How Long Can A Cat Be In A Carrier? (Answered!)

So, you have been eyeing that lovely new carrier for your cat, but you are wondering, “How long can a cat be in a carrier?” when transporting cats in a car, on public transportation, or by plane. Cats, like all animals, can experience stress and anxiety while in transit, and it is important to understand how long is safe for a cat to be in a carrier.

According to Dr. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Brooklyn Pure Paws Hospital, cats should remain in their carriers for no more than 3 to 5 hours at a time.

Dr. Liff notes that “The longer a cat is confined in a carrier, the more anxious and stressed the cat might become.” 

Also, cats can become distressed after being confined in a carrier for as little as two hours, according to studies on confinement stress.

In addition to the potential stress associated with extended confinement in a carrier, cats can become dehydrated if they are not provided with food and water for longer periods. 

Dr. Liff recommends providing your cat with food and water in their carrier and allowing them to take frequent breaks to use the litter box and drink water. Experts also recommend you provide your cat with a water source while they are in the carrier if they are traveling by plane.

5 Factors That Determine The Length Of Time A Cat Can Be In A Carrier:

1. Age of the Cat

The age of the cat is a big factor when determining the length of time it can be in a carrier. Kittens, who are between three and six months old, should never be left in a carrier for more than 2 hours. 

Older cats can typically be left in a carrier for longer periods, as long as they have adequate food and water, and are comfortable.

According to Dr. Laurie Bergman, a veterinarian in California, “Cats need to stretch and move around to avoid cramping and discomfort. Carriers should be large enough for them to move around, and the time the cat is in it should be limited.” 

2. The health of the Cat

The health of the cat should also be taken into account when determining the length of time it can be in a carrier. Cats with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, should not be left in a carrier for extended periods as it can exacerbate their conditions. Additionally, cats that are pregnant, nursing, or recovering from an illness should also not be left in a carrier for extended periods. Dr. Bergman recommends that “Cats with chronic health conditions should be evaluated by a veterinarian before travel, and should not be left in a carrier for more than two hours.” 

3. Size of the Carrier

Factors That Determine The Length Of Time A Cat Can Be In A Carrier

According to the Humane Society of the United States, “A carrier should be large enough for the cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down in.” 

A carrier should also have adequate ventilation so the cat can breathe freely. If the carrier is too small, the cat may not have enough room to move around and may become uncomfortable.

4. Temperature

Temperature is also extremely significant when determining how long a cat can stay in a carrier. Cats can become overheated quickly, especially if the carrier is placed in a warm area. It is important to keep the carrier in a cool area, out of direct sunlight, and to make sure it is well-ventilated.

5. Length of Trip

Cats should be fed and watered adequately on trips longer than 3 hours, and frequent stops should be made to let them out of the carrier and stretch.

Dr. Bergman recommends that “the cat should be taken out of the carrier every 2 to 3 hours and given a chance to move around and stretch their legs.”

Why Cat Won’t the Come Out Of The Carrier? 3 Reasons + Solutions!

Reasons cats won’t come out of the carrier include;

1. Fear and Stress

Fear and Stress

Fear and stress can be powerful forces that can make it difficult for cats to come out of their carriers. When cats are placed in carriers, they are often exposed to unfamiliar environments, loud noises, and strange people or animals. This can be a very stressful and frightening experience for cats, causing them to feel vulnerable and scared.

In addition, cats are known to be sensitive to loud noises and sudden movements which can trigger a fear response. As a result, cats in carriers may cower in a corner, hide behind the carrier door, or refuse to come out of their carriers.

There is evidence that cats in a new environment can show signs of fear and stress including trembling, dilated pupils, panting, and vocalizing. This can be further exacerbated if the environment is unfamiliar. If a cat is already anxious or frightened, being placed in a small and unfamiliar space such as a carrier can make the situation even more stressful.

Cats can also become upset if they are handled too roughly or too much. Even if a cat is comfortable in their carrier, it may become fearful or stressed if they are constantly picked up and handled.


The key to getting a cat to come out of its carrier is to make the environment as stress-free as possible. This means avoiding loud noises and sudden movements, providing a safe and comfortable space, and being gentle and patient when handling the cat. They should be allowed to adjust to their new environment at their own pace. If the cat is not comfortable coming out of the carrier, it is best to let them stay in the carrier and wait until they are ready.

2. Sensory Overload

Sensory overload can have a significant impact on cats’ behavior. Cats are naturally sensitive creatures and can be easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation. Loud noises, such as those associated with car travel, can make cats anxious and fearful. Bright lights, such as those in a veterinary clinic, can be even more intimidating. Strange smells can also be a source of fear and anxiety.

When cats are exposed to too much stimulation, they may become overwhelmed and seek out a safe place, such as the carrier, to hide. This is because the carrier offers physical and psychological protection. It is a familiar, dark, and enclosed space that offers shelter and safety. Cats may also stay in the carrier to avoid further exposure to the stimuli that are causing the sensory overload.

Research has shown that cats who experience sensory overload are more likely to have difficulty adjusting to new environments and may have difficulty coping with changes in their daily routines. The effects of sensory overload can also lead to long-term anxiety and stress in cats. This can lead to behavioral issues, such as inappropriate elimination or aggression.


Sensory overload can be prevented by providing cats with a safe and secure environment. This can include providing them with a quiet space away from loud noises, a dark and secluded area for sleep, and a familiar environment. Providing cats with plenty of time to adjust to new stimuli is essential when exposing them to new environments.

Cats experiencing sensory overload should be given plenty of time and space to adjust to new environments. They should not be forced out of their carriers, since this can cause them to experience more distress and fear. Instead, owners should provide a safe and secure environment that allows cats to adjust at their own pace.

3. Health Issues

Health Issues

A medical issue could be a major factor in a cat’s reluctance to come out of its carrier. For example, cats with skin conditions may feel more comfortable in the carrier’s confined space, as they may feel more secure or less exposed to irritants in the environment

Physical health issues can range from minor aches and pains to more serious medical conditions. For example, a cat who is in pain due to an injury or illness may feel more comfortable staying in a safe place like its carrier. Urinary tract infection or Arthritis is a common health issue in cats. Cats with arthritis may have difficulty walking, standing, and even sitting comfortably. So these sorts of problems can exist in your pet which is necessary to be taken care of.

Mental health issues can also cause cats to hide in their carrier. Stress and fear are the most common causes of this behavior. Cats may be scared of unfamiliar people, loud noises, or changes in their environment. They may experience anxiety due to changes in their daily routine or the introduction of a new pet.


The solution to this issue is to seek medical attention for your cat. If your cat is exhibiting signs of illness or injury, it is important to take them to the vet to rule out any medical issues. 

You should also provide your cat with comfortable, safe carriers to travel in, as well as familiar surroundings. Treats and affection can also help make your cat more comfortable and willing to come out of its carrier.

That’s it!

As long as cats’ basic needs are met, cats can stay in a carrier for a significant amount of time. Cats should not be kept in their carriers for more than a few hours without adequate food, water, and bathroom breaks.

A cat that is particularly anxious or stressed should also be given ample time to explore its surroundings outside of its carrier. Cats should always be given access to their litter boxes and food and should be monitored for signs of stress. They can spend varying amounts of time in carriers depending on their needs and preferences.