Littermates: Is Adopting Dog or Cat Siblings a Good Idea?

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What's better than one new puppy or kitten? Two! If you're headed to the shelter to adopt a new family member, you might encounter dog siblings or cat siblings housed in a kennel together. The staff may offer the option to adopt two together. But should they be adopted as a team, or is it better to separate littermates? Let's take a closer look at this common pet adoption question.

Family of six kittens in a basket

Should I Adopt Littermates?

If you're in the market for multiple furry family members, you might wonder whether it's a good idea to select two pets from the same litter. Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, PhD explains that many potential pet parents don't want their new pet to be lonely, so they will often get two pets from the same litter. After all, they've socialized with one another from the start and likely already get along.

However, Dr. McConnnell says that littermates are often so engrossed in what their sibling is doing that it's harder to get them to focus on you — ultimately, making them more difficult to train. Sometimes as the pets grow and mature, they begin to bully one another to vie for human attention. And sibling bonding is a different connection than a long-term bonded pair of pets who have lived together for years. Those pairs absolutely need to stay together to avoid bouts of anxiety or depression.

Already have littermates in your home? One-on-one training sessions, making the siblings sleep in different areas and playing with each pet individually can help to reduce sibling rivalry. Also consider hiring a pet trainer or behaviorist to help provide guidance and training for this unique situation

Gray and white British shorthair cats nuzzles a golden retriever licking its lips in front of food bowl.

When to Adopt Individual Pets

During a pet adoption, you become the new best friend of that cat or dog. The pet will adjust and handle the separation from their siblings just fine over time. Therefore, if you're hoping to claim your new cat or dog's full attention, adopting littermates may not be right for you. Sure, the animals may feel a little sad leaving their brothers and sisters, but those feelings will quickly dissipate as the pet falls in love with their new pet parents and their existing pet family members.

Consider adopting individual pets. If you really want two, choose pets that aren't from the same litter. Work slowly to introduce the new pets to be sure they're compatible before taking them home, and if the two seem to hit it off, go forward with the adoption. You and the new pets will work through the adjustment period together and form a bond as a family.

As you begin looking around for your new cat or dog, be ready to encounter a potential double adoption. Rescues and shelters often receive litters of puppies and kittens and may offer dog siblings or cat siblings to you, especially if you're in the market to add more than one pet to your clan. If you really have your heart set on adopting littermates, great! Just make sure you treat them as individuals and give them their own special attention and training to help them grow up to be well-behaved social creatures. If you decide to stick with just one pet for now, that's okay, too. You always have the option of adopting a brother or sister for them in the future.

Contributor Bio

Angela Tague

Angela Tague

Angela Tague is a pet mom and writer living in the Midwest. When she's not making a mess in the kitchen, exploring nature trails with her dog, or attending a yoga workshop, she's writing full-time for multiple lifestyle and technology brands. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.