How to Transport a Cat Without a Carrier

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 22, 2024

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It's no easy task to transport a cat without a carrier.

Whether your family is large or small, it can be argued that it is not complete without a pet. Cats make amazing pets with their regal dispositions, fluffy and soft fur, and graceful movements. But cats are also temperamental; what do you do when you need to transport your cat? This becomes even more difficult if you don’t have a carrier.

It cannot be emphasized enough how risky it is to transport a cat without a carrier. While it’s possible, felines are notoriously skittish, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. Instead of attempting to transport a cat yourself without using a carrier and risking it running away and getting lost, hire a pet transporter. Pet transporters have the appropriate equipment for moving cats and will observe your cat for the entire trip. Carriers are designed specifically for the transportation of cats and have the appropriate ventilation and a design that’s optimized for moving cats.

However, for whatever reason, you may be forced to transport your cat without a carrier. Maybe it is a case where you have to move based on some emergency and you have to take your cat with you without the use of a carrier. Based on the urgency of the situation you would have to make do with the resources available to you. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Transporting a Cat to the Vet Without a Carrier

Responsible cat owners take their cat to the vet for regular check-ups. However, it’s not always practical to purchase a cat carrier for one or two vet visits a year. Plus, a carrier can stress cats out, making a trip to the vet even more difficult. If you’re considering taking your cat to the vet without a carrier, make sure you check with the office and ensure that they’re okay with having a cat in the lobby without a carrier. Some vet offices frown on that practice.

1. Use a Cat Harness

A cat harness is typically used when you are walking your cat. However, in the event that you do not have a cat carrier, you may be able to repurpose the cat harness for the purpose of travel. 

Just like with the car scenario that we mentioned earlier, your cat will need to get used to the harness. Gradually increase the use of the harness by taking your cat for walks. Before taking him or her out however you may not want to attach the leash right away. Cats are very fickle animals and they do not cope well with change. It has to be a case of gradual acceptance. Let your cat walk around in the harness and get comfortable with it. Then, when he or she is comfortable you can attach a leash. Walk your cat. Take him or her out to the park and other places so the harness becomes comfortable. 

Then you can take your cat in the car with the harness. Make sure that the harness is secure, using the seatbelt to gently tighten it. Do not tighten it too much. On the flip side, do not loosen it too much. Make it just tight enough to facilitate comfort and security.

It is important to note that a cat harness is made specifically for a cat. Therefore a dog harness will not be as effective. It may even hurt your cat.

2. A Sports Bag May Suffice

 If you did not invest in a cat carrier, it may be logical to assume that you did not get a harness either. It may be a case where you have just gotten your little furry friend. You are therefore on a quest to earn your cat’s trust. It is a critical time that could arguably make or break your relationship.

In the event that you do not have a cat carrier or a harness, you may find some use for your sports bag. However this is not just any sports bag, there have to be some specific characteristics.

For one thing, you need a bag with proper ventilation. Make sure that the bag has enough ventilation. The nylon material used in most bags lends itself to durability. Also, the design is usually adorned with holes on the side that will facilitate ventilation.

Also, make sure that you get a bag with a smooth base. This will make your cat comfortable. You can maximize this comfort by spreading a soft blanket on the base, and even placing some of your cat’s favorite toys in the makeshift carrier. Just try to give your cat as much peace of mind as possible.

Other Cat Carrier Alternatives

  • Cardboard Boxes: Maybe the relationship between you and your cat actually started with a cardboard box. They can be fashioned into makeshift carriers. Make sure to properly ventilate the box before placing your cat inside it.
  • Old Purses: There are many purses that are just big enough to comfortably hold a cat. In the event that you do not have a cat carrier, you can fashion one of these old purses that you may have lying around for that purpose. Make sure to create holes in the purse for ventilation.
  • Laundry Baskets: Many persons use laundry baskets as cat carriers. It is a hack where you tie two laundry baskets together with some strong strings or even wires. Laundry baskets are usually designed with holes in the sides. These designs will double as ventilation.

Cultivate a Love for the Car

As we mentioned before, your cat naturally hates travel. Cats by nature are comfortable in natural and familiar surroundings. Travel is a scary and stressful thing for them. This is why you have to make the car feel like a comfortable and safe place. Keep the volume of your radio low or off. Also, try to avoid vehicle-heavy roads, as these may produce uncontrollable noise. 

Avoid potholes or bumpy roads where possible. Cats do not like to be moved against their wills and the jarring of bumpy roads and potholes does just that. We as humans do not like these situations, why would our cats?

While car trips are usually designated for vet visits, you should also take the time to have regular car rides with your cat. Give them the opportunity to get used to the car.

Your cat will feel some apprehension towards vehicles, as they prefer the natural and the familiar. Cats hate to travel, it is usually a source of stress for them. That’s why you should choose ground transportation for your cat whenever possible. Why?

  • First of all, it’s not possible to transport a cat on a plane without a carrier. Airlines require them for good reason.
  • While most cats can fly in the cabin, they cannot leave the carrier at the airport or in the airplane.
  • That means your cat won’t be able to use a litter box for hours — many cats have accidents during long flights.
  • Car transport allows the driver to stop the car and let the cat use the litter box.

Simply put, ground transportation booked through a marketplace like CitizenShipper is the most humane way to transport a cat. 


We cannot stress enough the importance of using a traditional cat carrier if you have to transport your cat. These carriers are designed specifically for the purpose of carrying cats. In fact, most veterinarians have a strict policy in place where they refuse to see a cat if it does not have a proper carrier. However, in the unlucky event that you do not have a carrier, there are many different methods of transporting your cat. Remember though, cats by their nature do not travel well. They prefer stationary and familiar surroundings.