Introducing a kitten to a dog

While dogs and cats can get along fine, things don’t always work out the way we’d like. Care must be taken to introduce a cat to a dog in the best way possible, especially if you’re adopting a kitten.

The important thing to remember about dogs is that they have a pack mentality, and many dogs have prey instinct. Your dog may at first think of your new kitten as a prey animal or a fuzzy toy you bought just for him. You have to avoid reinforcing this kind of mentality. Dogs have been known to kill kittens when the owner wasn’t paying attention. The sad thing is that the owners often blame the dog and get rid of it as a result. The reality is that the dog is just being a dog.

Before you introduce your kitten to the family dog, you should let the kitten get used to her new environment for a few days. If you have more than one dog, you should introduce the kitten to each dog one at a time. Two or more dogs equals a pack, and a pack will be more inclined to go into hunt mode.

The dogs need to see cats as members of the pack–not as toys, possessions or prey. It’s also very important for the dogs to see your kitten as a dominant pack member. You must not allow your dog to show aggressive tendencies toward the kitten.

Introduce the kitten to your dog when your dog is on a leash. However, don’t shove the kitten under your dog’s nose; simply allow them to be in the same room together and let the kitten approach the dog when she feels like it. Talk reassuringly to your dog. Make sure your kitten has plenty of escape routes and hiding places should she feel vulnerable or scared.

Tell your dog “no” firmly if he lunges for the kitten or shows any aggression. However, don’t fawn over your kitten or make a big deal about its presence. Don’t let other members of the family do it either; this will encourage your dog to see the kitten as a possession, something they can try to steal from you later.

Don’t make the introductions go on for too long. 30 minutes at most is adequate, but the visits should be cut short if your dog is reacting aggressively towards the cat.

Be aware that some dogs have such a strong prey drive that they won’t see cats as anything more than prey animals. This is not the case for all big dogs, certainly, but it’s a possibility you should bear in mind. If your dog can’t learn to accept the kitten as a member of the pack, your kitten’s life will be in danger.

Training a dog to accept a kitten can only work out if your dog looks to you as the alpha, and the rest of the family as dominant members of the pack. If your dog stubbornly insists on his own way or doesn’t respect your lead, you have more problems on your hands than just getting him to accept a new family member. Consider consulting with a professional dog trainer to see if this can be remedied.