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First consider if it would be safe and appropriate to have both a dog and cat in your household. While dogs and cats can live together in harmony and even become friends, in some cases individual dogs may not be able to live with cats.
Before introducing a kitten to your dog allow some time for your kitten to settle in their new environment and become comfortable with you. Introduce your kitten to the house slowly and provide a comfortable hiding place for your kitten to retreat to in case they feel threatened at any time. It may take several days or even a couple of weeks before your kitten is confident in their new home and closely bonded to you. During this time keep your kitten separated from your dog. By the time your kitten is comfortable with their new home your dog will have become aware of the presence of a new member to the household.
Tips for introducing:
1. Introduce pets gradually, always under your direct supervision.
For example, the cat could initially be confined behind a baby gate in a section of the house until they settle and are comfortable with their owner and that part of the house. The gate could then be left open when the owner is at home and directly supervising the dog and cat. Owners can also put a multi-tiered cat condo near the area so the cat can escape from the situation and gain vertical height (cats often like to be above the scene looking down and can feel safer that way).
2. The cat will usually eventually start to come out and gradually become braver. Some owners can then start feeding the cat in the kitchen immediately before they feed the dog so the cat’s presence becomes a predictor of the dog’s meal. This helps the dog to associate the cat with a positive event.
3. Always let the animals get away from each other if they want to i.e. provide an escape route for both of them. In particular the cat needs escape routes if the dog gets excited and starts running around. Avoid forcing interactions.
4. Associate the meeting with positive things, reward calm behaviour with tasty food treats.
5. If you have more than one dog, it is best to introduce each one individually, as your kitten may be overwhelmed if she has to respond to both dogs at the same time.
Do not leave your animals alone together unless you are absolutely certain that they tolerate each other and are all safe. If you’re not sure, continue to supervise directly when you're at home or physically separate them when you're not at home.
Over time, dogs can become used to having a cat around and they can live in harmony. It is essential to thoroughly research the basics of pet care before acquiring a new pet. See 'What do I need to know before I get a new pet' article below. If you're looking for a new kitten or cat read the RSPCA's Smart Kitten and Cat Buyer's Guide below.