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Photos of cats in backpacks traveling around town or hiking on trails are popping up all over social media feeds. As a cat parent, you may be wondering if a cat carrier backpack is safe for your kitty. Is a soft or a hard-shell backpack best? What about cat backpacks with windows?
Before purchasing a cat carrier backpack for your feline friend, familiarize yourself with what products are on the market, what safety features to look for and how to ensure that your cat will be comfy and secure.
Cat Backpacks: Choosing the Right One
A cat backpack is used to "wear" your cat, and they can be used for both fun and function — taking your cat on a walk, transporting them to a veterinary appointment or even traveling. Finding the right cat backpack is very similar to choosing the right cat carrier. The best cat carrier is the one that your cat is most comfortable in and that causes them (and you) the least amount of stress while still keeping your cat safe.
There are two different backpack styles from which you can choose: the traditional backpack carrier style or what's called the "bubble" style because of its astronaut-helmet window. Each has its own benefits, depending on your cat's size and temperament. Both styles come with soft padding to keep your kitty cozy and comfy.
- Soft-sided carrier: This style is typically made of a sturdy polyester, leather or heavy-duty canvas. It has a big mesh window in the front and the side (sometimes called pockets) through which your kitty can view the world. As with a backpack meant for non-pet-toting purposes, like work or school, this style allows you to wear the pack on your back.
- Bubble carrier: This hard-shell style, usually made from durable acrylic or plastic, is more akin to wearable luggage than a traditional backpack. If you're looking at cat backpacks with windows, this style has a round plastic bubble window in the front and ventilation holes on the sides. They're often more waterproof than soft-sided backpacks, a good feature if you plan to traverse through the wilderness.
When choosing the best style, take yourself into consideration as well. What's the easiest and most comfortable type for you to carry? Be sure the backpack isn't too heavy or awkward for you to transport.
Determining the right size backpack is very important. If the backpack is too big, your cat will slide around; if it's too small, they will be squished. Cats are more comfortable in smaller spaces, especially in carriers, notes International Cat Care, but they should still be able to turn around in the carrier. Read the backpack descriptions carefully for dimension and weight limits. If your kitty is on the heavy side, there are "big cat" options as well.
Once you've decided on a style, look at security options. Examine how well the straps and enclosures are attached to the carrier. Look for tight stitching and well-built strapping. The zippers should always lock. If your cat is a whiz at detaching Velcro, choose a carrier with buckle enclosures to avoid a runaway cat. If your kitty is an escape artist, many backpacks have the additional security of an interior lock to which you can secure a cat collar or leash.
It's vital that the backpack has proper ventilation, and there should be multiple points of ventilation on the pack. Ensure that nothing blocks these vents, such as your clothing. As the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine emphasizes, check on your cat frequently to make sure they're safe, secure and at a comfortable temperature.
Hitting the Road
If you've decided to use a cat carrier backpack, keep in mind that it's not a one-step process. You'll have to work to get to the optimum level of comfort. Cats aren't always keen on leaving the safe confines of their home, but you can work your way up to using the backpack. Start by incorporating the pack into your daily playtime routine and then progress to carrying your kitty around the house before heading outside. Start with short trips around the block before taking on three-mile hikes.
A cat backpack is an appealing option if you want to experience the great outdoors with your BFF (best feline friend) and using a cat leash and harness isn't an option. Be sure to share your travel photos!
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien holds a Ph.D. in English and is an accomplished storyteller and lifelong pet lover. A professional member of the Cat Writers' Association, her work has received Muse Medallions and Certificates of Excellence. When she’s not exploring pet health and behavior, she’s busy mothering one child and four pets.