A bonded pair of cats is just that: a pair of cats who have formed a strong emotional bond to each other and will become depressed or anxious if separated.
According to the Kentucky Humane Society, bonded pairs are frequently, but not always, littermates. Cats in a bonded pair have usually grown up together or were at least introduced to each other while still young.
Why is it important to know if cats are in a bonded pair?
It’s very important for an animal shelter to know if two cats are in a bonded pair or not. Not all cats that live in the same home form strong bonds, they may just tolerate or even dislike each other. In such cases, the cats can be adopted out separately.
Cats in a bonded pair, however, will pine if they are separated. They will become depressed and may develop behavior problems.
Thus, animal shelters and similar organizations will make a point of identifying bonded pairs and adopting them out together.
While this keeps the cats happy, it also makes it harder to adopt out. Most people who adopt pets only want to adopt one animal, not two.
How can you tell if two cats are a bonded pair?
Cats in a bonded pair are inseparable. The Kentucky Humane Society described one set of brothers as “two cats with one heart.”
Liz Bales, a writer for the website “Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co.,” describes behaviors that indicate two cats have strongly bonded.
Cats in a bonded pair do everything together: They play together, they sleep together, and they groom each other. When they play, they have a well-developed sense of how far they can take any roughhousing or play-fighting.
When they sleep, bonded cats will sleep next to each other or sometimes even on each other. Owners of bonded cats can doubtless take some adorable pictures of their cats snoozing together.
Bonded cats also rub their faces and bodies on each other. A cat’s face has glands that produce pheromones, and when two cats rub their faces against each other, they mingle their pheromones and thus strengthen their bond by inducing feelings of contentment.
Bonded cats will also stand near each other and twine their tails together, which may be another way of sharing pheromones.
Are there advantages to adopting a bonded pair?
A staff writer for “Team Cat Rescue’s” blog lists five reasons for adopting a bonded pair of cats:
1. You’re rescuing more than one animal.
You’re rescuing two cats who are also best friends. In the process, you’re also helping the shelter make room for more needy felines.
2. Cats are happier with friends.
While it’s true that cats are solitary hunters, they are otherwise social animals and need companionship. Kittens can actually teach other proper cat behavior, and cats of any age will have an easier time entertaining themselves if they have a buddy.
The below video depicts a bonded pair of kittens who are up for adoption. They are three months old, and the brother is blind and depends on his sister for guidance and security.
The staff at the animal shelter realized how much Atlas needed his sister because he would cry non-stop if they were separated.
3. You already know they will get along.
It is simply easier to bring home a pair of buddies than to get one cat and then introduce another one later on. The latter situation does not always run smoothly, especially if there are large differences in age or temperament.
An older cat won’t appreciate a kitten pouncing on their tail, and the kitten will get frustrated with an older cat that has zero interest in playing.
By contrast, cats in a bonded pair are generally about the same age, have the same energy level, and like at least some of the same things.
4. Caring for a duo is easier than it sounds.
Yes, cat food and veterinary visits will cost more when there are two cats to look after. On the other hand, the cats will have the same feeding schedule, and it won’t take that much longer to clean their litterboxes.
Also, cats that have the option of playing with each other will be less likely to drive their human nuts with demands for attention.
5. You will be happier.
Cats in a bonded pair tend to have fewer behavior problems. A bored and lonely cat will often become destructive or develop other problematic behaviors like constant crying or going outside the litter box.
By contrast, bonded cats will happily play with each other or snuggle with each other while you work, study, or tend to family matters.
Why is separating a bonded pair bad?
Cats in a bonded pair need each other. According to Alana Stevenson, a writer for “Animal Behavior & Training,” splitting up a bonded pair can actually be traumatic. Cats that have bonded can become depressed or anxious if separated, especially if they tend to be timid or insecure.
Cats that have been separated from each other may become clingy because they lack the emotional security that their buddy gave them.
Since they no longer have their favorite playmate, they will also become lonely and bored, and a bored cat will often develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors like chasing their own tail or become destructive.
Shy or fearful cats especially take being separated from their friend very hard. Without their partner to boost their confidence, they take much longer to adjust to new environments or people. They may spend all of their time hiding, much to the frustration of anybody who adopts them.
Outgoing or energetic cats may turn aggressive, or they may drive their humans to distraction with constant crying or other demands for attention.
”One of my cats died. How do I help the survivor?”
Cats in a bonded pair, unfortunately, typically do not cross the Rainbow Bridge together. One passes away before the other – and cats do grieve. Marilyn Krieger, a writer for “Catster,” provides advice on how to help a grieving cat.
According to Krieger, cats, like humans, grieve for different lengths of time. Some may be over their grief in a few days – and some may still be mourning a few months later.
Similarly, cats display their grief in different ways. Some cats cry constantly for their lost friend, some become clingy, some stop playing, and some pace.
A particularly dangerous manifestation of grief is loss of appetite; a cat that refuses to eat for more than a day might develop a potentially life-threatening condition called feline hepatic lipidosis.
Grieving is stressful, and that stress can weaken a cat’s immune system and thus make them more vulnerable to illness. Given all that, Krieger strongly advises cat owners to take feline grief seriously and keep an eye on their cat.
Since a grieving cat is already under stress, it won’t handle major changes like moving or renovating the house at all well. If possible, such changes should be postponed until after the cat’s recovery.
Routine and consistency can help reassure an unhappy cat, so the owner should stick to the usual schedule for things like feeding as much as possible.
It’s also a good idea to spend some extra time with the grieving cat doing the things it enjoys. A younger cat might appreciate more playtime, while an older one might prefer cuddling or napping with its owner. Some cats enjoy being brushed.
Krieger advises against immediately cleaning furniture or beds belonging to the deceased cat unless it died from an illness. Its scent will gradually fade, and that fading can help the surviving cat accept its death.
On the other hand, if the surviving cat avoids its friend’s favorite things, it might be a good idea to have the items cleaned.
Krieger also strongly advises against immediately getting a new cat. The grieving cat is already under stress, and dealing with a new arrival will only compound that stress. The owner will also need time to recover from their loss.
Krieger thus recommends waiting until everybody in the household has finished their mourning their lost friend before getting a new cat. She notes some people don’t feel ready to adopt a new cat until several years after the previous cat’s death.