Thinking of adopting a kitten when you already have a dog?

Thinking of adopting a new kitten when you have a grown dog in the house? This can be an experience that requires plenty of thought and preparation.

If anybody witnessed how my dog behaves when she sees a cat whilst out on a walk, they would likely recommend that we don’t get a cat. She literally goes berserk. She (Clodagh) is a large 8 year old Doberman, who I’m certain that if off the lead, would give chase. Of course she’s far too clumsy to be successful. 

Yet we have managed to introduce a couple of kittens to the household in the time we have had Clodagh. 

Here are some pointers that I found helpful in this experience. Ensuring that a kitten’s introduction to a new household is a stress free transition. For all the family and especially the cat and dog.

We received Lilly early last November from Cats Protection. A gift to our youngest for his birthday. 

Cat on hat. Lilly who arrived with us last November.

When you decide to adopt from a charity or organisation similar to Cats Protection they will come to pay you a home visit. This happens for a variety of reasons. First to check that your are set up and responsible to own a cat. But also to sort through the necessary paperwork, what type of cat you’re looking for and to answer any questions you may have. Once this meeting is complete you will likely have some idea of the timeline of the arrival. They may even have a kitten available that meets your requirements. 

You will have to wait until your chosen kitten is 8 weeks of age and until it has had its first vaccination. In the meantime there is plenty to do.

You need to get yourself and house geared up. Litter tray, food, bed and toys will all be necessary purchases. As well as a cat basket to enable you to transport the puss to the vets etc.

If you have room in your house, dedicate a room that will act as a safe space for the kitten. A space which is theirs only and one especially where the dog can’t access without you. If you don’t have a room, try to set up a corner or area within a room. He or she will be scared when they first arrive. This space will ensure they have somewhere to go where they won’t be disturbed. In this space set up litter trays, food area and some bedding.

The day has arrived when you’re expecting the arrival of the next family member.

It goes without saying, that it is important to praise and reward any good behaviour from your dog. They will be curious about the arrival and should be allowed to introduce. Though small doses at first is what I’d recommend. 

I’ve always opted for a quick introduction immediately. Always hold your dog by the collar during this first meet if you’re unsure what their reaction may be. This meeting is more for the dog than cat. It is important that they know a cat has arrived and is allowed and welcomed by you. Once done one member of the family should take the dog away from the cats safe space. Reward, praise and make a fuss of your pooch. Reassure them they are still your No. 1. 

Introductions over, give the kitten some food and water. It is very unlikely they will eat immediately but they know this is a peace offer. 

Naturally curious, they will begin to explore their surroundings. Remember to keep them to their safe space and within one room to start. Leave them be to get on with this. They will appreciate some of their own space. They will soon be exhausted and will need sleep.

Over the next few days you can increase the amount of interaction your dog has with the cat. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to the safe space or on opposite sides of the room. This will help all to associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other’s smells. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other’s presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly, on either side of the door. Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door.  Enough to allow the animals to see each other and repeat the whole process. Always be present and the dominant factor between them. Don’t let any aggressive behaviour go unchecked. Though a little of this from a socialised cat is expected.

You will be amazed. Little kittens can make themselves quite large and spiky. Making the biggest of dogs a little unsure. This is fine, your dog will learn that they have a pretty decent set of claws and a bloody nose is the likely result. Keep the fuss of your pooch up and keep rewarding for good behaviour. Never reprimand your dog, they won’t understand and may associate being ‘told off’ with the cat. Instead if your dog shows aggression, remove them. Then later try the distanced feeding and introductions again.  Dogs want to please and will respond to rewards for good behaviour.

After a couple of days you can allow the new kitten to begin exploring the rest of the house. It will know where its safe space is and will soon discover more. Ours found down the side of the fridge and behind the TV good spots to hide should Clodagh come bounding over. 

As time goes by, both cat and dog will begin to accept each other’s presence. Realise that neither is a threat. The kitten will be getting used to its new surroundings and will know where to go. Day time will become easier to manage. I’d still recommend that at night or when you are out that the cat has it’s safe space and the dog has theirs. Remember that when a cat is young they are very weak necked. They can easily be injured or even killed by a dog that is only being playful. For those first couple of months supervision is necessary.

Some opposing species bonding. Clodagh & Lilly enjoying the fire and each others company.

I guarantee after a couple of months, your pets will be besties! Leading very independent lives comfortably in each other’s company. Always consult a behaviour specialist for advice if you do happen to have problems between your pets. Especially regarding the dogs behaviour. Your local vets should be able to advise you where to look for such a person.

Remember that I have written this from personal experience. As yet I have never adopted a mature cat. Mature cats have already set their social boundaries. The introduction of a mature cat to a dog could well need a very different approach. Perhaps a future blog??

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