Introducing a kitten to a dog

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Getting a kitten can be an exciting time for the whole family. It can also be quite a stressful time introducing the kitten to the other members of the household.  . For some dogs, the new family member will be an annoyance, while others may be excited for a kitten playmate. You can never predict how things are going to go.

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1. Prepare a safe space for your kitten

Set up a room for your new kitten. Place her litter tray, food bowels and toys there. Ensure there is place for her to hide and feel safe. A cat igloo, cat perch or scratch pole with multiple levels will be a good example. Also place a cat carrier or crate in the room. Your kitten will get used to the crate and see it as a safe place.  Give the kitten time to adjust to her new surroundings. This will depend on your kittens personality. For some it will be a couple of days, others a couple of weeks.

A relaxed kitten will not hide away the whole time, will not have dilated pupils constantly and will use their litter box.

Of course you must spend time with your kitten, but leave your dog outside of the room initially.

2. Prepare your dog

If your dog does not know the commands stay, sit or lie down, now is a good time to start training!!! Use the advice of your veterinarian or go the closest training school, that does NOT use punishment as a training method.

As owners we assume that if your dog gets along with other cats or animals, he will get along with a new kitten. Even the most placid dog, can respond strangely to a new arrival. Even if your dog has lived with other animals before, they still may not take kindly to a new pet coming into their territory.

When your kitten arrives ensure that you praise and reward your dog often.Make a point of showering them with affection. They need to realise the new family member is  not a threat.

3. It’s all in the nose.

The scent, of an animal, is an extremely important tool of communication for them.  You can aid in this form of communication, by making the new pet smell of “home” before their introduction. You can arrange swapping their bedding beforehand. This way, they get to know a bit about each other, even before they meet.

You can let them each eat at either side of the door to get used to each other’s scent. Stop your dog if he whines, barks or scratches at the door.

4. Get Kitty used to a crate.

The cat box or carrier that is in your kittens room can be used as a safe space for the kitten. Leave some of their favourite treats in it, spray it with Feliway spray or  rub it with catnip or valeron.

5. It’s time to meet.

Keep your dog on a leash and your cat in the crate. They are seeing each other but are not allowed to have ANY physical contact.

Do this at a time when both pets are relaxed. Perhaps after you took your dog for a walk, played in the garden or spend some time together.

Make your dog sit or lie down. Be ready to take him out of the room when he gets too excited. This activity should be repeated daily until BOTH animals are comfortable around each other. Don’t forget to reward them both for good behaviour. A cuddle, attention or small treat can do the trick.

6. Cat out of the box

When you are happy that both pets are relaxed around each other, you can let your cat out of the box. You are not sure how your dog will react, thus he must still stay on his leash. NEVER force your cat out of the box, wait patiently for them to come out and explore.  This should be repeated several times a day, until your dog is able to relax when the kitten is exploring.

7. Dog of the leash

As soon as your dog is calm and relaxed around your cat, it is time for him to go of his leash. Remember a small kitten is very vulnerable. NEVER leave them alone with each other.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

8. Slow and steady wins the race

Remember that all pets are very different and you’ll have to work at the pace that they are comfortable with. Some introductions will progress quickly without a hitch, but others may take several months. It’s important not to rush things – take things slowly and carefully, and this will hopefully result in your cat and dog living together peacefully or even becoming the best of friends