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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Insulated Carrier Cover: For When You Have to Go out with Your Rat in Freezing Temps

Insulated Cover for Those Extremely Cold Days

Yesterday was Jeremy's pre-neuter appointment. Unfortunately, it was also 1 degree outside with wind chills below zero. I made sure to warm up the car, but he would still need to make it from the car to the vet's office and back in these dangerous temperatures.

I have used fleece, blankets, and towels in the past to cover the carrier when it was cold, but it always seems the cage can be too exposed that way. Either the entire carrier isn't covered or the cover blows up or the cover is uneven. If the cover is too large, it gets in the way. If it is too small, something isn't covered. And it is more difficult to grab the handle through the cover. If it is windy, it seems sometimes the wind goes right through the cover anyway.

Cover Next to the Carrier
To solve these problems on this extremely cold day, I decided to create a carrier cover designed to fit his carrier, allow me to hold the handle directly, and protect him from the wind. I wanted something a little more insulated than just fleece or fleece and flannel/cotton, so I decided to use the same materials I use for the cage liners: One layer of fleece for the outside, and one warm insulated layer of U-Haul furniture pad for the underside to protect him from the chill of the wind.

I made my cover in a hurry in the hour before I had to leave for the appointment, so I did not have time to photograph the process. If you are interested in making one yourself to fit your own carrier, I have included a brief description of the process below. It is very similar to making a cube/rectangular prism, except there is no bottom, so you need to clean finish the bottom edges of the side pieces together first if you want a finished edge along the bottom. You will need a sewing machine capable of sewing through many layers and a needle for heavy fabrics (sewing the top to the connected sides is the hardest part - particularly the corners where you need to sew over the side seams).

Petmate Look 'N See Portable Kennel
The carrier that I use is the Petmate Look 'N See Portable Kennel, discussed in this post. To make the cover, I simply measured the three dimensions of the carrier (length, width, height) and added at least one inch to each dimension for seam allowance (you can add a little extra to ensure a loose fit and protect against shrinkage). I then cut from fleece two long side pieces (21" x 11"), two short front/back pieces (12" x 11") and one top piece (21" x 12"). I then cut another set of pieces using the U-Haul furniture pad.

To prepare the top piece, I put the fleece top piece on top of the furniture pad top piece, right sides out/wrong sides together and pinned them together. I put the top piece on top of the carrier and marked the position of the handle. I then cut a slit in the top piece (through both fleece and furniture pad) and made sure the handle fit through the slit. I made it a little larger than necessary so I would be able to adjust the position of the cover lengthwise slightly if needed.

Slit style handle opening
To finish off the raw edges of the handle opening, I sewed around the opening with a zigzag stitch (kind of like a super large button hole). I then put this piece aside and worked on building the sides of the cover. NOTE: If you want a larger opening, you can make a rectangular opening the same way you would make an opening on a cube. This would leave more open space around the handle, which wouldn't be good for me, since my carrier is all wire on the top. The slit style opening keeps the carrier covered better, so I used that method instead.

For each of the four side pieces, I first created a finished bottom edge on each piece by doing the following: I put the fleece and furniture pad pieces right sides together and sewed them together along the bottom edge. I trimmed the seam allowance and flipped them right side out and top stitched along the sewn side, finishing off the bottom edge. Once that was done for each side piece, I sewed each side piece to the adjacent side, just like making a cube/rectangular prism, with fleece sides together (furniture pad side facing out), making sure the finished bottom edges were aligned. When they were all connected in a straight line, I folded the long strip fleece sides together so that the last piece sewn met the first piece sewn, and sewed the last piece to the first piece, making a closed rectangle. I then trimmed all the seam allowances.

When all four sides were sewn together, I turned them inside out and pinned the carrier top to the top edge of the sides, fleece sides together (furniture pad side out), the same way you would attach the top of a cube. I sewed the top piece to the sides around all four edges, just like attaching the top of a cube. Note that this will be very thick at the corners and you will need a sewing machine and needle capable of sewing through all the layers.

Once the seam allowances were trimmed, the cover could be turned inside out and then placed over the carrier to protect the rat from the weather.

Cover lifted a bit in front to expose door.
Note that this cover will limit ventilation. I do not use the cover inside the car (or if I did, I would life the front portion up to promote airflow), as I prefer to have the ventilation when possible. I am only planning to use this cover when making the trip in and out of the car in extremely cold weather.

A similar cover could be constructed for more regular use out of lighter materials if desired.

On a side note, Jeremy got the thumbs up to go ahead with his neuter. He will be going in a week from Wednesday.


  1. This is such a clever idea! I love the slit at the top for the handle. Your description of it as a button hole is great! I agree how difficult it is to just place blankets or towels over the carrier---especially if it's windy. I've taken to holding the carrier in my arms from the bottom (rather than using the handle) so I can keep the blanket secured from blowing upwards by the wind.

    Glad Jeremy got the thumbs up for neutering and that you scheduled the appointment.

  2. I'm gonna make a similar one for my hedghog. I'm gonna use a shower curtain for the bottom layer so I can turn it inside out when it rains! Last time I had to take her the vets was packed and it was downpouring. Her blankets I covered her carrier in were soaked through by the time we got inside. Plus it's very hard to keep a 70-75 temp while Traveling outside in a cat carrier so a proper insulated cover would really help. Mine I didn't connect the front part to the sides and added ties so I could just untie the front part for air flow.

  3. I'm going to need something like this to pick up our new baby rats in a couple of weeks, but how about ventilation...?