Separating bonded pair of cats easier while still young


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Separating bonded pair of cats easier while still young

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

My son, a second-year veterinary student, and I adopted two cats. They are brothers, about 13 weeks old. We adopted them three weeks ago. My son is returning to school with one of the cats. I work full time in Oceanside. Will the cats be okay once separated? Is there anything we can do to make the separation easier?

— Donna G., Oceanside, New York

Dear Donna,

It’s great you are thinking about how your cats might react to this life change and trying to prepare them for it.

If your two cats were older, I would have concerns about separating them. Cats can form very tight feline friendships, and a bonded pair can be difficult to separate. Bonded cats that have been together for many years may suffer depression or behavior issues when separated. That’s why animal shelters that receive a pair of bonded cats work hard to place them together. People often think cats enjoy solitude, but they often enjoy being part of a pride and can develop very deep friendships with other feline companions.

As for your cats, however, I don’t think you will see depression or behavior issues; they are still very young and should adapt more easily to their new living conditions. Cats this age are often adopted separately at shelters. There is nothing you can do to prepare them, but just know they may look a little lost without the other at first. You may also hear more meowing during this transition, which is how cats communicate with humans, not other cats. The increased meowing may be them questioning their new situation or them merely looking to you for comfort. If you do see behavior changes, the best thing you and your son can do is provide them with plenty of love and attention until they adapt to their new living situation.

I am assuming your son is taking a cat to college for companionship, so the cats will be reunited on holidays and breaks. Cats who love each other can be a little testy initially during reunions. Even taking a cat to the vet can result in a little hissing between friendly cats since the returning cat will suddenly smell different to the other cat. So, be sure to also give them time to adjust when they are brought back together.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 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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2 thoughts on “Separating bonded pair of cats easier while still young”

  1. My cat is 7month old and his sibling his sister we separated them my granddaughter took the girl but the one I kept is demanding attention more than usual what can I do about that.

    1. Cathy Rosenthal

      Hi Dixie,

      It seems your cat really enjoyed having another feline companion around, and is now seeking a bit more attention from you during this adjustment period. If your grandmother lives nearby, scheduling playdates so they can still interact with their sibling could be beneficial. The stimulation of traveling to grandma’s and playing with their old friend will help tire your cat out.

      At home, there are several things you can do to keep your cat entertained. First and foremost, make sure to engage in regular play sessions. Cats thrive on interaction and should ideally be played with at least three times a day for 5 to 10 minutes each session, depending on their individual preferences. The good news is, playing with a cat can be as simple as waving around a wand or feather toy, or using a laser pointer for them to chase—all from the comfort of your couch. Alternatively, there are automatic laser toys available that can be turned on and left to entertain your cat for short periods. (Some cats can get bored with these automatic toys, so try an inexpensive one first to see how he likes them.)

      Brushing your cat is another great way to provide mental stimulation, if your cat is amenable to it. Additionally, providing your cat with a perch or cat tree near a window can offer entertainment as they observe the sights and sounds of the outdoors while remaining safe indoors.

      Finally, if you have outdoor space like a patio, porch, or yard, consider investing in a small catio. This enclosed outdoor area allows your cat to experience the fresh air and stimulation of the outdoors while remaining secure. Spending time outside can be both enriching and tiring for your cat, helping to keep them content and satisfied.

      I hope these suggestions help you and your cat navigate this transition smoothly!

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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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