Pets

This cat backpack is the best thing I bought for my new kitten

Why should dogs have all the on-the-go fun?

A cat sits inside a cat backpack. Credit: Tucker Murphy

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Despite growing up with a veterinarian for a mother, I have never been much of an animal person. Unfortunately, Mom’s also a neat freak who preferred to leave the hairballs and drool at work. My younger brother and I finally wore her down and we adopted a poodle in my teen years, but by this time I was more preoccupied with siphoning illicit booze from my parents’ liquor cabinet than learning how to care for a new pet. And certainly I’ve never been a cat person, a descriptor I’d always regarded with equal parts disdain and horror. (Side note: Cats and their people get a bad rap. In ancient Egypt, felines were worshipped!)

So, it came as a shock to everyone—myself most of all—when my boyfriend and I adopted a kitten this past November. One of my mom’s colleagues and her husband found an abandoned litter of kittens in the woods bordering their property on Thanksgiving Day. One brave scout led them to a shivering ball of fluff—six tiny kittens huddled together for warmth beneath a bush. The rescuing couple kept three. After meeting the remaining kittens with zero plans to do anything other than take some cute cat selfies to send to animal-loving friends, I decided to bring one home to live with me and my boyfriend in Brooklyn. [Insert fearful face emoji here.] We named him Roger.

Naturally, my pandemic shopping habits went from embarrassingly frequent Saucey deliveries and enough athleisure wear to put the Kardashians to shame to attempts to find the best odor-eliminating litter and autofill subscriptions of cat treats from Chewy. Which brings me to the Cat Backpack.

What is a cat backpack?

tuckermurphybackpack
Credit: Tucker Murphy

The Daley Breeze Pet Carrier from Wayfair comes in two colors, white and green.

I’d seen cat backpacks around. From my understanding, they were a cuter, hipper alternative to a cat carrier. An Instagram-ready statement piece tailor-made to provide a steady stream of semi-ironic photo ops, it seemed like an item designed more for its human wearer than its feline occupant. I had to have one. (More of a dog person? There are options for your pup, too.)

After browsing a variety of cat backpacks online, I settled on the Daley Breeze Pet Carrier. from Wayfair. It comes in two colors, white or mint green. I chose the green, which was slightly on sale (6 percent off) at $74.87. It’s a bit pricier than many of the more traditional, boxy cat carriers I’d found online (most fell in the $15 to $50 range) but I figured, hey, you always pay extra for style.

My first impressions of the cat backpack

As with all Wayfair products (in my experience), the backpack arrived seemingly overnight. In person, it looks exactly as advertised. Featuring a hard bubble-like shell with a tinted plastic window through which Roger can peer out—and passersby can peer in—it resembles a tiny spaceship. Ground control to meow-jar Tomcat!

The backpacks inward-facing side is soft and features breathable padding for comfort, as do the two backpack straps. I unzipped the top and placed the bag on the floor. Roger hopped right in. Cats, as I’ve come to learn, love enclosed spaces in which they can explore and/or hide, hence all the many cardboard boxes that have yet to make it to the recycle bin from our apartment. The backpack provides more than enough room to serve as both transport and a snug play space for my 3-ish pound kitten. At about 12.5 inches by 10.5 inches by 17.5 inches, it will also fit Roger at full size (and could work for small dogs up to about 18 pounds, as well).

It’s important to note that this is not the same as throwing your cat in an old Jansport. (Don’t do that—they won’t be able to breathe or see and will be very angry with you when they emerge.) This backpack features mesh lining and what the company calls a “smart ventilation system” for optimal air circulation. A teeny-tiny, battery-powered fan built into the backpack’s interior serves as central air conditioning for your traveling companion.

Even better, the backpack comes equipped with its own lighting system—fancy! A tiny lamp inside features a gradual illuminating system, just in case your furbaby is afraid of the dark or, ya know, likes to read a book on-the-go.

Basically, this backpack is the cat equivalent of a chichi studio apartment—an ultra-luxe mobile home for cats. If it was listed on StreetEasy or Zillow, you probably couldn’t afford it.

What it’s like to use the cat backpack

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Credit: Alexandra Cavallo

A cat backpack is more than just a cuter cat carrier.

It was all well and good to admire the backpack’s bells and whistles from the comfort of our apartment. Taking it to the streets, however, might be a different experience. Sure, Roger loved his new accessory when he could hop in and out on a whim, with his mountains of toys (yes, we have become those cat parents) and food dish within paw’s reach. But I worried: What if we got him outside and he starts screaming like a banshee and attempts to claw his way out of the backpack like that scene in Alien? (You know the one.)

There was only one way to find out. As it happened, we had rented an Airbnb upstate for the weekend, one of the few COVID-safe ways to escape the city for a few days. A friend in the neighborhood had agreed to cat-sit for the weekend at her place.

I zipped Roger into his backpack, along with his favorite stuffed “piggie,” hoisted a tote filled with his litter, food, and dishes onto my shoulder, and stepped out into the world to embark on the roughly 15-minute walk.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the backpack was extremely comfortable for me to wear. The padded straps didn’t dig into my shoulders—Roger only weighed about 1.5 pounds at the time—and I didn’t feel weighed down, despite the extra tote I was also lugging. It was so lightweight in fact, that I kept stopping to make sure that Roger hadn’t somehow figured out the zipper and escaped into the streets of Brooklyn, never to be seen again.

Despite a few plaintive mews here and there, Roger was quiet. Could he be enjoying the ride? I’d adjusted the backpack so it fit snugly to my back so that he wouldn’t be jostled or bounced around as I walked. When we arrived—after forcing my friend to take photos for Instagram—I took off the backpack and took a look at its passenger. Roger was sitting inside, calm and content. After hearing horror stories from other cat-owning friends traumatized by car trips spent listening to a carrier-trapped cat howl for hours, I couldn’t believe it had gone so smoothly. Roger was now officially a traveling cat.

What I like about the cat backpack

The comfortability, aeration system, and interior light all make for a pleasant, safe experience for both cat and owner. And the cute design doesn’t hurt. I’ve since received numerous compliments on the bag just as a style item—you wouldn’t necessarily know it was a pet carrier until you spotted Roger’s eyes peeping out from behind his tinted window panel.

As for its Instagram-worthiness? The post chronicling our maiden voyage garnered 134 likes, which is not too shabby, as I am not, sadly, an influencer. Breaking three digits on a post? For me, that’s Instagram-approved.

What I don’t like about the cat backpack

The one glaring con is that you need to purchase separately an external battery to serve as the power source for the fan and light, something I was not aware of when I got the backpack. (I spent far too long trying to figure out how to turn on the light before my boyfriend explained it lacked power.) This wasn’t made clear in the product description and would have been good to know, as I would have bought both at the same time. I ended up purchasing a portable, rechargeable battery pack with USB ports that hook up easily to the backpack (and fits in a sleek side pocket for travel) on Amazon for about $25.

Is a cat backpack worth it?

The cat’s out of the bag: I’m a fan of putting mine into one. If you have a cat (or a kitten, who will acclimate more quickly) that you want to take along wherever you go and you prefer a more fun, stylish alternative to a boxy carrier, then yes! And if you’re looking for Instagram content, make that a “heck, yes!” The backpack has since served as an easy, hands-free way to bring Roger with us wherever we go. And he continues to not only tolerate it, but seemingly love it. Win-win.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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