Introducing Kittens To Dogs

It is important to socialize kittens with dogs at an early age.  Here are my recommendations for the process:

1)  Establish a safe room for the kitten(s).  Give them plenty of time to acclimate to their new environment before introducing them to a dog.  During the adjustment phase, spend extra time with the dog working on their obedience skills of sit, stay, down, come, relax and leave it.  Use a head collar to provide extra control.
2)  Allow the dog and kitten to experience each other’s scent through towels and rugs.  After one days use, place the kitten’s towel in the dog’s bed and vice versa.  In my experience, the dog will spend much more time sniffing the towel and rolling on it than the kitten. 
3)  Feed the kitten on one side of the door while the dog has treats on the other side.  The idea is to teach the dog to associate the kitten with good things. 
4)  Allow the kitten to explore the house without the dog around and vice versa.  When both animals are comfortable with all of the above, it is time for a face to face introduction.
5)  Before the initial meeting, tire the dog and the kitten out with vigorous exercise.  For the first meeting, I let both animals view each other from a distance.  Place a head collar on the dog and place them on a down stay with a handler.  On the other side of the room, have another person hold the kitten in their lap.  Allow the animals to look at each other.  If both are calm and curious, move them closer together.  Stop immediately if either displays signs of stress. 
6)  When both are comfortable with visual contact, allow them to interact.  I usually place the dog on a down stay and let the kitten approach.  Keep firm control of the dog via the head collar and leash.  Reward the dog for calm behavior.  When the dog is bored with the whole process, it is time for the last step.
7)  Give the dog and kitten supervised access to each other.  Start out with short periods of time and stay close to prevent injuries.  Keep a blanket close at hand just in case you need to break-up a fight.  Do not allow the kitten to play rough with the dog.  Reward each for good behavior.  Gradually increase the time they are together.  Always make sure the kitten has an escape route if something goes wrong. 
8)  Some kittens will unmercifully pester their canine companions.  Be sure to give the dog breaks by returning the kitten to their safe room.  It is unfair to the dog to expect it to put up with a youngster who is constantly chewing on its ears or biting its legs.  

Although I have had great success using the above steps, their are some dogs and cats who will never live peacefully with each other.  So be careful when adding a new member to the family.  Remember, a dog that is great with cats might not tolerate a kitten because of their immature behavior.  Below I have included a video of my dog Buddy and the foster kittens.  As you will see, he finds four of them curious but a bit overwhelming.  Enjoy! 
   

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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