cats vary in their preferences too. Some cats like the high visibility of clear and bubble-style backpacks, while others feel too exposed and prefer the added perceived privacy and protection of mesh.
Most packs use at least some mesh for ventilation. Depending on the pack, the mesh can be fully covered by additional zippered fabric or fully opened so that your cat can pop their head out into the fresh air.
Many of the backpacks are made of durable, easy-to-clean polyester fabrics, while a few also incorporate canvas elements. Carefully check the care instructions for your pack. Some include bottom cushions that are removable and machine washable. Most should only be spot cleaned by hand. Many are meant to only be line dried as the dryer heat could damage plastic and polyester parts.
Safety and Comfort
Whenever taking your cat outside of your home, be mindful of the safety features your cat backpack offers. Be sure to first test the safety of the pack inside your home to ensure that your cat cannot escape. Make sure your cat is microchipped or is wearing an identification tag just in case before venturing outside.
“Some backpack carriers come with an attachment point for your cat's leash,” Dr. Ushi-Phillips said. “Depending on how you plan to use your backpack, this can be extremely helpful as it allows your cat to easily hang out around the backpack.”
Ensure that your cat backpack has adequate ventilation to help regulate both temperature and fresh air. Packs with large clear sections can heat up quickly in direct sunlight, in the same way as a hot car. If you see condensation on the inside of the pack, it is likely that air is not moving through adequately, and adjustments should be made. Check that there are ventilation holes and mesh on at least three sides of the pack to ensure proper air movement. For similar reasons, consider the ambient temperature outside before heading out on warm days.
“Just as important, but often overlooked, is your own comfort while wearing the backpack,” Dr. Ushi-Phillips added. “It can already be a bumpy ride for your cat, but if you’re constantly adjusting and shifting the backpack to find a comfortable spot for you, it’s going to make things even bumpier for your cat.”
Are backpack cat carriers safe in cars?
“I’m not aware of any backpack cat carriers that have been crash tested (this is one group that does pet carrier crash testing),” says Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “It's safe to say that in the event of a crash, unless the backpack carrier is secured to the car in some way, it’s not much safer than any other soft-sided carrier.”
How can I help my cat feel comfortable in a backpack carrier?
“Start slow,” Dr. Ushi-Phillips recommends. “Even if your cat has already gotten used to their traditional carrier, a backpack carrier is different enough that you don’t want to jump right into running around the city with your cat on your back. Introduce your cat to the backpack carrier while in your home and give them plenty of positive reinforcement for using it. That could be treats, petting, or anything that your cat enjoys. Start with short trips in the backpack, and over time your cat will become more and more comfortable."
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
The Spruce Pets uses a combination of research, expert insights, and testing to determine the best pet products in a wide range of categories. This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde, who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years, including some special needs kitties. Two of her cats lived happily and healthily into their early 20s.
When researching each product and brand, Wilde evaluated the type and quality of each product, customer reviews, the company’s research and development, and their business ethics.
Wilde also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.
Dr. Georgina Ushi-Phillips is a practicing veterinarian and veterinary writer for BetterWithCats.net. She grew up in Wisconsin and earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida. Her professional interests include nutrition, soft tissue surgery, and emergency care. In her free time, Dr. Ushi-Phillips enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and her hound mix, Pearle.