When traveling with your pet, you will need a pet carrier, which is designed to keep your animal safe and comfortable while in a plane or a vehicle. There are a few things to consider when selecting your pet carrier.
First consider your pet's size. Your pet should be able to stand up in the carrier, so choose one that is an inch or two taller than your pet's standing height, which is measured from the animal's shoulder to the floor. An animal's length is measured from the neck to the base of the tail. Pet carriers typically also have a labeled weight limit, so you also need to know how much your pet weighs.
Next consider the intended use for the pet carrier. Do you just need something to take Fido or Kitty to the vet? Or do you plan on taking your pet on a plane trip? If you just want something for short infrequent trips, a basic and inexpensive plastic carrier that can be easily stored will do.
For plane trips, consider whether or not you will be taking your pet on board with you as a carry-on. Some airlines do permit small pets to travel in this fashion. You do have to make arrangements with the airline ahead of time, as there is usually a quota for on-board pets. Most airlines also charge a fee for this service. The ideal on-board pet carrier will be large enough to let your pet stand up and move around comfortably, but small enough to be tucked under the seat in front of you. For safety reasons, no part of the animal should be able to stick out of the carrier. There should also be food and water containers with access to the outside so they can be filled. Check with your airline to make sure you get a pet carrier that meets their requirements.
What if the animal is too big to travel with you, like a large breed dog? If your pet is too large to travel in the cabin, they will travel in an area of the plane that is pressure- and temperature-controlled like the cabin. You'll need a sturdy plastic or wire crate large enough to let the animal move around comfortably. Airlines typically require large pet carriers to be secured with metal nuts and bolts rather than plastic fasteners. The carrier also must be properly ventilated, so the animal can breathe easily. Again, it should have food and water containers. The lock on the door should have a spring mechanism that the animal can't open. Check with your airline to make sure you get a carrier fits their regulations.
Big, healthy dogs with placid dispositions generally don't need to ride in a pet carrier during a car trip, but small, excitable, or sick animals should ride in a carrier. This is particularly true of cats, since they can get under the seats or pedals and thus cause an accident. Again, pick a sturdy carrier in which the animal can comfortably move around or lie down. Plastic carriers are a good choice as they are among the easiest to clean if the pet makes a mess. Soft-sided pet carriers are another possibility, providing they're made of materials that can be easily cleaned. The pet carrier should also be stable enough so that it doesn't fall over when the animal moves around. For long car trips, get a carrier with food and water containers attached.
Traveling with Birds
A bird needs a carrier large enough so that their tail won't touch the floor and their beak won't press against the mesh. Different types of birds have different needs, so pick a carrier designed for your type of bird. If the bird likes to chew, the carrier needs to have a stainless steel mesh, which will also help with ventilation. A bird's pet carrier should also have a perch built inside it. For long trips, choose a carrier that also comes with food and water containers. If you plan to take your bird on an airplane, contact the airline about their regulations.
Just as there are many kinds of pets, there are many kinds of pet carriers. Consider your needs and your pet's needs and choose accordingly.
More on Pet Travel
A Guide to Dog Crates and Carriers
What Are the Best Dogs to Travel With?