Hands up - who went to collect their new cat for the first time and came back with two?
Monday 10th April is International Siblings Day - a global awareness day recognising brothers and sisters. At ProtectaPet, we meet many littermates on installations and see first-hand, the relationships that cats can form with their siblings. When ProtectaPet founders, Eve and Simon, rescued two farm kittens in 2009, they had no idea that tragically one of the kittens, Lola, would have her life cut short after a road traffic accident. Along with their own grief, they also witnessed the change in behaviour of the remaining sibling cat, Leo. These events we now know, were the precursor for the invention of a revolutionary cat fencing system which would save the lives of thousands of cats worldwide.
Growing up alongside a loving, sometimes irritating, sibling is a priceless experience. Cat siblings are each other's warmth and comfort during the early weeks of kittenhood, although their relationships and behaviours can often leave us perplexed. Here we shed light on some of those puzzling questions regarding cat siblings...
Do my sibling cats like each other?
Cats are usually solitary creatures, preferring to be the only moggy in their mansion, but sometimes they can form a special bond with a fellow cohabitant or littermate. If you notice that they occasionally bump heads, groom each other or nap together, this would indicate that they have a close relationship. Even some occasional ‘play fighting’ would mean they are bonded. If you find that they are hissing, avoiding each other, ‘dive-bombing’ and growling, this may suggest they are not so tolerant of each other, as not all littermates are perfectly synchronised. Look out for signs of aggression, bullying or distress as you may find that your cats would be better off apart.
How should I prepare for adopting littermates?
When you first bring a kitten or cat into your home, they will often be scared of the new, unknown, environment. Therefore, it can often be beneficial to bring home two or more littermates because they will be comforted in the familiar scents, sounds and interactions of their family.
It is recommended, when possible, to bring the kittens or cats to the new home when you are not working and will be able to monitor and guard their settling in process, as well as allowing them to become familiar with your voice and presence.
It's likely that your cats will want to go out and explore the garden and beyond. It’s best to make sure your cat is settled indoors and comfortable around you before starting to introduce your cat to the outside or letting them outside for the first time. It’s important to let your cat explore outside in their own time. We wouldn’t recommend using a harness, and you shouldn’t pick your cat up and carry them outside. Both of these situations could potentially cause your cat stress and may result in them associating this negative feeling with going or being outside.
Letting your cat siblings go outside brings many elements of risk and danger to their welfare. The best way to keep them safe and secure is by installing a ProtectaPet cat fencing system which means they can access and explore an outdoor territory, without travelling beyond the perimeter of the garden. You can read about the proven benefits of ProtectaPet here.
Do littermates always get along?
Kittens who have been separated during the early weeks of life will most likely forget each other. Kittens often miss their mother and siblings and can show signs of separation anxiety after being taken into the new home. However, it doesn't take long for them to adapt to the new home and attach to the new family.
Kittens can bond very tightly during the early weeks of life. Some sibling pairs carry this bond into adulthood, while others, sadly, don't. It is nearly impossible to predict whether a littermate pair will remain friends once grown up. The dynamics of the littermate duo can change greatly and quickly, often due to competition for your attention, territory or food conflict.
How can I help my sibling cats bond?
Every cat is deserving of a peaceful and safe home. The likelihood is, if your cats feel happy and secure, they will feel less threatened by territorial invasion or conflict. You can enrich your cats home and garden with a great selection of toys, scratch posts, climbers, hammocks, TeePees and shelves found here.
You could encourage mutal grooming by using a small amount of butter or tuna water on their fur, which would be too appetising for them to resist!
You may want to conduct your own research or read more about cat and kitten littermates. We recommend this article on behavioural considerations by International Cat Care which provides guidance on socialisation for littermates.
If you do decide to adopt cat siblings, we are positive you will enjoy watching their special bond play out and enjoy their company for years to come.