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7 DIY Cat Carrier Plans You Can Make Today (With Pictures)

cute domestic cat sits in a carrier bag in an airport

Unlike dogs, very few cat owners get a crate for their cats because it’s mostly unnecessary. You can easily and quickly train a cat to use a litter box, and they (usually) won’t make a mess when you’re sleeping. When you need to take your cat to the vet, a friend, or a family member’s house, you’ll need a cat carrier of some kind so they run loose in your car.

The problem, however, is that cat carriers can cost a pretty penny. When you consider that you will need it very infrequently, that cost can be even more troubling. To help, below we’ve gathered 11 helpful DIY cat carriers you can make yourself. The cat carriers on our list below will spare your wallet or purse and help you take your fantastic feline everywhere they need to go!

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The Top 7 DIY Cat Carrier Plans

1. Clear Plastic Bin DIY Cat Carrier

Materials: Large, clear plastic bin with a latching top, old towel
Tools: Drill, 1-inch drill bit, sandpaper, or sanding tool
Difficulty Level: Easy
Time to Complete: < 1 hour

If you already have a clear plastic bin, this DIY cat carrier will be done before you know it. The biggest task is to drill about 40 1-inch holes in the lid and on the long sides of the bin. After that, sanding all the holes to remove any plastic burrs is recommended, so your cat doesn’t hurt itself while traveling.

Once that’s done, place an old, soft towel in the bottom of the bin, and you’re finished! It’s best to have a plastic bin with a top that latches firmly, just in case your kitty decides they want to try and escape. A bungee cord or two over the top is also recommended.


2. Plywood DIY Cat Carrier

Materials: Plywood, wood putty, wood glue, lacquer, small nails, small screws, two hinges, a latch, four small rubber feet
Tools: Table saw, scroll saw, sander, router, drill, clamps, screwdriver, scissors, carpenter’s pencil, measuring tape
Difficulty Level: Moderate to high
Time to Complete: 48 hours with drying time

If you adore your cat and adore DIY projects just as much, this DIY cat carrier will be a dream weekend project. This one is quite the project, too, compared to the first project on our list. There’s a lot of cutting, you’ll need a router and several other tools, and a workbench would be helpful.

Although it won’t take two full days, there is some drying time to consider. The result, however, is not only adorable but very cool looking. Your cat will probably want to use their new carrier at home to relax and escape stressful situations. If you need a cat carrier regularly (and have the spare time), this DIY cat carrier is a worthy project.


3. Recycled Backpack DIY Cat Carrier

Materials: An old but sturdy backpack, twist ties or zip cords, chicken wire, ribbon, material
Tools: Wire cutters, scissors, drill, permanent marker
Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate
Time to Complete: 2 to 3 hours

Do you have an old backpack or large purse around the house? If so, you can turn it into a cat carrier in a couple of hours and for very little money! What’s great about this DIY cat carrier is that you can carry your cat easily because it’s a backpack! This project is meant to be a no-sew; thus, you’ll use zip ties.

However, if you have a large industrial needle and strong thread, you can sew it if you like. The best part about this cat carrier is that you get to recycle something rather than throw it away!


4. Laundry Basket DIY Cat Carrier

Materials: 2 laundry baskets, an old towel, short bungee cords
Tools: None
Difficulty Level: Insanely easy
Time to Complete: 5 minutes or less

This is not a difficult DIY cat carrier to make, but it is very helpful in an emergency. You can probably throw it together in under 5 minutes with materials you already have. It’s just two laundry baskets of different sizes: one as the base and the other as the top. Place a towel in the base, and put the small laundry basket on top.

Then, strap a few bungee cords over the top to keep it snug, and you’re done! Like the maker, we recommend this cat carrier for emergency vet trips when you have few other choices. It will work, but it’s not easy to carry and is a bit bulky. Still, during a cat catastrophe, it’s good to know you can throw something together fast that will allow you to get your cat the medical attention they need or get away from a fire, flood, or other natural disaster.


5. Cardboard DIY Cat Carrier with Wheels

Materials: Cardboard, Velcro, PVC tubing, four small casters, strap material, mosquito netting
Tools: Razor knife, glue, drill
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Time to Complete: 3 to 4 hours

This DIY cat carrier has the added advantage of being able to roll around, which takes the load off your shoulders and back. The only drawback we’ve seen is that, since it’s made from cardboard, this carrier might not last long and will certainly not be suitable for taking in the rain.

Also, the casters needed are expensive and will pull away from the cardboard easily. Still, it’s adorable and would be a great project to make with your kids. After using it to travel, your cat might also like to sleep in their new carrier, so it’s got two uses! Our suggestion: make the same carrier using light plywood instead for a cat carrier that will last much longer!


