Separating bonded animals

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Separating bonded animals

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

My sister and I started our own cat rescue a little over a year ago and this is our first official “kitten season”, and we are struggling with the issue of bonded pairs. My question to you is, at what age do you think it would be unwise to separate a bonded pair? Right now, we have a set of kittens that are about three-months-old, and another set that is about five months. Even though the five-month-old sisters are adorable and playful, we are having a hard time finding them a home together. What guidelines do you use to determine whether or not it would be safe to separate them?

– Christine, Vice President, SOS Rescue, Inc. 

Dear Christine,

Separating bonded pairs under 12 months old tends to work fine. They are still young and haven’t developed solid patterns of behavior and co-dependency from living together. While kittens will always love their littermates, they can move independently to new homes and adjust quickly.

Older bonded pairs, however, don’t fare quite as well. The older the bonded pair, the more difficult it is for them to separate and the more likely they will suffer some sadness at the loss of their companion. If they are in your care, then they have already lost their family and home for some reason, so trying to keep them together is important.  Sometimes that’s not always possible in rescue work but do the best you can. Tell potential adopters that animals should always have a “friend” to play with and interact with when they can’t be home. It’s a little guilt-provoking, but absolutely true. Animals like to be around their own kind.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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