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Is It Cruel to Use a Cat Backpack? Vet Reviewed Safety Tips & Risks

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on May 1, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat inside a red backpack

Is It Cruel to Use a Cat Backpack? Vet Reviewed Safety Tips & Risks


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Most cats like to stay at home, where they can claim and protect their territory. When they have to travel for a veterinary visit or move to a new house, they tend to get cranky and feel insecure. However, some cats actually like to travel and love being out and about, exploring new locations with their human companions.

This is why cat backpacks have become so popular. However, there has been discussion about whether these backpacks are humane. Are cat backpacks cruel to use? The short answer is that they are not cruel, as long as they are used correctly. Here’s a more in-depth analysis.

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Why Cat Backpacks Can Be Useful Tools

A cat backpack is great if it is used at the right times and your cat doesn’t mind being in it. It can enable you to travel hands-free, which can be convenient if you have to walk or take public transportation to get to a vet appointment. If your cat walks on a leash, you can hike with them and then use the backpack to give them a break while you keep moving.

A cat backpack can also be useful when you want to travel for vacation, fly on a plane, or spend time in the yard with family members. You can even use a cat backpack to transport kittens from one place to another in your home before they are old enough to get around on their own.

Cat traveling with transparent backpack carrier in the park
Photo Credit: sofirinaja, Shutterstock

How Cat Backpacks Can Be Harmful

Cats are typically creatures of habit, and they like to stay in their territory, so sitting in a backpack and getting carried around on someone’s back might not be their idea of fun, excitement, or contentment. Cats that don’t like being in the backpack may meow, hiss, and try to get out. Being stuck inside can result in the development of stress and insecurity. It could even lead to them losing trust in their human companions.

Any cat that shows displeasure while in a backpack should not be kept in one. When traveling is necessary, a proper kennel with room for bedding, water, and food is more appropriate. That said, if a kitty doesn’t seem to mind or even enjoys being in a cat backpack, there is no reason that they can’t travel in one for short periods.


How to Safely and Humanely Use a Cat Backpack

If you do not plan, prepare, and execute the process properly, being in a backpack can be a bad experience for your cat, and you may never get them used to it. Here are a few tips and tricks for safely and humanely using a cat backpack.

Choosing a Cat Backpack to Invest In (Planning)

Choosing the right backpack is critical because it could mean the difference between your cat liking it or hating it. There are many different styles and designs to choose from, some of which have multiple windows and others act more like caves. Answering the following questions should help you determine what kind of cat backpack you should invest in.

Hard or Soft Design?

Cat backpacks come in hard and soft designs to accommodate various travel types. Soft backpacks are great for cats that enjoy feeling cozy and enveloped while they travel. Hard backpacks are not as cozy and bed-like, but they are protective and can help keep your kitty safe if you are traveling on a plane, train, or bus.

Small or Big Window?

Some cats enjoy looking out of large windows from the interior of the backpack so they can see everything going on around them. Other cats prefer small windows that they can peek out of but that don’t make them feel exposed to the world. You can get an idea of how your cat feels by paying attention to how they interact with your windows at home.

If they tend to peer out from perches or the edges of a window, they will likely enjoy a small window in their backpack. If they don’t mind standing front and center in the window while they look out at the world, they might prefer a backpack with a large window.

Zipper or Clasp Opening?

Some cats can open zippers and others can get clasps open. If your kitty is good at dealing with one or the other, you should choose a backpack with the opposite type of closure, to ensure that no escapes happen. If they are good at getting both types open, choose a clasp option so you can at least add a lock to secure it. If they aren’t particularly good at opening things, you will probably be safe with either option.

Young woman and a cat traveling with transparent backpack carrier in the park
Photo Credit: sofirinaja, Shutterstock

Getting Your Cat Used to Their New Backpack (Preparing)

Before you head out on your first journey together, get your kitty used to the new backpack at home. Leave it on the floor somewhere in the house where your cat likes to spend time. This will enable them to inspect the backpack and transfer their scent to it. Once they get used to the backpack being there, open it and put a few kitty treats inside, then encourage your cat to go retrieve the treats.

Do not force them to stay inside the backpack when they go for a treat. Instead, let them come out when they want to, and praise them for doing so. After they enter and exit the backpack on their own a few times, place a blanket inside to essentially create a bed, and encourage them to get in for a nap. You can be confident that your kitty is ready for a trip outdoors when they are comfortably hanging out in or on the backpack.

Traveling With Your Cat Backpack for the First Time (Executing)

Take things slowly the first time that you leave your home with your kitty inside the backpack. Spend time walking around the house with the backpack on until your cat seems calm and relaxed. Then, head outside and go about your business. Use soothing words and stay positive during your travels to assure your cat that you have everything under control. Occasionally offer your kitty a few treats to let them know that you’re happy with their behavior. It’s important to get back home for water, food, and a bathroom break within an hour or two.

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A Quick Recap

Cats can travel in cat backpacks, but special care and thought should be given to ensure a positive experience. If a cat does not enjoy traveling, making them spend time in a backpack can be cruel. Pay attention to your cat’s cues, and respect their feelings. If you ease your cat into accepting a backpack, your chances of successful travel will be better.

Featured Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

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