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Do Cats Remember Their Siblings? Facts & How to Help Them Settle In

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By Nicole Cosgrove

two birman cats in a basket in pink background

When you bring a new kitten home and experience the excitement of introducing them to their new family, it’s hard not to think of them being taken from their mother and siblings. Fortunately, cats don’t remember their siblings, or at least not the way humans do.

Do Cats Remember Their Siblings?

Other than a few wild exceptions like lions, experts believe that felines are solitary creatures. Some domestic cats can form bonds with other cats, but they don’t necessarily need to be related.

Cats recognize other cats based on scent. The mother cat will lick all her kittens, bringing everyone together as a shared group. For a certain period, kittens will remember that scent, but it doesn’t mean they miss their sibling. It’s unclear how long, but as they adjust to their new home, those scents will overtake the scent of their litter.

ragdoll kittens sitting on a table
Photo Credit: RoseAndFlame, Shutterstock

Why Do Cats Seem Sad When They Leave the Litter?

As humans, we often project the emotions and experiences we have onto our pets. If we were separated from our family at a young age, we would likely miss them. With kittens, however, they can remember the scent, but it doesn’t seem to impact them negatively.

When kittens first come home, they have a period of adjustment. They may not eat or play as much as they normally would, they may seem fearful or withdrawn, or they could appear “sad”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they miss a sibling. It could be a combination of a big change in environment and unfamiliar family members.

Generally, it takes a few days to settle into their new home. Some kittens adjust quickly and stay confident and rambunctious from the first day.

Do Kittens Bond With Siblings?

Kittens adjust to new homes without their siblings overall, but there is one exception. Kittens that are taken from their mothers and siblings at two or three months old are well-adjusted and adapt to their new home and family.

However, littermates who are together and bonded for longer periods will form strong attachments with each other. If they’re separated at this point, they may struggle to adjust and feel scared, uncomfortable, or lost. While this can still be temporary, it’s generally best to keep bonded cats together—siblings or not.

How to Help a New Kitten Settle In

Your new kitten may not be missing their siblings and mother, but the shift to a new home is still a big change. It’s important to take it slow and help your kitten adjust.

Here are some tips:
  • Take your time with handling them, and be gentle.
  • Keep loud noises, activity, and other disruptions to a minimum.
  • If you have kids, make sure they’re calm and quiet until the cat is ready to interact. Never leave kids alone with a new kitten.
  • Let your kitten come to you for attention or cuddling initially.
  • Take time off of work to spend more time around your kitten when they first come home.
  • If possible, give your breeder an item of clothing to help your kitten get used to your scent before you bring them home.

It’s natural to feel excited when you first bring your kitten home, but taking your time and being patient with them will set the foundation for a well-adjusted cat.

cat and children
Photo Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

Conclusion

We form strong bonds with our families, so it may seem sad to take a kitten away from their mother and siblings. Cats don’t experience these emotions the same way we do, however. While there may be an adjustment period when your kitten first comes home, they don’t seem to feel sad or lost without their siblings. Over time, they learn to form bonds with their new family members—you!

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Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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