How To Tell If Cats Are Bonded [A Complete Guide]

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Are you a new cat owner or introducing a new cat to your home? Maybe you’ve had a multi-cat home for some time but are questioning your companions’ bonds. Cats have many unique and interesting behaviors, as individuals and as pairs. Bonded cats are a pair that have formed a close relationship.

Like many cat owners, you probably find it adorable when you catch your cats snuggling up or cleaning each other. Do these behaviors mean these two cats are bonded? We have done the research to give you this answer and explain other ways to tell if your cats are bonded.

You can tell your cats are bonded if they are exhibiting the following behaviors:

  • Sleeping or cuddling together
  • Rubbing their faces or bodies on each other
  • Cleaning, licking and grooming one another
  • Playing with no aggression

These are a few tell-tale signs that the two cats are bonded. This companionship can help reduce boredom, stress, and anxiety in a feline. Read on as we look closer into each of these behaviors and explain what happens when you separate bonded cats.

Two cute cats grooming on white bed in sunny room, How To Tell If Cats Are Bonded [A Complete Guide]

Bonded Cats Explained

Cats can become a bonded pair if they are littermates, siblings, parents and offspring, or completely unrelated. Bonded cats spend the majority of their time together. These bonds are most likely to occur at a young age, but there have been instances of adult cats bonding as well.

You will find that some shelters adopt out cats as a bonded pair because once bonded, it may be crucial for the cats’ health and happiness to remain together.

Sleeping and Cuddling Together

A cat’s most vulnerable time is when they are asleep. This sensitive state makes them picky about where and who they sleep around. If you find your cats cuddled up when they are napping, this is a huge sign that they are bonded. This shows they are comfortable around one another, and they feel safe in each other’s presence.

Cute kittens sleeping

One of our members, Moggiegirl, posted a photo of her recently adopted bonded pair, Bella and Mickey, here. You can see how cuddled up they are.  Moggiegirl writes, “They are a Mother and Son bonded pair only 8 months apart.”

Read more on our blog post,  How Do Cats Choose Who To Sleep With?

Rubbing Faces Or Bodies

Cats have scent glands all over their bodies, including their face and paws. When two cats are rubbing against each other, they are exchanging their scent via these glands. This exchange tells the other cat they are familiar and comfortable with them and the environment. Another sign your cats are exchanging scent is by intertwining their tails.

Two adult young cats black-white and tabby lie together on a white windowsill

Read more on our blog post, Why Do Cats Rub Against You?

Cleaning, Licking, Grooming

The act of licking or cleaning one another is called social grooming or allogrooming.  This is another sign of affection and bonding.

Two cute cats grooming on white bed in sunny stylish room

One of our TCS members, Suru, mentions this grooming in our forum stating, “On Saturday night when I brought the Kitten home, my older boy immediately came up to her and started grooming her. She half play attacked him, but to my surprise, instead of nibbling on him as she usually does, she started to groom him too!”

Read more: Why Do Cats Groom Each Other? (The Answer Will Surprise You!)

Playing With No Aggression

Bonded cats typically love playtime. During this playtime, you will see them chasing each other around the house, pulling some wrestling moves, and showing their belly. These positions leave them in a vulnerable place, showing how much they trust the other cat.

Two black kittens playing

Learn more on our blog post, “Are My Cats Fighting Or Playing?”

How Long Does It Take For Cats To Bond?

The length of time it takes for cats to bond will depend heavily on their age. Kitties from the same litter are often bonded from the start. The same is for kittens who are not from the same litter but are raised together. These quick bonds happen because of the flexible personalities of younger cats and by virtue of them spending so much time close together in the nest.

Lovely couple of cats

Adult cats can take more time to bond, but it is not impossible for it to happen. There is no specific time frame for a pair to bond. It can happen in days, weeks, and in some cases, months. Be aware that some adult cats will not bond. In these cases, the cats seem to co-exist in the home.

A lot will depend on how the cats were introduced. Introductions between adult cats must be done slowly and carefully. Cats are territorial by nature and without a gradual introduction, they make come to view one another as foe rather than as a friend.

Read more on our blog post, “How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction.”

Are Cats Happier In Pairs?

Not all cats are happier in pairs. The needs of a cat are very specific to the individual.

Some cats are very social and depend on the bond they have with another cat. In these cases, yes, this cat is happier in a pair.

On the other hand, some cats are very territorial and aggressive towards other cats. This makes them best suited for a single cat home. There are the cats in the middle as well. These cats can tolerate other felines in the home but do not show any interest in bonding with each other.

Two cats sitting together

If you are looking for a companion for your adult cat, the best option is to adopt a young cat. Kittens have a more flexible personality. This usually makes an adult cat more accepting of them. It is also easier to break up any fights between a kitten and an adult cat versus two adults.

Read more: Your Second Cat: How To Choose The Best Friend For Kitty

What Happens If You Separate Bonded Cats?

Separating bonded cats can be very hard on them, and it may leave them feeling traumatized. When a pair is separated, they become depressed, anxious, and often exhibit behavioral issues in their new homes.

Two kittens hugging while sleeping

Separated bonded cats may show one or more of the following signs:

  • Loss of confidence
  • Excessive chewing or scratching
  • Obsessive behavior such as over-grooming
  • Attention seeking behavior
  • Overall health decline

Lying cat by the window

When a cat is bonded and then separated, they may never make a similar bond again. This is why so many shelters adopt out cats as pairs if they are bonded. It is better to wait for the perfect home than to break up a pair.

What Happens When One Of The Bonded Cats Dies?

If one of the bonded cats dies, the cat left will experience grief.  A grieving cat will show signs of being depressed and needs a lot of love and care. These cats may exhibit a lack of appetite, general lethargy, and hiding after their friend passes. Your feline friend may exhibit more of the same signs that occur when a bonded pair is separated.

Cute American shorthair cat kitten

These cats may end up bonding with another cat, but it is not always the case. Try to shower your cat in affection and provide them with their favorite toys, treats, food, and whatever else they take a liking to. The following weeks will be hard on them, and you should try to make them as comfortable as possible.

In Summary

The sight of bonded cats is heartwarming. We love to see cats playing, cuddling, and grooming one another. It brings owners joy but brings even more happiness to each cat. Bonded cats have a relationship that brings value and comfort to each other. A bonded pair typically exhibit less stress, they get all their required exercise, and they help soothe one another. Having a companion like this will decrease boredom and anxiety in a cat.

Some cats depend on their bond, while others are not the social type in any way. Knowing your cat’s personality will help you figure out what their needs and wants are.

We hope you found this article informative when it comes to learning about bonded cats. Looking to learn more about cat behavior? Have a look at our blog post, “Why Do Cats…? A Guide To Understanding Feline Behavior.”

One comment on “How To Tell If Cats Are Bonded [A Complete Guide]

Frank123 August 8, 2021
After living together for over two years, I would say my two cats have learned to peacefully coexist, and that's probably the way it's always going to be. I wouldn't describe them as bonded as indicated in the article. I would attribute it to polar opposite personalities. To put it in perspective if they were human teenagers Oliver would be the outgoing party animal and Cali would be the shy bookish type homebody. As far as the bonding behaviors listed above, my cats really don't exhibit much of them. They'll occasionally sleep together on the same bed or couch but never cuddle. There really is no mutual grooming but rather it is one way with Oliver mostly grooming Cali but rarely the other way around. There really isn't much aggression between them, although they will have their occasional spats.

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