How To Introduce Your Dog To A New Cat
If you own a pet, chances are you probably are going to want to add a cute cat into the mixture into your little fur-family.
Especially as you start looking at cute kitten videos. That’s what got me. (And I now have four cats).
But it is really important that when you get a new kitten, you are smart in how you introduce cats to one another.
If you don’t go about introducing cats in the right way, then you are dealing with the potential of having cats that don’t get along.
When cats don’t get along, it can add stress onto your lives, and even make one of the cats very unhappy and could lead you to you questioning re-homing options.
So, do the work in the beginning, and you will be happy in the long run.
Do You Want To Add A New Cat To The Family
Before you go about adding a new cat to the family, you need to ask yourself a solid question of do you really want to add a cat to the family?
Looking at kittens is one thing, but when you bring a new kitten home, you also need to remember a few things.
You also need to remember that every cat is unique, and some are more likely to be social with dogs than others.
And depending on the size of your dog, you will also need to be more careful around your new kitten.
Some dogs have more of a hunter instinct that you need to be careful that they don’t accidentally kill your kitten .
When it comes to big dogs, most of the time they are gentle giants, but I always like to be better safe than sorry when I’m introducing them.
Now, if everything is checking the boxes with you and you still want a cat, go for it!!! (Like I said, I have four).
You just want to make sure you ask yourself those questions BEFORE bringing a kitten home.
Step One: Go Into It With Patience
The very first step which is really a prelude is to go into this process knowing you are going to need patience.
The new kitten will be nervous, and your dog will be curious about the new creature entering their house.
Relationships take time, so as long as you go into knowing that you will need to be patient, you have already completed the first step!
LOOK AT YOU GO!
Step Two: Set Up Your Safe Room
Now the second step is not going to be as easy as the first step.
I like to include something new in the room as well, like a cat bed, that the new kitten can make as theirs and start to feel part of their new home.
I cannot stress enough to get something new! Do not give the new kitten something of your dog’s because that will only cause issues with the dog feeling like the new kitten is replacing them.
I like to add into the safe room, a cat bed and a toy whenever I get new kittens. I will usually get them a plush toy for them to cuddle with and the cat dancer.
The cat dancer looks like a nothing toy, and costs pennies, but it provides an awesome toy for cats to play with not only on their own, but with their new owner.
After you put everything in the room, you can then place the kitten in the safe room and close the door.
I like to recommend that you sit in there with your kitten for a little bit so they know who you are and then give them space to get used to their new little space.
Step Three: Introduce Your Pets From A Distance
Once your kitten is in their safe room and starting to feel more comfortable, you can introduce your dog to their new family member.
I like to give the kitten at least an hour to smell each other from the door without seeing each other.
After that, you can open the door. I still like to use a screened baby gate so that they can see each other, but still stay safe from any hissing/barking.
Note, there WILL most likely be hissing and barking. This is not a bad thing. Cats hiss at new animals all the time. And dogs bark when they are excited.
And you just opened the door to a surprising new friend!
Let them see each other for a little bit, and then close the door again. You can do this a couple of times for the next day or two.
You want to keep them separate for at least a day for your new kitten to get used to their surroundings.
The one thing you do need to be concerned with is if the dog seems to “attack” the cat or is growling. If that is the case, you will want to take everything slower than a few days to let the dog get used to the new family member.
Step Four: Switch Roles
After a day or two of keeping your kitten in their safe room with you checking in on them, and letting your dog smell them from a distance, swap places.
Place your dog in the safe room, and let your kitten roam the house. (You will want to clean out the litter box before you do this. Some dogs may try and eat cat poop, I don’t know why).
Not only does this help your new kitten get used to the new house, it also lets your dog smell the new cat and get used to the scent of the new kitten.
This step I would only do for a most a couple of hours.
Your dog is used to roaming their entire house. Chances are they are not going to be super happy being locked in a room for more than a couple of hours.
After you have let them both roam around for a couple of hours, move them back to their original spaces.
Chances are your kitten will have really liked roaming and won’t be too happy to go into their safe space.
If that is the case, chances are you are ready to move onto step five.
Step Five: Let Them Meet Each Other
Now’s the real fun part. You will actual introduce your new kitten to your puppy. You can open up the baby gate and let your kitten out in the house.
One call out that I want to make sure to add is I recommend putting your dog on a leash for the first few interactions.
You also want to make sure your dog has stopped growling or lunging towards the cat when they see them before you start this step.
(If they are barking and wagging their tail, you can probably start the process. It is just important to keep everyone to be safe).
You also want your kitten to see that you don’t want the dog to chase them, and it protects the kitten if the dog does growling or acts aggressive.
Again, chances are the kitten may also hiss as they leave the room, but hopefully having some time to see and smell each other has made the introduction a little easier.
The next question I always get when it comes to actually introducing your new kitten to your dog is the timelines.
How quickly can you introduce your Dog to your new cat?
The truth is, it depends.
Every single family is different. I know some people will wait a week before introducing their kittens to the dog, and I know some people that do this in a matter of hours.
My parents had a dog when they found their cat, and when their puppy passed and they go another one, they just let the two of them meet.
Now, the cat was used to dogs, and the dog was a very small breed, so both parties were safe in terms of an aggression perspective.
But when my brother’s dog meets the kittens, they are still not comfortable with each other. The kittens run away scared.
The dog is not aggressive towards them, but the two youngest cats I have are definitely scared.
(They also only see each other for a day every few months so if the dog was actually here all day everyday it would be different).
At the end of the day, see how your pets interact with each other in these first five steps and put your own spin on it!
Step Six: Rewarding A Positive Meeting
The biggest thing you want to do when it comes to introducing your dog to your new kitten is to reward positive behaviors.
You want the dog to have a positive association with the new kitten. If they are nice to them, they gets rewarded and praised.
You’re not replacing them, your adding onto their lives.
If your first interaction isn’t positive, you can say no in a harsh tone, but don’t be too hard on the dog. You want to have them think of the cat as a new member, not someone who gets them in trouble. What I recommend to do instead is show love to your kitten.
And then when they are nice, show love to both animals.
This is probably the MOST important step in introducing a new kitten to your dog. Why?
Because how you react to their behavior will set the mood for how they will treat each other going forward.
For example, when Phoebe met my parents dog. The first time hissed and I ignored her, and the dog barked and I petted Phoebe.
Then when they just sniffed each other and walked away, I rewarded Phoebe by saying how good she was, and the puppy got praised and given a treat.
And she then realized that it was a good thing to tolerated the dog and she would get even MORE attention.
It’s not a perfect system right now because they only see each other every so often, but it makes for a safe and peaceful interaction when we go to my parent’s house.
Step Seven: Supervise And Remember It Will Still Take time
Finally, remember that this entire process will take time even after you have initially introduced your new kitten to your puppy.
In very rare cases, both pets will get along with each other right off the bat.
However, in most cases, you want to give them a few months to get used to each other and establish the dominance factor.
There has to be an alpha in their little pack (besides you). And sometimes that comes easily, and sometimes it’s a struggle.
You also want to make sure you supervise them for most of the time in the beginning, especially if you have a larger dog.
You may even want to put them in separate rooms when you leave the house until they start to get more comfortable with each other.
With my cats, Phoebe let it be known EARLY that she was alpha. And every one definitely fell into place. Cats, dogs, even my parents sometimes. 🙂
Keep in mind there is no timeline. Just know that within the next year, you will have a happy home with a cat and a dog. And that will make your life even better!
Once you completed this step, make sure you check out 7 Helpful Tips for A New Kitten to figure out your next steps!