The Challenges of Raising a Puppy & Kitten Together
Surely, if a puppy or kitten is adorable by themselves, then raising a puppy and kitten together must be extra cute and sweet, right? While this certainly can be the case, raising a puppy and kitten in the same home as one another isn't always so easy or straightforward.
While these creatures, when raised together, can often become fast friends and keep one another company, that doesn't mean there won't be some growing pains. There is also the possibility, however tragic, that a grown dog may mistake a cat for prey. Here, our Miller Clark Animal Hospital team explains how to avoid this by setting your puppy and kitten up for success, and long happy life together.
Carefully Consider The Breed of Dog You Bring Home
While there are a number of practices you can implement when introducing your two young pets to one another, one of the most surefire ways of setting your puppy and kitten up for success actually comes before your adorable puppy even comes into your life.
The breed and temperament of your puppy, more than your kitten, will be what determines how successful raising the two together will be in the long term. The instinctual drive to hunt is present in all dogs, in fact, a lot of their play involves simulating some aspect of hunting, from chasing down a ball (small animals) to tugging on a rope (dividing up a catch). Even squeakers in certain toys are exciting to your puppy because they simulate the sounds of dying prey (yikes!).
That said, this hunting instinct, or "prey drive," is much stronger in some breeds of dog than others. And the prey drive is where you may run into issues with your dog's behavior right off the bat. As your dog grows to be larger than your cat, even if they get along swimmingly, if your pup is of a breed with a highly-tuned hunting instinct, they may have those instincts take over and seriously chance your cat like prey.
Dogs known to have a strong prey drive such as Shiba Inus, Huskies, Terriers, Beagles, Dobermans, Malamutes and Cattle Dogs are best avoided if you want your cat and dog to live harmoniously together.
While every dog has its own unique personality, and there are no guarantees, some breeds that may be better at living with a cat include golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, pugs, Bichon Frise, poodles, basset hounds, and Maltese.
More Tips For Raising a Puppy & Kitten Together
Beyond being careful about the breed of dog that you get if you intend to raise a puppy and kitten together, there are a number of strategies you can use to introduce your two pets to one another in order to set them up for success and a life of friendship!
Introduce Your Pets to Each Other Slowly
While introducing your puppy and kitten early in their lives is a great start to helping them get used to one another, the way you introduce them is important too!
When first introducing your kitten and puppy to one another, make sure they can see one another, but each have their own personal space too. Setting them up in connected rooms with a baby gate between them can be an excellent start.
When introducing your two pets this way, you should expect some excitement. Don't be surprised or worried if your kitten hisses and spits at your dog, they are just asserting their boundaries to a new, and maybe scary, creature. The goal from these first few introductions is positive reactions, or even just apathy. If your puppy and kitten are happy to do their own thing while in eyesight of one another, that's a great sign that they will be able to safely and comfortably live together.
Spend Time Training Your Puppy Well
Working on your puppy's obedience is always important, but it is even more important than usual when they are being raised with a kitten!
Making sure that your dog knows commands like Sit, Stay, Stop and Leave It are always important. But, if your puppy is getting too physical with your kitten, getting too excited around them, or beginning to stalk or chase them, these commands can be critical in snapping your puppy out of it and teaching them what is and isn't allowed when it comes to your cat.
Carefully Supervise Their Time Together
The last thing to keep in mind when raising a puppy and kitten together is how closely you need to manage and monitor their time together. You will be able to assess this as you watch their relationship develop, but depending on your puppy and kitten's individual temperaments, you may want to do any of the following:
- Avoid having your dog and cat in the house alone together. You can crate your dog when you need to leave the house for long or close off part of your home with one of them in it to avoid confrontations.
- Avoid having your puppy and kitten eat at the same times or in the same place. Some dogs are very protective of their food and may get confrontational with your kitten, even if kitty was only sniffing the interesting food their sibling is eating.
- Set up safe areas of your home for each pet to be alone if they would like. This can include teaching each of your pets to stay out of the other's space, getting your puppy a crate, or setting aside the upstairs or basement for one pet or the other.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.