Firstly, create a safe room and let the kitten get their bearings. Fill their litter tray and let them have a good sniff around and find their bed. Kittens need lots of naps, and all the excitement of a new environment will make them tired, so try and resist the urge to start playing straightaway. When they are rested and confident in their room, then they are ready to meet their new family. Everyone should sit on the floor and only touch the kitten if approached. There should be no grabbing and no arguing. If kittens hide, tempt them out with a toy or a treat – encourage but don’t force them to be sociable. Even if your dog doesn’t get terribly excited at the sight of a new kitten, great care should still be taken at first introductions. Over-exuberant play can harm a kitten, so mutual respect needs to be encouraged.
Place the kitten in a pet carrier, putting your dog on a lead and letting him investigate the new arrival. If the dog shows any signs of getting over excited, tries to leap on the carrier, or starts to bark, you need to remain calm. Try to distract your dog’s attention. Calmly ask your dog to sit and reward him with praise and a treat when he settles down. Repeat the process over several days, moving the carrier around the house until they are paying little attention to each other. Remember to always reward your dog for calm behaviour around the kitten.
Now it’s time to prepare for a carrier-free introduction. Choose a room that has an upward escape route (e.g. a tall cat tree, a high window sill) so your kitten can jump up and out of the dog’s reach. Make sure the doors are closed.
Get someone to sit down and hold the dog on a lead before bringing in the kitten. It is important that the kitten doesn’t run away, as this will make things more exciting for the dog – like a fun chase game. This is why the doors should be closed and why the dog is on the lead.
Keep the meetings short and over several meetings, they will probably start to ignore each other. Throughout each meeting, reassure your dog and reward calm behaviour. If you see any signs of over-excitement, take the dog out of the room and wait until calm is restored before starting all over again, always offering gentle praise and small treats for being calm.
The kitten may become bolder and come over for a sniff. Keep calm and don’t immediately tighten the lead or your dog may start to get overexcited or tense. Just holding the lead should provide all the control you need. If your dog oversteps the mark, a swipe from the kitten will help to show that a respectful distance needs to be kept!
When they are no longer bothered by each other’s presence you can remove the lead, always ensuring that the kitten can jump up to a safe spot out of the dog’s reach. As before, keep rewarding the dog for behaving in a calm manner around the kitten and treat the kitten as well, to associate the other’s presence with tasty rewards. With time and patience harmony should be achieved, but never leave the two unsupervised until you can trust them completely with each other.
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