What are bonded cats?
Bonded cats are a pair of cats who have formed a close relationship with one another. Some bonded cats are littermates, or parent and sibling, but many are unrelated. Most bonded cats have been introduced to each other from a young age and have grown up together in the same household.
How to tell if cats are bonded?
A bonded pair of cats will spend time together grooming each other, playing together, rub heads or tails, and sleep side by side. The dynamics of bonded cats can vary, but you may find one cat is comforting to the other cat, one may be more dominant than the other, or they can be on equal footing. Each bonded pair is different.
What happens if bonded cats are separated?
Most animal shelters will try to find a home together for a bonded pair. Separating a bonded pair can be hard on both cats which can manifest as grief, social withdrawal, crying and loss of appetite.
Sometimes separating a bonded pair is inevitable, due to death or unforeseen circumstances, with plenty of time and tender loving care they will adjust, but it is always preferable to keep a bonded pair together wherever possible.
If a pair of cats are forced to separate (for example a member of the household moving out), it may be easier if both cats also have a close connection with the person they are left with.
Ultimately, where possible, cats with a strong bond should stay together and most shelters will stipulate this.
Can you force a pair of cats to bond?
Introducing kittens at a young age can improve the likelihood that a pair of cats will form a close bond, but there is no guarantee. Some cats prefer their own company, and at the other end of the spectrum, some cats have a strong dislike of each other.
Benefits of bonded cats
Bonded cats are a source of comfort to each other, which can benefit busy households where people are out for extended periods. Having a close companion can reduce boredom, stress and anxiety.
Rehoming bonded cats together can make a new homeless overwhelming as the cats have the advantage of being with a companion. This can make the transition smoother and quicker.
Do bonded cats fight?
Just as human couples can have disagreements, so can bonded cats. In most cases, this will pass and they go, back to being loving towards each other. Ways to reduce the incidence of inter-cat hostilities is to ensure there are enough key provisions such as food bowls, litter trays, beds and toys and enough separate sleeping areas so that each cat can have time alone if he or she wants it.
What happens when a bonded cat loses a companion?
This can be hard on the cat who is left behind who will grieve the loss of his or her feline companion. A grieving cat needs a lot of love and tender loving care to get over the loss.
In some cases, the cat may bond with another cat (either one who already a part of the household or a newly introduced cat), but there are no guarantees this will happen.
Sharing a home with a bonded pair is a unique experience, they take comfort in each other and act as an emotional safety net.
We have had two bonded pairs of cats. Suni and Misha and Calvin and Norman.
Suni was a chocolate Burmese cat who we adopted in the late 1990s. He was a loving, friendly and confident cat. A year later we adopted a blue Burmese girl named Misha. Initially, Suni resented this newcomer but quickly took her under his wing. Misha was quiet, shy and preferred the company of her feline companion Suni over us. A few years later Suni died unexpectedly, which was very hard on Misha. She walked around the house looking for her companion and crying. It was heartbreaking to see. She did go on to form a friendship with our other Burmese, Mitzy, but they were never as close as Suni and Misha.
Shortly after the death of our Singapura cat, Levi, Calvin and Norman were surrendered to the RSPCA as a bonded brothers. We don’t know their exact history, but they are not littermates, Calvin is a year older than Norman. The shelter wanted the boys to go to a home together, which we were happy to do. Their relationship is more of an equal one, they enjoy spending time together as well as apart, they have the occasional spat, but it is never serious and ends quickly. Calvin is a little shyer than Norman (who is quite mischievous), but he is very loving and sweet around people, whereas Norman likes to be near you, but not on you.
Frequently asked questions
Are all cats happy in pairs?
No, not all cats are happy in pairs. Some will happily share a home with other cats, but not form close bonds. Other cats will actively resent other cats in the home. When introduced at a young age, two cats will often form a close friendship, but it’s not guaranteed.
Is it better to adopt cats in pairs?
Yes, it is better to adopt cats in pairs, especially if you are out of the house for extended hours. Some pairs will bond, some will happily share a home, but not form a close bond, and in rare cases, some cats will dislike each other. The younger the cats are introduced, the easier it can be but ultimately it comes down to each cat’s personality.
Does it matter what gender the cats are?
In my experience no. We have had a male and a female who bonded and two males who have bonded.
Do cats get lonely if left alone?
Yes, cats can get lonely if left alone, which is why it is often recommended that two cats are adopted together for company. Some cats are quite content to be on their own. Again, it comes down to personality.
Do cats with a close bond get on with people?
In most cases yes, cats who are bonded will form a close relationship with their human family too.