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.
This 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 its 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 humans 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 its 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 the 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 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.
How Long Does It Take For Cats To Bond?
Littermates are often bonded from the beginning of their lives. Cats who meet after they are one year old, on the other paw, are a different story.
According to Hills Pet, some cats take to each other within days, while others take weeks or months to bond.
The time it takes for cats to become BFFs (Best Furry Friends Forever) depends on the cats, and how the owners introduce them.
If cats are not properly introduced, the relationship will not start off the right paw. This makes introductions a critical part of forming a family of felines.
These simple steps to help introductions run more smoothly:
- Remember that cats rely on scent; pet one cat, then without washing your hands, go pet the other cat to transfer their smells to each other. This is the first step of familiarizing the cats with each other.
- Choose a quiet time to introduce the cats; not when your house is busy and full of people.
- Use a kittening pen or dog crate, rather than allowing the cats to meet face to face, for the initial meeting.
Even if the introduction is done carefully, do not be surprised to see the relationship ebb and flow. “These relationships will sometimes fluctuate, as human relationships do, but they generally remain strong”.
How To Help Bonded Cats Grow Strong Bonds
Cats heavily rely upon scent; if the scent is right, the bond has a better chance of occurring. As such, there are two ways to help ensure the right smells show up:
Cat expert Jackson Galaxy recommends using items that soak up cat’s scents to aid in the introduction. “Beds, blankets, carpets, cardboard scratchers, and scratching posts are all excellent scent soakers”, states Jackson.
Consider purchasing Feliway to help with the transition of adding a new feline to the pride. Feliway is recommended by veterinarians for cats who have new situations to adjust to, or who are facing stressful situations. Many cat owners report that Feliway has helped change unwanted behaviors displayed by their cats.
Cat owners can also help their cats form a strong bond by doing a little bit of matchmaking. By picking the right cat to add to the family pride based upon the current cat rather than the owner’s personal preference, there is a stronger chance of success.
- If an adult cat is already in the household, adopting a kitten of the opposite gender will reduce the chance of kitty conflict.
- Both cats should be neutered or spayed before the introduction, as the reduction of hormones reduces the potential for conflict.
If you find a wonderful cat available for adoption who is not the right fit for your feline family, consider donating to their care instead of adopting them.
Separating Bonded Cats
Cats have gotten a reputation for preferring to be loners. However, the idea that they actually enjoy each other’s company should not be considered so far-fetched; after all, lions live in pride.
According to Petful, bonded cats should not be separated. Cats who have feline friends are usually more socially adjusted and may even live longer.
Kittens bond with litter mates early in life to form their own fierce pride. Adult cats who become friends later in life may bond and begin to not only enjoy each other’s company but crave it.
No matter when the band began to form, separating bonded cats does not result in good things. Owners may notice negative symptoms when bonded cats are separated, such as:
- Loss of Confidence
- Becoming a clingy velcro cat to their humans
- Boredom and Anxiety
- Obsessive behaviors, such as excessive grooming
- Attention seeking behavior, such as meowing loudly
- Destructive behaviors such as chewing
- Refusal to eat
- A decline in overall health
Do Bonded Cats Remember Each Other After Being Separated?
Though the emotional tie between bonded cats is strong, according to The Nest, it is likely that they would not remember each other when they are separated, even if they lived together for years.
Even though kittens bond closely with their mothers and littermates, but they will not remember them once they have been separated.
Hills Pet states that scent is the most important part of cat communication. Cats rely very much on scent; this means that cats living in the same home will have a familial scent and be more acceptable to one another.
However, even a familial pair of cats can have difficulty when one of them goes to the veterinarian as a result of the new smells the cat obtained during their examination.
When Bonded Cats Fight
Having a bonded pair of cats does not guarantee that they will never fight. According to Purina, cats are territorial creatures who will often fight over what they believe is their rightful territory, whether that is a certain room in the house or their back yard.
Some cats, usually males, are aggressive by nature for no reason other than that is who they are. Other cats may play in a rough fashion, which has the potential to escalate to a real fight, especially if the other cat is not on the same page.
Cat Expert Jackson Galaxy discusses catfights in his video, “The Do’s and Dont’s of Introducing Cats. Jackson does not recommend the method of “putting cats in a room together to work things out”.
He says that “cats will never work out their differences this way… They will, however, seriously injure themselves…”. Catfights can result in severe injuries, such as damage to an eye so significant that it warrants removal.
Once cats have fought each other, it is very difficult to reintroduce them to each other.” Once a relationship becomes violent or very fearful and the cat feels threatened it can be very difficult to change the behavior patterns”.
This makes the introduction process critical to not only starting the relationship off on the right paw but also to each cat’s well-being.
Why Would Bonded Cats Hiss At Each Other?
Hissing likely originated from cats imitating snakes to intimidate predators. Hissing is a survival instinct brought on by adrenaline, surprise, fear, confusion, unhappiness, or as a warning that their boundaries are about to be crossed.
Basically, hissing is not a happy sound; it does not mean that cats are happy to see each other.
Cats often hiss at each other to communicate what they want in their space. If your cats begin to hiss while they are being introduced, you will know that they are not ready to meet yet and to go back a few steps.
Most cats hiss at each other before they begin fighting; since cats can be aggressive, territorial animals, a fight is nearly guaranteed to follow a hiss. The good part of hissing is that it allows cat owners the opportunity to separate the cats before they begin to fight.
What To Do If Your Bonded Cats Fight
The most important thing to do is to stop the fight, as they could seriously injure themselves. However, your personal safety must also be a priority when attempting to break up a catfight.
As most cat owners are aware, cat scratches not only hurt but have the potential to infect humans with Cat Scratch Disease according to the Center for Disease Control.
Two recommended methods for breaking up cat fights:
If your cats are playing roughly, there is a potential for the play to escalate to a fight. Should you want them to stop playing to prevent escalation, attempt to distract them by getting their attention with a noisy toy or crinkling a bag of their favorite treats.
For more severe fights, a less subtle method is needed, as cats can become focused on their fights and be less receptive to small distractions. As most cat owners know, cats are generally opposed to water.
This makes the simple spray bottle an effective method. Spritzing fighting cats with a spray bottle can distract them enough to stop the fight and provide owners with enough time to separate them before they can consider going for another round.
It is imperative that cat owners purchase a spray bottle exclusively for this purpose rather than recycling a spray bottle that was used to hold chemicals, as any residual chemicals in the bottles will cause injuries to the cats.