a white cat and brown cat sleeping together in a pool of sunlight

How To Tell If Cats Are Bonded

Have you got cats that don’t get on or have you got cats that are ok with each other but you are not really sure if they are friends or not? How to tell if cats are bonded to each other? Does it really matter if they are not bonded? What about if they are paired, can they be separated? Find out if your cats are happy and whether they are bonded.

Why Do Cats Bond With Each Other?

Cats are social creatures and enjoy the company and security that a group can offer.  This can leave them predisposed to forming allegiances with other cats and people in their social group. 

Pair Of Calico Cats Grooming Each Other
Pair Of Bonded Calico Cats Grooming

Feral cats, given adequate territory and food, will form large, social groups called colonies. It is believed that one of the benefits of such a large social group is that they can jointly defend resources from interlopers. It may be that attached cats feel security and less anxiety from the strength in numbers that bonding affords.

Often siblings and kittens that are brought together at a young age, bond. They learn social skills from one another, offer each other company, and experience less anxiety when paired so you could say bonding has developmental benefits that make it worthwhile for cats.

Do All Cats Bond Together?

Are cats better in pairs? Not necessarily, not all cats will bond together. Cats are like people – they have individual personalities – and some just don’t get on with each other and can’t be made to get on, but others are similar enough that they do get on and will bond.

Cats that do bond usually require full access to territorial and food resources. If there is any chance they need to compete with each other for resources then they won’t bond with other cats. They will display competitive behaviors rather than social group behaviors. 

two cats running playfully through a house going hyper

Siblings often bond because they see themselves as being part of the same social group but this bond can wane in later life if resources aren’t available or they grow apart personality-wise. 

Cats that are not siblings but were introduced as kittens will often bond as they have been brought together in that playful, learning stage and have shared experiences with each other.

In all cases, if resources are short and they need to compete for the resources then bonds will break. Additionally, cats that are paired may grow apart with time as their personality or confidence levels change and they feel less need to share social company. Cats do not necessarily bond as friends for life.

Can You Make Cats Bond With Each Other?

Cats can’t be made to bond with each other. Cats are complicated and introducing cats can be tricky. For cats to bond, they need to feel that they are in the same social group, and that they are not competing in any way for resources in order to even have a chance of bonding. 

Even if all the basic conditions are in place, their personalities may be such that they just don’t like each other enough to bond tightly with a member of their social group.

That is not to say that a bunch of cats can’t live together successfully if they are not bonded. Cats can live in the same house without being part of the same social group or bonding together. They assume a mutual living arrangement – timeshare of space, resources, avoiding paths crossing, tolerance of each other, and the like.

Perhaps your cats have adequate access to food and territory – everyone is getting on well. Are there any extra measures you can take to assist or provoke bonding? All you can do is really get them interacting together and help to nurture any bond they might have. The best way is through play. Try to get them both playing at the same time so they are relaxed with each other and sharing some experiences together. Mutual activities might develop a bond that flourishes over time.

close up of a ginger tabby licking a grey tabby

How To Tell If Two Cats Are Bonded

Identifying cats that are bonded to each other is generally quite easy. You can tell that the two cats get on because they are clearly very easy in each other’s company. They show no anxiety toward each other and don’t avoid each other. 

Some of the clear signals that tell you cats are bonded to each other are:

  1. They will rub their faces on each other to spread and share their pheromones.
  2. They will intertwine tails which are thought to transfer scent to each other.
  3. They will rub up alongside each other, transferring scent.
  4. Bonded cats will sleep together and on top of each other.
  5. They will groom each other.
  6. Share space together without falling out or showing anxiety.
  7. Will rough play together without overstepping the mark. 

Bonded cats won’t hiss at each other, swat or slap each other or show any discontent with each other. Their rough play can be disconcerting and it can sometimes be difficult to tell if cats are playing or fighting but it never gets really serious – both cats seem to play to the edge and then pull away before real mischief is done.

Often they will follow each other around and may even show and demand less attention from their owner as they are getting all the social interaction they need from their pal.

Are Bonded Cats Happier In Pairs?

Cats need some social time with a human or another cat, so a bonded pair of cats will often have adequate company without any question of loneliness that a single cat may have if the home is empty.

two tabby cats eating a slice of white bread and butter off a plate on a table

This would suggest that bonded cats are probably happier than single cats who may suffer some loneliness and anxiety if you leave the house empty or keep irregular hours. But saying a single cat without anxiety and with adequate social interaction is more unhappy would be a push Cats are highly developed to be self-contained individuals if necessary.

What Happens If You Separate Bonded Cats

Many rescue centers that have cats that have been identified as bonded pairs will not allow the pair to be split for adoption. 

There is a good reason for this. If you split a pair of cats that rely on each other for company, security, and comfort there is a risk that they pine, become depressed, and suffer anxiety if separated. They may fail to thrive.

However, cats are complex. My own experience shows me that they can often be very adaptable. Cats that are bonded can sometimes be split without any obvious issues. 

My own cat was, in hindsight, a bonded cat. Her pal was a slightly larger male kitten. Her male pal became my sister’s cat and the two were separated into two different, lively households. 

Whenever an opportunity might arise they would be reunited for a visit which occurred generally every 4 – 6 weeks. Each time they were reunited they seem to pick up where they left off. There would be some initial roughhousing and chase play followed by mutual grooming and finally settling into sleeping together in a big pile. Unambiguous signals of bonded cats. However, at the end of the visit, my cat would always hop into her carrier and they would go their own ways seemingly unphased by the whole experience.

Unfortunately, in the end, the bond was broken by a traffic accident when the young male was three years old. 

They may not have been strictly split as they saw each other on a semi-regular basis – but neither seemed to regress without the other – perhaps because both had enough security, interest, and activity in their own home lives to fulfill any gap that the separation might have created.

three stray cats hanging out together

Should You Get A Second Cat In The Hope It Will Bond With Your Cat

It would be easy to read all this about bonded cats and sentimentally think you should get a second cat to keep your cat company. Hopefully, they might bond and have a great life. But, things are never straightforward. Your cat might be perfectly happy in their current situation and find a new cat disrupts the home setup. Bonding is so hit and miss I would not recommend anyone takes the chance of getting a new cat just in the hope they bond with the existing housemate. You might find you end up with two cats that don’t get on and everyone suffers. 

Bonded cats are great if you are looking for a pair or if your own cats just naturally hit it off – but it is a bit like falling in love – it comes out of the blue, can disappear as quickly as it came, or change lives in ways you never envisaged!