Jump to section
You want to add a feline furry, friend to your family, but your family already contains a dog, who happens to have very little experience with cats. Is there any hope of integrating a new kitten into your home, in a way that is peaceful and safe for all parties involved?
The answer is yes! Thousands of households contain cats and dogs, that get along just fine. These housemates can even become quite attached to each other, playing together, sleeping together, and providing excellent company for each other. However, when adding any new member to the household, especially a kitten, you will need to ensure the introduction is conducted in such a way as to create a positive experience, so that your dog will accept the kitten and both kitten and dog are not stressed, frightened or injured in the process.
Dogs can have a tendency to view small critters as prey, so you will need to ensure that your dog does not make this mistake upon introduction of a new kitten. Also, remember that the kitten itself can be aggressive and lash out in defense if it perceives a threat, even when one is not present. Precautions to control the kitten's perception and reaction to being introduced are also necessary when teaching your dog to accept a kitten.
You will want your dog to react calmly around your new kitten, not rushing the kitten, crowding it, mouthing, pawing or otherwise invading the kitten's space. A cat or kitten will often see the above behaviors as threatening and will either flee, creating an opportunity for your dog to establish that he is a great toy to chase, or fight--neither of which is conducive to a happy, peaceful home. Both behaviors can result in either the kitten or your dog being injured. A feisty kitten can scratch a dog's nose or eyes, resulting in injuries, and getting the kitten-dog relationship off to a poor start.
Before introducing your dog and kitten you will want to acclimatize them safely to the sights and sounds of each other and control the environment where they are introduced. Your dog should have a good grasp on obedience commands so you can control and direct him during the introduction and while the dog is getting used to the kitten's presence in his home in the first few days. Remember, this is a big adjustment for a dog that is unfamiliar with cats. Controlling the situation and ensuring that positive associations are created will make your dog's acceptance of the kitten, his new companion, much smoother.
Most dogs and cats learn to cohabitate quite nicely together. A little bit of effort on first meeting to ensure acceptance of your new pet will speed up the process and establish a lasting friendship between your furry friends.
When teaching your dog to accept a kitten you will need a way to gradually introduce the animals and keep them both safe during the introduction. A separate room to contain your new kitten, barriers, or crates will be useful. Also, if you have a choice, find a kitten that has some spunk, not a frightened or shy, skittish kitten that will avoid your dog and run. A running kitten presents a target for your dog to chase, resulting in a more traumatized kitten and more opportunities for your dog to chase. Take precautions to ensure the kitten does not get chased or injured during introductions. A kitten that stands its ground, or even shows interest in playing with your dog will develop a friendship with your dog faster.
The Maintain Space Method
Contain your new kitten in a separate room for the first few days. Put a litter box in the room; this provides the added bonus of letting your kitten become familiar with the location of her litter box, and the sights, sounds and smells of the home.
Allow introduction through the door
Let your dog smell the kitten under the door or through the crack. Do not let your dog bark or scratch at the door.
Allow to see each other
Put a baby gate or barrier in the doorway and open the door part way so that the dog and kitten can see each other and meet through the barrier. Remember that while your dog may not be able to get over the barrier, most kittens can. You will want to supervise closely when just the barrier is present.
Reward your dog for being calm in the presence of the kitten on the other side of the gate.
Supervise loose introduction
Eventually, allow the dog and kitten in the same room, supervised. Reward your dog for being calm and not approaching the kitten. Allow the kitten to approach your dog while you reassure and pet your dog.
The Controlled Intro Method
Teach your dog a strong 'down-stay' or 'leave it' command. Put your dog on a leash. Have a route of escape for your kitten, like a cat tree or a room with a barrier the cat can easily escape to, but the dog cannot follow.
Keep dog still
Ask your dog to 'down-stay' while your new kitten is allowed to investigate the home. If your dog tries to rush towards the kitten to investigate, say “leave it” or “down-stay”, restrain with a leash if necessary.
Pet and praise your dog and reassure him for staying in the 'down-stay' position in the presence of the new kitten. Keep the initial introduction short so your dog does not become frustrated, jealous, or over-excited or have an opportunity to intimidate the kitten. Remove the kitten to a separate room or part of the house.
Repeat introducing the kitten, while controlling your dog, increase the length of time your dog is exposed to the kitten. Provide your dog treats to create a positive association with the kitten's presence.
Gradually take your dog off-leash as he shows calm behavior around the new kitten, continue supervising and provide 'leave it' or 'down-stay' commands as needed until the two animals are comfortable around each other.
The Crate Intro Method
Put kitten in a crate
Put your kitten in a crate, or behind a pet barrier that your dog cannot get through.
Introduce your dog
Introduce your dog, while on a leash, to the kitten in the crate or behind the barrier.
Allow calm investigation
If your dog barks, scratches or rushes the crate or barrier, reprimand your dog, ask him to 'down-stay' or 'leave it'. Your dog may investigate the carrier or kitten through the barrier but should be calm and not show aggressive or out-of-control behavior.
When your dog is calm around the kitten in the container, provide treats and praise. Distract your dog with play with a toy. Repeat over several sessions if necessary until calm is achieved.
Once your dog is calm around the kitten in the container, hold your dog on a leash and let the kitten out of the container or from behind the barrier. Reward calm behavior. Command 'down-stay' for aggressive behavior. Go back to containing the kitten if necessary. Continue supervising and eventually move your dog off leash as he learns to be calm around the kitten out of the container.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021