The expression “fighting like cats and dogs” comes from a certain truth: Cats and dogs don’t always get along. But they can become best buddies if you introduce them properly. When you bring a kitten into a household that already has a dog, you need to introduce them gradually, not simply throw them together, hoping for the best.
Create an Initial Isolation Period
Set up a room that you can close off with a door, such as a bedroom or laundry room. The kitten stays in the room during the acclimation period. Place a food bowl and a water bowl in the room along with a litter box, a cat bed, toys and a scratching post or climbing tree.
Give the kitten time to adjust to her surroundings, which could take a few days to a few weeks, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Your kitten needs time to take in the new smells, sounds and housemates. You can tell the kitten is adjusting when she doesn’t act scared anymore, eats regularly and starts to play with you.
Give the dog’s blanket to the kitten and the kitten’s blanket to the dog once your kitten is comfortable in the room. This gets them used to each other’s smell and serves as a premeeting icebreaker. You can allow your dog to sniff under the door at this point, too. Stay with your dog and take him away if he gets aggressive at the door.
Let the kitten explore the house while you put your dog in the kitten’s room. This, like the blanket exercise, allows them to take in each other’s smell. It also serves to acquaint the kitten with the house without being distracted by your dog.
Let Them Meet Face to Face
Put your dog on a leash, holding him tight. Open the door to the kitten’s room, and wait for her to come out. Do not allow your dog to lunge at the kitten. If your dog knows commands, command him to sit or lie down, and treat him when he does. Let the animals get used to being in the same room, keeping the door to the kitten’s room open in case she wants to retreat. Give the kitten a treat if she stays in the room with the dog. Keep this initial meeting short, about a few minutes.
Repeat the Exercise
It can take time for a kitten and dog to become friends. Keep repeating the exercise of leashing your dog when allowing the kitten out of her room. Let the kitten retreat to her room if she becomes anxious. When the kitten and dog act comfortably around each other, unleash the dog, making sure to supervise both animals. When you leave the house, put the kitten in her room, or crate your dog.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.