You’re about to bring a new kitten home, and you and your family are so excited. There’s only one small problem … you’re a little worried about how your dog is going to take to this new arrival!
Bringing a new animal, be it a kitten, a cat or another dog, into a household which already has a resident dog can create stress all round. However, there are ways to effectively minimise that stress and help your pets to get along together.
These tips will help you to introduce a kitten to a dog, without causing too much friction.
Even if your dog has lived with other animals before, they still may not take kindly to a new pet coming into their territory. While you may think they’re going to get along just fine, you can never be sure what will happen.
Therefore, make a point of giving your dog lots of attention and praise when you bring your new kitten home, to show that they’re not going to be a threat to your affection. And remember, dogs can very easily hurt or even kill a kitten, so never leave them alone together in those early days.
Getting to know a new kitten can be tricky, with or without the added issue of existing pets. One of the best ways to make your new arrival feel at home is to prepare a safe space for them, preferably their own room if that’s possible. Put a bed, a litter box, and food and water into the space, and then leave the kitten alone to explore. You may want to keep your kitten completely separate from your dog until it’s had chance to get to know you first.
If possible, try to feed your kitten and dog on either side of a door, so that they can smell each other before meeting face to face. Your dog shouldn’t be allowed to whine, scratch or bark at the door, as this can be very intimidating for your new arrival.
Another way to introduce the animals to each other is to swap their blankets or a put a towel with their scents on it in each other’s bed. This will help them pick up the scent and become comfortable around it before coming into contact. You can also introduce each animal to the other’s space (when they’re not there), and let them have a good sniff. Just remember not to let your dog eat your kitten’s food or scratch in their litter box.
When it’s time for your kitten and dog to meet for the first time, keep your cat in their box and put your dog on a leash. This way they can see each other without any physical contact taking place. Make your dog sit, and be prepared to take him or her out of the room if they get too excited. This activity should be repeated until both animals can relax when together. Don’t forget to reward both of them for their good behaviour by giving them lots of praise and cuddles.
Once your pets are comfortable being together in the same room, it’s time to let your kitten out of the box. At this point, you should still keep your dog on its leash. If your cat seems reluctant to come out coax them with a treat, however don’t try to force it. Once out of the box, let the kitten explore, keeping your dog at your side. This should be repeated several times a day, until your dog is able to relax when the kitten is exploring.
When you get to the point where your dog can remain calm while your kitten is in the room, it’s time to let them off the lead. Getting to this stage can sometimes take weeks, so don’t worry if it seems to be taking longer than you expected. If you leave your pets home alone during the day, it may be best to keep them separated until your kitten is a full-grown cat, particularly if you have a dog that sees everything as ‘prey’.
Introducing new pets to each other will always take longer than you think, so don’t try and force the issue. The key to successfully introducing a new kitten to your dog is to take it very slowly. If your dog is struggling to relax around your cat, it’s advisable to keep them separated by a physical barrier when you’re not there to monitor the situation. Better to be safe than sorry!