Dogs and cats can live together in harmony – good news for animal lovers who’d like both as members of their household. On the flipside, although it’s not a nice thought, it’s important to keep in mind that a dog, who might be excited rather than genuinely aggressive, can kill a kitten very easily. Introducing your dog to a new kitten properly ensures the safety of both animals and paves the way for a lifelong friendship. We will tell you how!
Don’t make the mistake of introducing your new kitten to your dog straight away. Before meeting your dog, ensure your new kitten has had enough time to settle, become confident in your home and had time to bond with you. It’s perfectly normal for this to take up to a couple of weeks and during this period of adjustment you should keep your kitten separated from your dog. If possible, during this time switch around the living areas of your kitten and dog so that they get used to each other’s scents before a face-to-face meeting. If this isn’t possible, swap blankets and bedding between them.
In the time it’s taken your new kitten to settle into your home, your dog will have become used to the presence of a new family member despite not having been introduced yet. It’s important to prepare for the first meeting between your dog and new kitten properly and to take the whole process slowly, so that anxiety or aggression problems don’t arise. Choose an area neither animal will feel particularly territorial in for their first meeting. Your dog and kitten should be able to see each other, but should be kept separate to keep both animals safe from scratches and bites. The idea is that they see and smell each other on their first meetings and build up to eventually interacting together. You can use a baby gate or cages depending on what you have available and the layout of your home. The key to successfully introducing a new kitten to your dog is to take it slowly – don’t rush your introductions. If it takes a few weeks until you’re confident both animals will behave out of their enclosures then so be it.
Even at the stage where you’re introducing your dog and kitten but they aren’t interacting, it’s important that you intervene if either animal becomes afraid or aggressive. Stop the meeting immediately and start again the following day. It’s vital that you closely supervise your pets when you allow them to interact initially. Make sure there is somewhere safe and secure for your kitten to retreat to if it becomes frightened. Somewhere high where your dog can’t reach is best – a shelf on a sturdy bookcase or window sill for example. Put your dog’s lead on and get him to sit or lie down – some tasty treats usually help. Then have a friend or adult family member enter on the far side of your room with your cat. They should sit with the kitten and offer some treats or catnip. With these meetings although your dog should be on its lead, your kitten should never be restrained.
You should continue short meetings like this until your kitten is confident enough to explore and interact with your dog – it shouldn’t be forced. When you get to this key stage in the introduction process, keep your dog on its lead and have him sit or lie down while your cat explores, reinforcing his positive behaviour with treats and verbal praise. Continue like this until you are sure your dog will behave when unrestrained, and then continue the same routine remembering to praise and reward your dog for his good behaviour.
Do you have a dog and cat that live in harmony, or any additional tips for introducing a new kitten to a dog? We’d love to hear from you!