Introducing Your Kitten To Housemates
Introduction to another cat:
When introducing your kitten to your adult cat, slow and steady are key. Cats are very territorial so introductions go at their own pace. If we try to rush it, there can be long-term consequences.
First set up a room for the new kitten. Not only will that give your adult cat time to acclimate but your adventurous and curious kitten will be safe in there. The room should have everything the kitten needs such as food, water, a litterbox, and toys.
It is helpful to let the adult cat explore the kitten's room while the kitten is not in there. You can also use a small towel and take turns rubbing it on each cat.
If the cats are calm on either side of the door, you can move on to the next step. If there is any hissing or growling you can try feeding their meals on either side of the door. You might have to start with your adult cat a few feet away from the door then gradually move closer.
The next step is to allow the cats to see one another. The easiest way to accomplish this is by putting 2 baby gates in the doorway, one on top of the other. Reward calm behavior with food treats.
For the next step put the kitten in a cat carrier or dog crate and allow the adult cat to explore. If the adult cat shows any sign of aggression such as hissing or growling, you can try to distract them with food or toys or you may need to separate them and go back a step.
The final step is to have the cats loose together under close supervision. At the earliest sign of a problem (fixating, hair standing up, dilated pupils), calmly separate the cats and try again another time. It’s a good idea to keep the cats separated when you are not home until you are sure they are comfortable with one another.
Introduction to a Dog:
First, you must consider the personality of your dog. Are they young and rambunctious? Are they older and calm? Due to the inherent size difference, we must be extremely cautious with our introduction. If your dog has a high prey drive (fixation on small fury creatures and/or running after moving objects), please consult with a veterinarian as this can indicate a serious risk to your kitten.
At first, your new kitten and your dog should remain completely separated. This is most easily accomplished by setting the cat up in a room with everything they need (food, water litterbox, etc) and allowing them to smell one another on the other side of the door. You can also take a small towel and transfer scents by taking turns rubbing a towel on each of them. Once they both seem comfortable with this step, you can move on.
The next step is to allow them to see each other but not physically contact each other. You can put 2 baby gates on top of each other in the doorway. Reward both of them for calm behavior. If the dog starts to fixate on the cat too much or get worked up, use a food reward to get their attention on you instead.
The final step is to have them in the same room. The dog should be on leash but with a loose leash if possible. Watch them both closely for changes in body language that might indicate fear or in the dog’s case getting too excited or fixating. You always want to interrupt any sign of your dog fixating on the cat. Whenever your dog remains calm in the presence of the kitten, praise, and reward. If the dog cannot be redirected or actually lunges at the kitten, separate them immediately.
While we are concerned about the kitten being injured, dogs are frequent victims of cat claws to the eyeball. They need to learn to be gentle with the cat but it is best for us to intervene before getting to the point that the kitten feels they need to defend themself. During this entire process call a timeout and separate them at the earliest sign of a problem. Do not wait until they escalate.