Behavior

November 2008 Issue

A Mother's Love?

Do you live with two cats that are related? The nature of the relationship will often predict how well they get along.

If anyone has learned to accept the empty nest syndrome, itís the mother cat who watches her kittens leave one by one by at about 12 weeks or so ó either through adoption or by wandering off to fend for themselves. So itís interesting to see how mother cats and their kittens behave when they stay together in the same household. "The least amount of conflict occurs with cats that have been brought up together," says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, the James Law Professor of Animal Behavior at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine. "Feline siblings often become friends in the household." But staying together in a small area, such as inside a home, is not the usual course of events for adolescent cats, says Dr. Houpt. Friction can occur. There may be skirmishes for social ranking among cats, especially the males. Most of these conflicts involve some threatening posturing, but usually donít result in all-out fights. Eventually, one cat will probably assume an "alpha" position in the hierarchy, while the others become content to sit on a lower rung on the social ladder and maintain the peace.

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