Mountain Fork Ezra (Maslow x Sage) with his Vizsla best friend.
Photo courtesy of owner, Kate from York, PA.
Introducing Your Maine Coon Kitten To Your Resident Cat/Dog
It's important to have realistic expectations when introducing a new pet to a resident pet. Some cats are more social than other cats. For example, an eight-year-old cat that has never been around other animals may never learn to share her territory (and her people) with other pets in the household. However, a ten-week-old kitten separated from her mom and littermates for the first time might prefer to have a cat or dog companion.
Cats are territorial and need to be introduced to other animals very slowly in order to give them time to get used to each other before there is a face-to-face confrontation. Slow introductions help prevent fear and aggression problems from developing.
PLEASE NOTE: When you introduce pets to each other, one of them may send "play" signals that can be misinterpreted by the other pet. If those signals are interpreted as aggression by one animal, then you should handle the situation as "aggressive."
General cat-to-cat introduction info:
Confinement- Confine your Maine Coon kitten to one medium-sized room with her litter box, food, water and a bed. Feed your resident cat and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them to associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other's smells. Don't put the food so close to the door that the pets are too upset by each other's presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly, directly on either side of the door. Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the pets to see each other, and repeat the whole process.
Swap scents- Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your Maine Coon kitten and your resident pets so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other's scent. Rub a towel on one pet and put it underneath the food dish of another pet. You should do this with each pet in the house.
Switch living areas- Once your Maine Coon kitten is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other pets to the Maine Coon kitten's room. This switch provides another way for the animals to experience each other's scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to become familiar with her new surroundings without being frightened by the other pets.
Avoid fearful and aggressive meetings- Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It's better to introduce your pets to each other so gradually that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don't give them the opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them, and start over with the introduction process in a series of very small, gradual steps, as outlined above.
Precautions- If one of your pets has a medical problem or is injured, this could stall the introduction process. Check with your veterinarian to be sure that all of your pets are healthy. You'll also want to have at least one litter box per cat, and scoop each litter box daily. Make sure that none of the cats are being "ambushed" by another while trying to use the litter box. Try to keep your resident pets' schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer's appearance. Cats can make lots of noise, pull each other's fur, and roll around quite dramatically without either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between your cats, you shouldn't attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a loud noise, throw a pillow, or use a squirt bottle with water and vinegar to separate the cats. Give them a chance to calm down before re-introducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.
Maine Coon kitten-to-dog introductions:
Dogs can kill a kitten very easily, even if they're only playing. All it takes is one shake and the kitten's neck can break. Some dogs have such a high prey drive they should never be left alone with a kitten. Dogs usually want to chase and play with kittens, and kittens can become afraid and defensive. Use the techniques described above to begin introducing your Maine Coon kitten to your resident dog.
Practice obedience- If your dog doesn't already know the commands "sit," "down," "come" and "stay," you should begin working on them. Small pieces of food will increase your dog's motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a kitten. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a tidbit.
Controlled meeting- After your Maine Coon kitten and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been exposed to each other's scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog's leash on, and using treats, have him either sit or lie down and stay.
Have another family member or friends enter the room and quietly sit down next to your Maine Coon kitten, but don't have them physically restrain her. Have this person offer your kitten some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the kitten and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room.
Lots of short visits are better than a few long visits. Don't drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this step several times until both the kitten and dog are tolerating each other's presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable behavior.
Let your Maine Coon kitten go- Next; allow your kitten freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and in a "down-stay." Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets up from his "stay" position, he should be repositioned with a treat lure, and praised and rewarded for obeying the "stay" command. If your kitten runs away or becomes aggressive, you're progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
Positive reinforcement- Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your kitten is unacceptable behavior, he must also be taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return for a treat. If your dog is always punished when your kitten is around, and never has "good things" happen in the kittens presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the kitten.
Directly supervise all interactions between your dog and kitten- You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your kitten is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your kitten has an escape route and a place to hide. Keep your dog and kitten separated when you aren't home until you're certain your kitten will be safe.
Precautions- Dogs like to eat kitten food. You should keep the kitten food out of your dog's reach (in a closet or on a high shelf). Eating kitten feces is also a relatively common behavior in dogs. Although there are no health hazards to your dog, it's probably distasteful to you. It's also upsetting to your kitten to have such an important object "invaded."
Unfortunately, attempts to keep your dog out of the litter box by "booby trapping" it will also keep your kitten away as well. Punishment after the fact will not change your dog's behavior. The best solution is to place the litter box where your dog can't access it, for example: behind a baby gate; in a closet with the door anchored open from both sides and just wide enough for your kitten; or inside a tall, topless cardboard box with easy access for your kitten.
A word about kittens and puppies- Because they're so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, of being killed by a young energetic dog, or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the puppy. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don't have enough confidence to do this and you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self-control.
When to get help- If introductions don't go smoothly, seek professional help immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won't work, though, and could make things worse.
Authored by me, from lifetime experiences, as well as research and information obtained from the following websites:
Animal Behavior Institute
American Humane Society