6. DIY Cat Carrier from Plastic Litter Container

Materials: 35-pound cat litter pail with a lid
Tools: Razor knife or jig saw, sandpaper
Difficulty Level: Easy
Time to Complete: <1 hour

This DIY cat carrier doesn’t come with instructions because it doesn’t need them. It’s an empty 35-pound cat litter pail! All you need to do is clean out the pail when the litter has all been used. Then, using a razor knife or a jig saw (with a fine blade), you cut holes in the lid and on the sides for air and to let your cat see outside. That’s it! This cat carrier costs zero dollars and can be made in under an hour.

It works like a charm, too, and already has a handle! Best of all, it’s a great way to recycle that big plastic pail rather than letting it go into your local landfill! One suggestion is not to make the holes too big. Your cat might try to squeeze out if they’re scared and could get hurt. Also, if you cut the holes with a jig saw, be sure to sand the edges with sandpaper before transporting your cool cat.


7. Cardboard Box DIY Cat Carrier

Materials: Cardboard box, any type of material, plastic or mosquito netting
Tools: Razor knife, glue, scissors
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Time to Complete: 2 to 3 hours

The instructions for this helpful DIY cat carrier are on Youtube and are fantastic! The instructions are clear and concise, and you can personalize the carrier with any material you choose; the author used an old pair of jeans.

The heavy plastic from a comforter bag would be perfect for the window in this cat carrier, or you could switch it up for some heavy mosquito netting. Whatever you choose, this project shouldn’t take more than 3 hours to finish. It also makes a great place for your cat to relax at home, especially after you place a comfy old towel inside.

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What Can Work as an Emergency Cat Carrier?

Unlike dogs, very few folks get crates or carriers for their cats. However, you might need one in an emergency, especially if your poor cat is freaking out or badly injured. The good news is that several objects can work as emergency cat carriers.

Some of the DIY ideas we’ve just shared (like #4) are fantastic in an emergency. Below are a few others that will work fine and allow you to get your cat to the vet or safety in the event of an accident, injury, disaster, flood, hurricane, etc.

  • A sports bag with a secure, flat bottom.
  • A 5-gallon bucket with a lid. You can cut some holes for air so your cat can see outside.
  • Any cardboard box you can close. The smaller, the better, as long as your cat can easily turn around.
  • A wicker basket with a top you can close firmly. Don’t worry, your kitty will be able to breathe just fine.
  • Any large plastic container with a lid. As with the others, cut some holes first for air and visibility.
  • A small dog crate.
  • A couple of laundry baskets.

Do Cats Prefer a Hard or Soft-Sided Carrier?

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the best carrier for most cats is a hard-sided carrier. They won’t deform when traveling, are easier to open and close, and, in most cases, are better at preventing your cat from escaping when they’re under duress.

The biggest drawback to hard-sided carriers is that they don’t fold down for storage. Soft carriers, however, are much easier for your cat to damage with their teeth and claws. If you’re cat’s angry because you just shoved them into a carrier, that could be a problem with a soft-sided carrier.

cat in pet carrier on a park bench
Image Credit: Elena Efimova, Shutterstock

Can I Use a Cardboard Box as a Cat Carrier?

As we’ve seen today, you can definitely use a cardboard box as a cat carrier! One thing to remember is that cats will try to escape if they’re upset or stressed out, so securely fastening the box top is a must. Also, it’s best to cut plenty of small holes for air and one or two bigger holes for your cat to look outside. The holes will also help them stay calm (in most cases).

What Should You Put Inside a Cat Carrier?

Being in a cat carrier, at least for some cats, is not a pleasant experience. They don’t like feeling trapped. To help your cat stay calm, and make their trip more comfortable, below are a few things you can put in your cat carrier.

  • A large, soft towel. One with your scent, or a scent your cat likes, would be great.
  • Your cat’s favorite toy
  • Plenty of holes to see outside
  • A pee pad to absorb any accidents
  • A small number of treats

Does my Cat Need To Be in a Carrier in the Car?

Technically, no, your cat doesn’t need to be in a cat carrier when driving in a vehicle with you. It’s highly recommended, of course, but not legally warranted except for two states: New Jersey and Rhode Island. In those states, your cat must be in a carrier, harness, or belt while driving.

In all other states, there’s no law about cat carriers. However, in some other states, you can get a ticket for distracted driving if a police officer sees you with a cat roaming free in your car. In some states, like Hawaii, driving with a cat (or other pet) on your lap is illegal. Some states will even charge you with animal cruelty if you drive with your cat in the open, so it’s best you don’t and avoid the cost of a ticket.

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Conclusion

Did you see a DIY cat carrier today that you think you will make? Maybe you saw one you will use in case of an emergency or have some ideas of your own? Whatever you decide, we hope the information, instructions, and advice we’ve provided today have been helpful.

Several of the DIY cat carriers we’ve examined are easy to make with materials that should cost very little and give your budget a nice break. Wherever you need to travel with your feline friend, we wish you the best for a safe and uneventful trip using a new DIY cat carrier!


Featured Image Credit: Duet PandG, Shutterstock

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