How to Introduce a Kitten to a Dog

I’ve received several requests asking that I share how I introduced Finnegan, our Maine Coon cat to Kiera and Graidy, our two dogs at the time (Wink came after Finn).

First, a little background. When Kiera was a puppy, we had a cat with whom she got along just fine. And Graidy had been tested on cats by his rescue group. So I knew that both dogs, even with high prey drives, stood a good chance of eventually being fine with Finn if introduced properly.

  • I began by introducing each dog separately on loose leash, while I had Cait sit at the other side of the room with Finnegan on her lap. I watched that dog’s body language, as well as Finn’s.
  • Kiera immediately focused, stiffened and started whining. Finn raised his hackles and hissed. Keeping them both at a safe distance, I started working with Kiera to get her to relax and sit. Because both animals were aroused, I kept the first introduction very brief. After having Kiera sit, lie down, and stay for 30 seconds (all while being heavily praised and treated), we left the room.
  • Graidy immediately started wagging his tail and wanted to go over to say hello. Because Finn was hissing again, Graidy was just allowed to be in the room for a minute, and then we left.

When we weren’t working on introducing the animals, Finn was kept safely closed in with Cait in whatever room she was in, or in Cait’s bedroom. Then after I’d tested the dogs by holding Finn in my arms with good results (sniffing and losing interest), Cait was also allowed to walk around the house with Finn safely in her arms, as long as I was present to supervise.

  • We did several brief encounters a day for a few weeks before there was progress.(It may go faster or slower for others depending on their dogs and cats.)
  • Finn relaxed first. He was then allowed on the floor in a room with lots of built-in escape hatches. Graidy was on leash and wanted to play. Finn chose to scoot under a chair. When he felt safe, he came out again and started exploring. Graidy was allowed to stay in the room as long as he stayed in a sit or a down, while constantly being praised and rewarded for remaining calm. If he got too excited, we exited the room.
  • The next step with Graidy was to let him greet Finn on leash, with a quick retreat. After several encounters going well –both Graidy and Finn feeling comfortable — I dropped Graidy’s leash and let them interact. If either had gotten too excited, I would have grabbed the leash and exited. (During this process, neither Graidy nor Kiera were ever allowed to chase Finn.) It wasn’t long before Graidy and Finn were bestest buds.
  • Kiera was fine as long as Finn was up in somebody’s arms. It took longer to get her to progress with Finn at ground level. We continued with the short visits on leash with Cait sitting and holding Finn until Kiera relaxed and seemed to realize that Finn was family. From there, we progressed to Kiera on leash with Finn on the ground. While she remained alert, she didn’t try to rush Finn. From that point, it was probably another week before I dropped her leash. Once she was allowed to go up and sniff and nuzzle Finn on the floor, she was okay.
  • Lastly, we progressed to having both dogs on leash with Finn in Cait’s arms, and then on the floor. Then to both leashes dropped with Finn on floor. The two of them together wanted to play with Finn, but when he’d had enough, he’d swat them. They’d get the message and back off. From there, it was probably another week of supervised floor play before Finn was finally a free kitty with the run of the house.

The whole process took about seven weeks. I probably could have gone faster, but I wasn’t willing to take any risks. Even though it wasn’t any fun keeping Finn apart for that time, the safe and happy outcome has been worth it.

4 thoughts on “How to Introduce a Kitten to a Dog”

  1. I’d like to attribute it to patience, but it’s really more about fear. I’ve seen what happens up close and personal when things go wrong between animals. I don’t think I could live through that again. So now I’m inclined to err on the side of being ridiculously cautious.

  2. Excellent advice and as you point out it is best not to rush it.

    When we were adopted by a street kitty, I was lucky in having two Poodles who pretty much love or at least tolerate all living things and a generic dog who learned quickly from one swat on the nose that the cat was not to be trifled with.

    I like to think I would have your patience but I’m not sure I do.

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