How to introduce a new cat or kitten to your family dog
First, think carefully about having both a cat and dog as pets (the saying ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ came from somewhere!). Having said that, dogs and cats can live together in harmony and even become friends, but it all depends on their temperaments.
Whether you have decided to adopt an older cat, or get a kitten from a registered breeder, some planning is needed to smooth the introduction as much as possible.
Bringing your kitten or cat home
Before introducing a kitten or cat to your dog, allow some time for them to settle in their new environment and become comfortable with you.
Introduce them to the house slowly and provide a comfortable place for your kitten or cat to retreat to in case they feel threatened at any time. This may take a few days, so while they are getting used to their new home, keep your kitten or cat separated from your dog.
Introducing your kitten or cat to your dog
- It’s a good idea to take your dog for a walk before introducing them to your new cat – this can help your dog to stay calm. Use a room where your cat can easily escape to a safe place if they want to (for example, a room with a high platform such as a multi-tiered cat scratching post).
- Put your dog on their lead (this is why it’s good to take them for a walk first, so they don’t get overly excited, after all, leads usually mean walkies!).
- Give both your cat and dog praise and treats to reward calm behaviour. Get them together several times a day, keeping the meetings short so that stress is kept to a minimum.
- Be patient, it will probably take a few weeks of having your dog on the lead with the kitten or cat around before everyone is feeling comfortable.
- When you feel as though they are used to each other, get them together without the lead. Keep a close eye on both animals and never punish either of them for aggressive behaviour as this will be a negative experience associated with the other pet.
- Don’t leave your pets alone together until you are certain that they can be left in the same room without incident, and that the dog won’t chase the kitten or cat (extra training may be needed!).
- If you are not sure, continue to supervise when you are at home and put them in different spaces when you’re not home.
Keep in mind that your pets may never be best friends. Hopefully, they will (at least) tolerate one another and learn to live happily in the same house. If your attempts at introduction are not going well, or either animal seems stressed you can seek professional help through a trained behaviourist.
For more information, visit: rspca.org.au