After being separated for years, would it not be nice to bring your cat together with his brothers and sisters? Is it a great idea or a recipe for disasters? Do cats remember their siblings?
Can cats remember their littermates?
No, cats do not remember their littermates, at least not in the way humans do.
With the exception of lions, experts believed that felines are solitary creatures. However, studies indicate that a few felines, including domestic cats, are capable of forming bonds with other cats, including those that are not related to them.
To form and establish that bond, cats will groom and rub their scents against each other. Through these behaviors, cats transmit their scents and make each other recognizable to the other cats. Furthermore, this reinforces the rank of each member of the group.
This is why it is possible for two unrelated cats to live together in the same home. This is also the reason why your cat might not recognize his littermates.
If your cat encounters his brother or sister, the other cat will be unfamiliar because the scent of the other one is strange to your pet. If you have owned a few cats before, you might notice that even after a few hours at the pet grooming salon or the vet, the cat you brought with you seems unfamiliar to the other cats left behind in your home.
Simply put, cats do not rely on visual recognition to identify the members of their group. Instead, they use their sense of smell. This is also the reason why you should make two cats familiar with each other’s scents before introducing them face to face in your home.
The importance of having littermates
A cat’s mother and littermates play a crucial role in the development of a kitten. A kitten’s early interaction with his family allows him to learn social skills and develop his personality. This is why kittens should stay at least 12 weeks with his family. The initial weeks of a kitten’s life should be reserved for socialization and play.
At this stage, a young cat learns and practices physical skills like chasing, pouncing, ambushing, and licking. Furthermore, playtime develops a cat’s innate curiosity which in turn, is vital for brain development.
If you adopt a kitten before he is 12 weeks of age, he might not be able to develop the skills necessary for his development, both physically and socially. For example, the cat may not be able to control his bite strength and may have aggression and personality issues later in life.
Why you should adopt littermates
If you are adopting a kitten from the shelter, the staff might encourage you to get one or more kittens from the same litter.
Apart from giving more cats a chance of starting a new life in a good home, there are a few other good reasons behind this.
For one, having someone familiar makes it easy for kittens to make the transition to living in your home.
Furthermore, a littermate (or more) can give your new cat the mental stimulation he needs to curb bad behavior. Left alone in your house, a young cat can resort to mischief if he has nobody to play with. This can lead to the destruction of your belongings or even risk the safety and life of your pet.
Adopting another cat, especially one familiar with your pet, like a sibling, can make life a bit easier for you. For one, a kitty companion will occupy your cat with all the fun and games he can have with his playmate. This can allow you to run errands or even sleep longer without a needy cat trying to catch your attention.
If there is one major downside to adopting siblings, that would be littermate syndrome. Because the two cats form strong bonds, they become too dependent on one another. And when they are separated, even momentarily, the cat left alone will exhibit separation anxiety. But the syndrome rarely occurs in cats.
Raising a cat alone vs. with siblings
If you are adopting a single cat from a litter, your new pet will have to face a rough patch, at least initially.
Separated from his mom and siblings, your kitten will show signs of separation anxiety. That is only natural. Fortunately, he will soon overcome that and make the transition to his new life with you.
Soon after, he will forget his mother and siblings and their scents. And if you bring together siblings after getting separated, even briefly, they will not recognize one another because they have picked up different scents. It may be possible for them to get along just fine or completely ignore one another.
On the other hand, the relationship between the two siblings brought up in the same home can be a mixed bag. Early on, the bond between the two can be quite strong as they rely on one another for support.
But as the two cats grow into adulthood, that bond can become stronger or weaker. The relationship between cats can be quite hard to predict. Some get into fights due to territorial behavior or competition for their human’s attention and affection.
But all in all, it is easier to keep two littermates rather than get two cats from different litters.
Siblings have a unique bond that cannot be easily replicated. This starts with the time they are together with their mother and continues when they eat, play, and sleep together in your home.
Although this bond may somewhat weaken as they grow older, they will still have a good relationship upon reaching maturity, despite the occasional mishaps.
On the other hand, getting cats from two litters poses a few unique challenges. It will take some time and effort before the two accept each other’s presence in your home. This is especially true if you adopted one before the other and the resident cat considers your home as his territory.
The intrusion of another cat into your resident cat’s territory can cause stress. And left unchecked, this can lead to fights. But with proper introduction and the passing of time, the two cats can eventually accept each other.
Cats cannot remember their siblings after separation
Humans tend to attribute traits, values, and emotions to things and their pets. This is called anthropomorphism. You might think that cats have a sense of family like humans do. But they do not.
Although kittens spend their formative time with their siblings, developing strong bonds at the same time, those bonds are not long-lasting.
Unlike people who can recognize loved ones through sight, cats rely on their noses to identify the members of their group. Putting together strange cats, even those from the same litter is just a bad idea that can lead to aggression.
Image: istockphoto.com / Andrew_Deer