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Separating bonded pair of cats easier while still young

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My son, a second-year veterinary student, and I adopted two cats. They are brothers about 13 weeks now. We adopted them three weeks ago. My son is returning to school with one of the cats. I work full time. Will the cats be OK once separated? Is there anything we can do to make the separation easier? -- Donna G., Oceanside, NY

Dear Donna,

It's great you are thinking about how your cats might react to this life change and trying to prepare them for it.

If your two cats were older, I would have concerns about separating them. Cats can form very tight feline friendships, and a bonded pair can be difficult to separate. Bonded cats that have been together for many years may suffer depression or behavior issues when separated. That's why animal shelters that receive a pair of bonded cats work hard to place them together. People often think cats enjoy solitude, but they often enjoy being part of a pride and can develop very deep friendships with other feline companions.

As for your cats, however, I don't think you will see depression or behavior issues; they are still very young and should adapt more easily to their new living conditions. Cats this age are often adopted separately at shelters.

There is nothing you can do to prepare them, but just know they may look a little lost without the other at first. You may also hear more meowing during this transition, which is how cats communicate with humans, not other cats. The increased meowing may be them questioning their new situation or them merely looking to you for comfort.

If you do see behavior changes, the best thing you and your son can do is provide them with plenty of love and attention until they adapt to their new living situation.

I am assuming your son is taking a cat to college for companionship, so the cats will be reunited on holidays and breaks. Cats who love each other can be a little testy initially during reunions. Even taking a cat to the vet can result in a little hissing between friendly cats since the returning cat will suddenly smell different to the other cat. So, be sure to also give them time to adjust when they are brought back together.

Dear Cathy,

It made me sad to read Robert N.'s letter about euthanizing his pets. My heart goes out to him. When we lost our last kitty, I was so thankful God took her in his timeline. For me, the guilt feelings of deciding when the "right" time to euthanize her were overwhelming. I pray I never need to make that decision again. -- Donna B. Tampa, FL

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Dear Donna,

If you have pets, then you will likely have to make the euthanasia-decision at some point during their lives. It is part of the grand bargain we make when we agree to share our homes with animals that we outlive by decades. The best we can hope for is that our pets either die of natural causes, as with your kitty, or live to a ripe old age and don't develop health problems that force us to make a euthanasia decision earlier in their lives.

You are not alone in this feeling. Regardless of when this decision is made, it's always a difficult one for pet parents to make. Sadly, some people swear off adopting future pets as a result, saying it's just too painful to think about. Eventually, most people adopt again when memories of the happy times spent with their pet eclipses the grief, and they suddenly long for that friendship again. Anyone who has ever had a companion animal can relate to your feelings.

Dear Cathy,

Your column often reminds me of our first dog -- a sweet beagle who literally adopted us. One night, she was sitting in the garage when I came out to put newspapers into recycling. That poor dog cowered and crawled backwards to get away. I can't imagine how mistreated she must have been in her previous home. Thank goodness, she picked a home that made her queen of the palace for the next 13 years. -- Dick C., Westbury, NY

Dear Dick,

Sitting in your garage, eh? She chose you for a reason. I think animals can sense kindness, and taking in a lost soul has got to be the ultimate kindness. Thanks for giving her a loving "palace" where she could feel safe for the remainder of her life.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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