Hitting the Road
Once upon a time, the term “cat carrier” meant “cardboard box.” But, the pet industry has come a long way and today, cat owners actively seek out safe, well-designed carriers in fashion-forward colors and styles.
There are many considerations in selecting a cat carrier: The type of travel, the personality of the cat and the reasons for travel all figure into selecting a perfect match.
From divided double-compartment show shelters to high-tech, hard- and soft-sided carriers for travel, the market is bursting with an endless selection of cat carrier designs.
“The most important features of a carrier include structural stability and discrete designs that instill a sense of security for the cat,” Angie Yeung, designer and president of CellTei, said. “The demand for better quality and even more fashionable designs are on the rise.”
Most cats are not big fans of change, but whether it’s a visit to the veterinarian, an emergency evacuation, or a road trip, it’s important to have the right equipment. Manufacturers are answering that demand by creating safe, easy-loading gear that appeals to a feline’s sense of security.
Each added feature has a specific function. Carriers with roll-down sides of fine mesh air vents help obstruct a cat’s view of the outside world, thus reducing the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Padded carriers with removable tops can help a cat adjust to a carrier while inside the home, thus reducing the panic of being confined.
Hard-sided carriers have traditionally been popular for automobile travel due to crash testing and safety ratings. Approximately 78 percent of people who travel with their pets use automobiles as their primary mode of transportation according to a Kimpton Hotels study, so transporting cats in comfort, style and ease is important to consumers.
PetMate offers premium two-door kennels, one of which is a top-loading door for easily loading cats into. Made from steel wire and high-grade plastic, these hard-sided carriers are good for both car and air travel.
Their Curvations Kennel features a durable, swing-top design with plenty of ventilation. Each 2-door kennel allows versatile access with a top-loading feature.
While hard shell carriers traditionally offered better safety features, soft-sided carriers are now being crash-tested more frequently, and have the added benefit of providing more comfort for cats.
“All of our carriers are versatile,” Michael Leung, a product designer and an owner of Sleepypod, said. “They each have a crash-tested car seat function and the machine-washable, ultra-plush lining found in all of our carriers makes a perfect bed away from home, thus reducing the need to purchase and carry multiple items.”
Sleepypod’s unique round shape is one that cats love, and each carrier includes luxurious ultra-plush linings designed to alleviate travel stress. Battery-operated warmer kits for colder travel, and air mesh hammocks for warm-weather travel, can be easily added.
While at home, simply remove the dome top to convert the carrier into a secure cat bed. This feature encourages cats to make the carrier their safe place.
With the help of Sturdi Products, portable pop-up shelters have also become popular not only for transport, but for housing and emergency shelters.
“Cat owners want professional-grade carriers that are durable, fashionable, easily cleaned, and guaranteed,” Penny Johnson, executive vice president of Sturdi Products, said. “SturdiBag is the first carrier ever developed specifically for a cat and the leader amongst professionals.”
“Cats are the new dog. We have been innovating for 20 years and have become the brand that professional trainers and breeders rely on every day.”
Sturdi Products extensive line of carriers can be divided into two- and three-room compartments for multi-cat transport, and are available in a dizzying array of colors and patterns. Each product is easily collapsible for lightweight transport, but sturdy enough to carry your pets in safety.
Dividers can be removed for easy cleaning or to offer custom luxury for even the most finicky of felines. These tend to be very popular with the show and competition demographic.
For cats that travel extensively by air, Sherpa Pet Group offers the Guaranteed On Board program. The Guaranteed on Board program outlines each step needed to be taken before traveling with a pet to ensure compliance with airline rules and regulations. Should a customer be denied boarding due to your carrier, Sherpa Pet Group will refund the cost of your airline flight and your pet airline travel fee.
Each Sherpa Cat Carrier features a heavy duty wire mesh, designed to stand up to sharp cat claws and teeth, and mesh panels for maximized ventilation. They also offer a one-year “no questions asked” product satisfaction guarantee.
“The Sherpa Cat Carrier was designed for easy loading,” Cristen Underwood, marketing director of Quaker Pet Group, said. “Cats can enter from either the top or the side for convenience – and features a washable faux lambskin liner for added comfort and three zippered pockets for convenient storage. Whether using our cat carrier for a trip to the vet and running errands, or flying cross-country, Sherpa carriers offer a unique blend of durability and functionality.”
Cat carriers also offer retailers a great opportunity to cross-sell. Harnesses, travel bowls and cat treats are all necessary travel items that can be successfully marketed to cat owners. All-natural calmer aids, such as Feliway and Rescue Remedy, are also items to stock near travel gear and staff, should be fully trained on the benefits of individual products.
“We focus on the needs of each individual customer,” Errin West, owner of Cat Connection in Texas, said. “We want to meet the needs of our cat clientele with their best possible solution for travel – whether it’s a trip across town or a trip across country.”
Store staff should also be well versed in sharing tips for a successful travel experiences. Desensitization therapy begins by leaving the cat carrier in a safe, open area of the home where cats can freely explore the carrier without the pressure of not being able to escape.
Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who has covered the pet industry for nearly 16 years.