Is there any scientific or anecdotal evidence that cats recognize other cats who closely share their DNA? As in, new kittens from the same mother and the such?

I'm suspecting that there might be such a thing, and what follows is my reasoning for doing so.

I adopted my (once feral) cat when she was about 6 months old, from the area around my summer home. Ever since she has lived with me in a city flat. About a month ago, I moved back to the summer home for a while, taking her along.

Interestingly, she seemed to instantly recognize her surroundings, from which she was taken almost a year ago: Once she was allowed to go outside the house, she went out as if she already owned the entire garden. She didn't take her time to explore gradually, as she seems to have done with pretty much every other new area she's been.

There is a number of feral cats in the area. One of them, about 5-6 months old, looks extremely alike my own cat, both in terms of fur length (she has medium-lengthed fur, which is unusual for feral cats in my country), color, markings and so on. It's not unlikely at all that they're sisters from another birth, or that the kitten is my cat's niece.

This kitten is the ONLY cat or kitten I've seen in the area that my cat doesn't feel threatened by or attack at all. Over the last few weeks, I've seen her get defensive or aggressive, or at least meow at every single other cat around. With her kitten double, she just stares with apparent curiosity.

I've heard stories of cats seemingly recognizing their owners' close family as soon as they meet them; my logic tells me it must be hormonal, or otherwise related to smell - naturally, siblings and the such smell alike. But can it happen the other way round?

I highly doubt my cat understands that this kitten looks like her, but do you think there's a chance she recognizes it through scent?

  • I did find that question earlier, but since we're talking about a cat identifying (not recognizing, because they've never met before) their possible siblings or nephews/nieces, I think mine is a different question. That one was related to memory, this one is related to scent recognition.
    – surfmadpig
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 12:06
  • 1
    From what I read about dogs, dogs need to update their scent database regularly, because the scent evolves with age and many other evolving parameters, to be able to recognise "friends", household members, etc. So I would say 'no' to your question.
    – Cedric H.
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 14:24
  • 2
    Any means that a cat could use to recognize another as family could also recognize another unrelated cat as a friend. After kittenhood, blood ties don't matter much, but shared interests and outlooks do.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 17:18
  • Anecdotal and not enough to be an answer, but I've seen our two cats (seemingly) recognize their brother (who was already adopted by others before we adopted them) when they see a local cat with the same black/white pattern as them. However, they once sniffed each other (through a tilted window crack), and haven't gotten confused since. Coincidentally, there is another black/white cat in the street which looks like the spitting image of one of the girls, and the other cat has often mistakenly thought that her sister is outside (it's been a few scares for us as well).
    – Flater
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 11:08

2 Answers 2


This is a very hard question to answer.

Logically speaking, the assumed answer would always be yes. It is proven they are very intelligent, each have different personalities, and definitely have a memory. It's been proving they can remember things.

Now, as far as scientifically being able to prove they can, I am finding a hard time finding any hard evidence either way (doesn't mean it's not out there).

From what I read, they would identify each other on smell, but years later they would have forgotten the "visuals" of a litter mate, as well as the smells. It's still hard to believe from a human perspective that they would not be able to identify their mother, or father, or siblings.

However, on the flip side it's almost like humans. If a cat is with their parents and litter mates the typical time period of a breeder (6-8 weeks) they are still a "kitten" with the mental development of a small child, at least comparison speaking. Removed at 6-8 weeks i doubt, a year later, they would be able to identify each other. If child, under the age of 3, was removed from their parents and siblings, I doubt they could identify them several years later.

However, if a cat is raised around litter mates for a year for example, then I can see them having a longer term period of being able to remember that, as well visually. The scent would change, and the environments would change, but I feel the "visuals' would be the same.

I personally believe cats are more intuitive than humans, so I feel that somewhere deep down they have a way to identify their littermates. Their whiskers and eyes pick up a lot more information than initially expected, and I still personally feel that cats communicate with each other.

So in my opinion, yes, for the most part I feel they could identify each other.

Again, on the flip side, from my research in forums most peoples research points to the opposite:





I'm thinking there may be something to it! Almost 2 years ago, my neighbor and I began feeding 2 feral sisters and their brother. We suspect the brother was hit by a car and killed.

A year-and-a-half ago, one of the sisters walked into my apartment and stayed - it's taken her a year, though, to accept/ask for affection from me. The other sister has remained "feral" and primarily stays on the second floor of the landing my neighbor and I share. During the past few months, the outside feral cat has started to come into my apartment. The sister cat who lives with me IMMEDIATELY went over to her and started licking her forehead.

As I said when I started this, there may be something to it that sibling feral cats do recognize each other.

By the way, I have 2 other indoor cats - the sister cat who "adopted" us won't lick one of my male cats, but will pretty much "shadow" and lick my other male cat. And, as I've already mentioned, will IMMEDIATELY lick her outside "feral" sister cat.

  • This answer addresses remembering a cat they already knew, whereas the question is about cats recognizing family members they had never met before.
    – StephenS
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 21:26

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