How to transport a cat without a carrier

Two cats in a backpack
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to transport a cat without a carrier can be a lifesaver when you need to get your feline from A to B.

Even if they’re a stay-at-home house cat, they’ll still need to go for regular check-ups at the vets as well as in the unfortunate event of them getting sick and requiring emergency care. 

Of course, having one of the best cat carriers to move your favorite four-legged friend around can make life a lot easier but, just sometimes, you simply don’t have one to hand when you need it. 

Alternatively, some cats find carriers too stressful to enter so, to spare yourself from all the drama and chaos, here are some things to consider when looking to transport your cat without one.

How do you transport a cat if you don’t have a carrier?

Sometimes, it’s not even a case of not having a cat carrier available. If you’ve got a fussy feline who finds it all too distressing, just figuring out how to get a cat into a carrier can be an issue. 

One such way of getting your cat from one place to another is by harnessing them up and walking them on a lead, just like a pup. Although it may seem peculiar at first, if your cat isn’t fond of confined spaces, this is the purr-fect way to give them the freedom they need (and avoid any unnecessary resistance scratches!), whilst achieving the job at hand. 

Be sure to invest in one of the best cat harnesses that’s been specifically designed for your feline friend and let them familiarise themselves with it at first, as getting them used to walking on a lead will be a slow process. 

Have you ever considered a large, well-ventilated sports bag? Think about it… sports bags are designed to carry kit and equipment and, especially when sweaty and dirty, are able to stay ventilated due to material used to line the sides, which tend to be covered in holes. Be sure to pick a bag that is fixed with a flat, solid base to ensure that your cat remains comfortable in transit. 

What is the best way to transport a cat in a car?

As a general rule of thumb, cats don’t like cars or any type of moving vehicle for that matter. Unlike how you can attach a dog’s harness to a specialised car seat belt, your feline might not particularly like the restrictions if you were to attempt the same process.

In place of a cat carrier, another safe alternative to transport your cat in the car would be to place them inside a cardboard box. It’s a common object that most people will have in their home at one time or another and can be easily manipulated, allowing you to cut out small holes for the perfect ventilation. Just be sure that the cardboard box comes with a suitable lid - you don’t want to be sticky tapping the poor animal inside.

However, if they’re already familiar with the car, are a more mature feline, or are just docile in nature, you could opt for transporting them in a cozy basket or bed. Of course, this option is only suitable if your cat isn’t prone to jumping out and causing mischief, whether that’s in your car or in the vet’s waiting room, and is happy to wear a cat seat belt. 

Cat in box

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is it illegal to transport a cat without a carrier?

As crazy as this may sound, transporting a cat in a car without a carrier may get you into a lot of trouble if you get pulled over by the police. That’s because a cat, or any pet for that matter, has the potential to cause harm and distraction if roaming free around the vehicle whilst in use. Using a pet seat belt or placing your cat inside a homemade cat carrier (such as the cardboard box idea above) will help you to avoid receiving a hefty fine. 

When it comes to transporting your cat without a carrier either on foot or via another form of transport, this isn’t exactly illegal. However, it’s important to check with your vet (if that’s where you’re heading) that they are happy for your feline not to be in a cat carrier - some just simply aren’t comfortable with them being brought into the clinic in other ways. 

Can you put a cat in a pillowcase?

Although this may sound like a terrible idea, this method is highly recommended by well-respected feline behaviorist and veterinarian, Dr. Kim, when you don’t have a cat carrier available. 

The majority of felines will go dormant when placed in a dark, blind situation. This is often the scenario when they are placed inside a pillowcase. Even though it may seem cruel and a little extreme, it’s deemed to be a completely safe way of transporting a cat without a carrier. 

There is minimal risk of not being able to breathe due to the pillowcase’s fabric and, despite the fact that they may thrash about, they shouldn’t be able to hurt themselves within the pillowcase. 

As with any method of transport that doesn’t involve a specifically designed cat carrier, be sure to do your research, let your cat become familiar with it, and (if necessary) seek professional advice from your veterinarian on what would be safe for your feline. 

Chloe Petrylak

Chloe is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, who has more than ten years’ experience in creating animal-focussed content. From National Geographic to Animal Planet, Chloe’s passion for creating fact-filled features all about wildlife and the environment is evident. But it’s not just wild animals that Chloe’s fascinated by. Having written more than 75 articles for PetsRadar - and having her very own four-legged friend by her side - it’s no wonder that her love of dogs (and, of course, cats) has grown exponentially.  

Her website,, and social media pages - @ChloeMayWrites on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter - showcase her knowledge through daily facts and trivia tidbits. For example, did you know that snails have teeth?!