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How to introduce a kitten to your dog

How to introduce a kitten to your dog
by Lucinda Beeman

Read time: 3 min

So, you’ve decided to expand your furry family by bringing home a new kitten. Congrats! But there’s just one little detail: you already have a dog. Fear not. With patience and the right approach, you can help your dog and kitten become fast friends. Here’s how.

Step 1: Prepare Your Home

Before you even bring the kitten home, get your space ready. Set up a safe, quiet room for the kitten with all the essentials: food, water, litter box, and bed. This room will be your kitten’s sanctuary and initial home base. Your dog should have its own space too, where it can retreat and feel secure.

Step 2: Controlled Introduction

Now that your home is ready, it’s time to start the introductions — but don’t rush it. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Scent swapping: Before they meet face-to-face, let them get used to each other’s scents. Rub a towel on your kitten and place it near your dog’s bed, and vice versa. This helps them become familiar with each other in a non-threatening way.

Visual introduction: Once they’re accustomed to each other’s scents, allow them to see each other from a distance. Use a baby gate or keep the kitten in a carrier. Let them observe each other without any physical contact. Reward calm behaviour from both with treats and praise.

Short, supervised meetings: When they seem more comfortable, it’s time for short, controlled interactions. Keep your dog on a leash and let the kitten roam freely. Watch both animals closely. If your dog is too focused or excited, calmly redirect its attention. Keep these sessions brief and positive.

Step 3: Gradual Increase in Interaction

As they become more comfortable with each other, gradually increase their time together. Here’s what to focus on during longer interactions:

Monitor body language: Pay attention to both animals’ body language. A wagging tail and relaxed ears are good signs in dogs, while a calm posture in kittens is positive. If either shows signs of stress or aggression, separate them and try again later.

Positive reinforcement: Continue to reward good behaviour with treats and praise. This helps both the dog and the kitten associate each other’s presence with positive experiences.

Controlled freedom: As they grow more accustomed to each other, allow them more freedom to interact. Always supervise these early interactions to intervene if necessary.

Step 4: Building a Lasting Relationship

Building a harmonious relationship between your dog and new kitten won’t happen overnight. Here are some tips to foster a lasting bond:

Respect their boundaries: Give both animals their own space where they can retreat and feel safe. Respect their need for alone time.

Routine and consistency: Maintain a consistent routine for feeding, playtime, and exercise. This helps both pets feel secure and reduces stress.

Gradual independence: As they become more comfortable with each other, gradually allow them more freedom without constant supervision. Trust is built over time.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with the best-laid plans, there can be bumps along the way. Here’s how to handle some common issues:

An over-excited dog: If your dog is overly excited or fixated on the kitten, increase the distance between them. And try to redirect your dog’s attention with training and treats.

A fearful kitten: If the kitten is hiding or showing signs of fear, give it more time in its safe space. Then try scent swapping and visual introductions again.

Aggressive Behaviour: If either animal shows aggression, separate them immediately. And consult with a professional trainer or behaviourist.

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