Living with cats and dogs can be one of the most joyful experiences. But when it comes to introducing a new kitten to your dog, it's important to do it right. Like with people, a bad first impression can have a lasting impact when bringing a cat and a dog together.
How to introduce a new kitten to a dog
Dogs and cats can become best friends, but it takes time and understanding. They communicate differently through body language, which can sometimes lead to confusion. That's why it's crucial to take things slowly and be patient. It may take weeks or even longer for them to feel calm and comfortable around each other. But the time and effort you invest will certainly be worth it.
Keep your kitten and dog in separate rooms
Before you introduce your new kitten and dog, you must keep them both separate to allow them to adjust to each other's presence gradually. In a room that your dog cannot access, create a comfortable space for your kitten with their litter box, food, water and a comfy cat bed. Start feeding your kitten and dog at the same time, but in their respective rooms, with a closed door separating them. Gradually, move their dishes closer to the door so they become accustomed to each other's sounds without direct interaction. Once you pets are comfortable eating close to each other, swap their scents by placing a towel with your kitten's scent in your dog's room and vice versa.
Wait until they're the right age
It's a good idea to wait until a kitten is 8 to 12 weeks old before introducing them to a dog. At this age, the kitten is typically more confident and better able to handle interactions. However, every animal and situation differs, so if unsure, check with your vet for advice.
How to make a good first impression
Before introducing your kitten and dog, refresh your dog's obedience skills, such as stay, sit, leave, and come. Also, create a calm environment by giving each pet some separate playtime to help them release excess energy before they meet. You can then allow the pair to meet face-to-face, but not in the same room. Using a screen door or stair gate to separate them, let your dog and kitten smell, hear and, importantly, see each other without touching each other.
Watch their body language
It is crucial to monitor their non-verbal cues for signs of stress or aggression. If you notice any negative or aggressive behaviours, you need to continue keeping them separate. Ideally, your dog should observe your kitten without fixating on them. You want them to be capable of diverting their attention from the cat and responding to you. Meanwhile, your cat should appear calm and relaxed. If they exhibit hissing, raised fur, growling, or cowering, it's a sign they lack confidence and don't feel safe. Once both animals demonstrate a calm demeanour and occasional disinterest in each other, they may be prepared for an introduction.
Start with supervised visits
Supervised visits between your dog and kitten should start gradually, with your dog on a leash and plenty of hiding places for your kitten. These visits may take weeks to establish comfort and start with the animals at separate sides of the room, gradually getting closer. Monitor body language for tension and assess if they respond to distractions or commands. Keep visits short initially, extending them as long as both remain calm. Reward positive interactions with treats. Don't leave the animals alone together, especially if your dog has a high prey drive.
Introducing a kitten to a dog can vary depending on the individual pets involved. Some dogs may require more time to adjust, while others may be more accepting from the start. Always prioritise the safety and well-being of both pets and take things at a pace that works for them.