When it comes to rearing a well-adjusted and happy kitten, paying attention to early social development is a must. Kittens often establish tight bonds with their littermates, through everything from rough playing to mutual grooming. In the kitten world, having a playmate around can go a long way.
For kittens and young cats that have not yet reached the 2-year mark, playmates are an integral part of social development. With the presence of a mate, a kitten can fulfill her natural energy-packed chasing and hunting instincts -- think pouncing, ambushing, clutching and chasing. With a playmate around, a kitten can learn valuable lessons -- notably how to bite without making it hurt. When a young cat bites her "opponent," he can react either by stopping the game or by seeking revenge -- neither of which are too fun! Through these key early lessons, kittens learn how to play safely, which is very valuable for future interactions both with humans and with fellow cats.
When a kitten is separated from her littermates at a very young age, due to inexperience she may not understanding biting and scratching restraint -- resulting in possible behavioral issues later on and into adulthood. Because of this, a kitten may benefit greatly from a playmate, whether a kitten from her own litter or from another one entirely.
When a kitten has a playmate, she may also reap the benefits of mutual grooming, also known as "allogrooming." When kitties groom each other, not only do they help clean the spots that aren't very easy to access alone, they often develop a strong bond and emotional tie. In "kitty land," mutual grooming is a loving action that conveys friendliness and trust -- both great things to have in a cat's life.
A playmate can also prevent boredom -- and perhaps even destructive trouble-making -- for a kitten. If the household is quiet and all of the human members are busy or away at work, the presence of a fellow kitty serves as a nonstop comfort. A pair of cats can chase after catnip-stuffed balls together, engage in a healthy session of "rough play" and even cuddle up on each other to relax and take a nap.
According to the Humane Society of North Texas, kittens typically work better together if they are from the same litter. After all, littermates are usually together from birth and are often extremely bonded as a result -- aww. However, if a kitten is placed with another cutie from a different litter at a very early age, the pairing could also be successful.