Do you know how to successfully introduce a kitten, or cat to your family dog? Whether or not someone is a ‘dog person’ or a ‘cat person’ seems to occur independently, like our favorite colors and foods. You may not have the same animal preference as your siblings, romantic partner, or children. So it’s only natural for many families to seek out the perfect balance of having both dogs and cats in the house. As dog trainers, we are prepared to help you teach your grown or half-grown family dog to accept a kitten as their new (very delicate) family member. And if you introduce them to each other correctly, the cat (or kitten) will learn to treat your family dog as a friend.
1) Give the Kitten Their Own Room
Kittens are rambunctious, but they are also incredibly fragile. Most kitten raising guides suggest setting aside on room, like your bedroom or laundry room, to hold all of your kitten’s needed supplies. And to keep your kitten out of the daily household traffic. Giving your kitten their own room with the litter box, food bowls, and toys inside will also keep them safe from your dog while you get the two used to the idea of living together.
Make sure your dog absolutely cannot get into the kitten’s room. You may also want to plan a permanently dog-inaccessible location for the litter box. (A cat scared from their litter box will start soiling elsewhere)
2) Introduce Scents First
Dogs and cats rely on scent, and you can get the two used to each other with scent before risking the first physical meeting. Get a towel, t-shirt, or washrag and rub it over your dog, then put the cloth near your kitten’s bed or food bowl. Do the same by petting the kitten down with a cloth and place it near your dog’s favorite spot. Then pet them with the other pet’s scent. They will get used to the idea of being house-mates this way.
3) Maintain Discipline When Introducing the Kitten
When you introduce the two in-person, choose a neutral room and keep complete control over your dog. It’s best to keep even gentle dogs on a leash during the first few meetings to make sure that a playful dog doesn’t get overwhelmed. This is also the best way to save your dog’s nose form a swipe if there’s a misunderstanding.
4) Create Separate Areas in the Same Rooms
Give your kitten a cat tree to hide on, out of reach of the dog, and let them spend time in the same room at opposite ends. When they are used to this, sit between them on the floor or couch and pet them both at the same time, speaking softly. Cats and dogs are almost never the ‘best buds’ you see in family movies, but they can learn to be happy in each other’s company, sharing your love.
5) Rewards and Punishments for Interactions
Remember to set up consistent rewards and punishments depending on how your pets behave around each other. Reward them copiously for being sweet to each other and punish swiftly so that your pets understand what they did that is not allowed if they snarl or swipe. And if an interaction starts to go sour, separate the pets immediately and put your kitten back in their room. Preventing bad experiences is more important than creating enjoyable experiences for long-term household peace.
6) Consult With a Professional Dog Trainer
Finally, it’s essential to understand that not all dogs take to having a new kitten relative in an ideal way. Some love the kitten a little too much and try to play roughly. Some decide they don’t like the cat. Some don’t understand what to do with a cat. This isn’t your failing as an owner, not all cats and dogs blend perfectly. But you can improve your results by consulting with a professional dog trainer on advice on how to help your dog accept and love your new feline.
Here on Long Island, there are thousands of pets, including hundreds of households with dogs and cats living happily together. If this is your dream of domestic bliss, Canine Commander can help you achieve it. For more information about how to introduce cats and dogs to each other and train them to get along, contact Canine Commander today.