You're getting a new kitten and you're super excited. That's great, but don't forget about the pets you already have in your family. Adding a new pet to your household can create stress for your other animals. When you take the proper steps, though, you can alleviate a great deal of that stress and ensure your new cat is smoothly integrated with the other members of your home. Below we outline a few tips to make sure everyone – humans, felines, and canines – gets along just fine.
Prepare Your Pooch
Even if your dog has lived with other animals in the past, they still might have trouble if you introduce a new kitten. You never know what will happen when a new animal is introduced into your home. Be sure to give your dog plenty of attention and praise when you bring home a new furry friend. That way he or she knows the kitten is not a threat. And here’s one critically important fact: dogs can easily kill kittens. You should never leave your new kitten alone with your dog during these early days. Some basic obedience training for your dog will help make this new pet introduction easier for everyone.
Get a Room Ready
When you know you’re getting a new kitten, it's a great idea to prepare a room for the cat that will serve as safe space with food, water, a litter box, and a bed. Leave the kitten alone to explore this place and get adjusted. If possible, feed the new kitten and your dog on separate sides of the door to this room. This way they can smell each other while they have a meal. Don’t let your dog bark, whine, or paw at the door – this can intimidate and frighten your new kitten. Think of this as a first gesture, a handshake.
Let Them Smell Each Other
The cat and dog don't have to be in the same room to smell each other. You can swap their blankets, or rub a towel on the animal and place it in the other's bed or space. This is great way to let them get used to each other’s scent. You can also switch their spots and let your new kitten explore its new home without the dog in it. And you can let your dog explore the kitten’s space. Just don’t let your dog eat the kitten’s food (it's not good for them!) or get into the kitten’s litter box.
Meeting: Stage One
During the first meeting of your new kitten and your dog, your cat should stay in a crate and your dog should be on a leash. Let them see each other without any physical contact. Use your obedience training with your dog, and if he gets too excited, take him out of the room and try again until he obeys. Keep repeating this until they can be in the same room and be relaxed without tension. Reward your pets for their good behavior and give them plenty of praise.
Meeting: Stage Two
This stage requires two people – someone should keep the dog on a leash and someone should open the cat's crate to let the cat explore freely in the room. Your cat may not want to come out so try to coax them with treats and give them time. Continue your dog’s obedience training, making him heel. Try this several times a day until your dog can be relaxed with your new kitten walking around free in the same room.
Meeting: Stage Three
Once your dog can calmly watch the new kitten explore (this can take several weeks so be patient), you can let your dog off the leash to be around this new pet. If you are not home, continue to keep the new kitten and dog separated until your kitten becomes a full-grown cat. If your dog has a high prey drive, always keep the dog and the cat separated by a physical barrier when you are not there to supervise.
By Jay Matthews
About the Author
Jay Matthews has been writing professionally for over a decade. He's been an animal lover for even longer. When he's not creating articles or copywriting, he's slowly chipping away at a science fiction novel. He lives with his family and their cat Koko in Los Angeles.