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Can't we all just get along? Well, not necessarily, especially if you have a dog and a cat. It can work, though, in some instances.

More people are home around summertime so it seems like a great time to add a new family member. Dogs and cats who have lived in a dog and cat situation in the past most likely won't find it's an issue. But dogs and cats that have lived in a pure dog or cat world may need some time to adjust.

In fact, it might take years for a trusting, mutually agreeable relationship to develop between a cat and dog who live together. The younger, more energetic and more tolerant your cat is and the smaller, calmer and more obedient your new dog is, the more likely it is that your cat will accept living with a canine companion.

Introduce them slowly. Cats are both territorial and not fond of change, so a supervised, gradual awareness of another pet is the best method for keeping the peace. It is important to be patient as the process can take a few days... or a few weeks.

You might want to keep a leash on your dog during the introduction phase so if your dog becomes aggressive you can correct the behavior immediately.
You can also try a baby gate to keep them in separate rooms (although cats can easily jump over most gates if they really want to).

Practice, practice

To prepare for this first meeting, start by taking your dog outside and running him around to help him work off a bit of energy. Bring delicious treats that your new dog will love. Practice "sit," "down" and "stay" after he’s run around for a while and seems to be getting tired. Then bring him inside and put him in his side of the room, behind the baby gate or however you have decided to keep them a safe distance apart.

Next, fill your pockets with your cat’s favorite treats. If your new dog is rambunctious, put his leash on him and have someone on his side of the gate to handle the leash.

Sit in front of the door and call your cat. Have your dog lie down or sit to keep him from behaving threateningly as she approaches.

When your cat comes, toss her a treat. Praise and treat your dog as well if he behaves calmly in her presence. Do this several times each day for a couple of days. This way, your cat will associate your dog with delicious treats and vice versa.

You also might want to trim your cat's claws as that's their form of protection and they can slice right through a dog's nose or any body part for that matter. (Don't have the cat de-clawed, just keep the claws trimmed during the get-acquainted period).

A positive approach is crucial because you want your cat and dog to associate each other with pleasant experiences. You don’t want them to learn that everyone gets tense and angry and that bad things happen when the other pet is around. Dogs are more likely to engage in chase or prey behavior when they’re tense or aroused, and cats develop many undesirable behaviors — such as urine marking, excessive grooming, hiding and aggression — when they’re stressed or anxious.

A dog is a wonderful loyal companion and the independence that a cat boasts also has its rewards, not to mention the cuddling. If you really take it slow and respect each's territory they can all get along, and you will all be able to live happily ever after.

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