6 Steps for introducing a kitten into a dog household
- by DR Roxanne Jones
It’s not true that cats and dogs are always enemies, even if cartoons want us to think so. Many households have successfully integrated the two species and we’ve seen lots of examples of happy cat-and-dog families. That said, there are some dogs that simply will not ever be able to live with cats.
So the first step, if you’re thinking of getting cat, is to ask yourself: “What would my dogs do if they saw a squirrel running through the garden?” If the squirrel wouldn’t stand a chance, you’ll want to rethink adding a kitten to the mix. However, if you think the little critter would make it safely to the other side, you could start to think about getting a cat.
Even if you think your dogs would tolerate a kitten or cat being introduced, it’s still best to do it as slowly and carefully as possible. Dogs and cats can have a healthy relationship if they’re introduced properly and carefully supervised throughout.
4 Things to note before you introduce your pets
- Introduce your kitten to only one dog at a time.
Have at least two people present: one to handle the dog and the other to handle the cat.
Make sure that both animals are aware of the other’s presence. If either one gets a fright because the other comes too close without them realising, fear and panic can set in, which is a huge no-no and something you want to avoid.
Important! Observe the body language of both animals during the introduction. Bestfriends.org says:
“The first thing you want to do is pay attention to the body language of both animals. Ideally, the body language of both pets will be loose and relaxed. In particular, watch how they look at each other. As you watch the dog, notice whether he can look at the cat and then look away. If he cannot, this may indicate that he is too excited or aroused. Observe the dog’s head and face; if the dog appears excessively focused on the cat, try calling him or snapping your fingers. If you can distract him relatively easily, his behavior suggests he doesn’t have an unhealthy degree of interest in the cat.
If your dog has a strong prey drive, he might become very focused on the cat. (A prey drive is the inclination to seek out, chase and potentially capture animals seen as prey — usually smaller animals such as cats or rabbits.) He’ll stiffen, stare, glare, and may start barking or whining. If you see these signs, do not let the cat and dog get close to one another (yet). It’s OK if the dog pays attention to the cat, but you don’t want to see him fixated on her.”
6 basic steps for introducing your dogs to a kitten
Give your kitten a few days to settle into the house before you attempt the introduction. Confine your new fluff ball to one room or an enclosed area, and make sure s/he has food, water, toys, a litter box and plenty of cuddles!
Start exposing your pets to each other through a closed solid door, so that they can hear and smell each other but not see or access each other. This gets each one used to the idea of the other. Do this for less than a minute at first, and gradually prolong the sessions.
Next, let them see each other through a barrier at a distance, like a strong gate or fence. A double barrier is recommended at first. Glass should be avoided because some dogs can become anxious when they can see another animal but not smell or hear it. If you’re worried that your dog might become overly exuberant, keep him or her on a leash. Make sure these sessions are short at first, and gradually increase the duration.
Always pay close attention to the body language of both animals. If either shows signs of stress or anxiety, stop the session and separate them, giving them time to calm down. Try again later for a shorter period of time, and with more distance between them. Never ignore these signs of stress and don’t force anything.
If and when you stop seeing signs of stress, start working with your pooch to make sure s/he can make eye contact with you and display calm behaviour when the cat is visible.
When your pets stop responding to each other from behind the barrier, you can remove the barrier but leash your pooch (and use a muzzle for extra safety if you feel it’s necessary, and only if your dog is used to wearing muzzles). Supervise these interactions closely, and you’ll know when it’s safe to start allowing them freer access to each other.
Need more help introducing your new kitten to your dogs? Chat to your vet
As always, it’s best to seek your vet’s advice when contemplating adding a new furbaby to your household. Your vet will have knowledge of your existing pets and will be able to offer advice and guidance to ensure a safe and happy introduction.
Enjoy your new little fluff ball! Here’s wishing you many years of love and furry cuddles.
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.