VCA Animal Hospitals
Published: Nov 13, 2012

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We've all seen the cartoons in which dogs and cats are portrayed as absolute enemies, but is that always the case? The simple answer is "no," though it's not uncommon for these species to initially show aggression toward one another. Some dogs have a natural instinct to "hunt" small animals, which can result in a lot of dog barking when the two pets are in the same room. Felines often have a fear of dogs, which can cause cat behavior problems like scratching or hissing. If you have two pets who you wish could live peacefully under the same roof, here are some tips.

Creating safe spaces
When trying to foster a positive relationship between your cat and dog, you'll need to make sure they both have a safe space where they can retreat if they're feeling threatened. Separate rooms are an option, but it may be better to work on crate training your dog. This will allow your feline companion to roam the house while your dog is resting comfortably in her crate.

Cats may be more at ease if they have a high place they can escape to if they are frightened, such as a counter top or cat tower.

Slow introductions
When introducing your two pets for the first few times, expect there to be a few clashes. Both animals will be curious and cautious, and this can lead to some tricky interactions. For this reason, it's always best to have a leash for your dog so you can easily pull her away should the cat become frightened or aggressive. You'll also want to have treats on hand for both pets to reward them when they show positive behavior toward one another.

Baby gates are also useful during these initial meetings, as you can allow the pets to interact while still maintaining a barrier between them. However, do not rely on these gates to keep the animals separate when you are away. Instead, put your dog in her crate or secure your cat in a room.

If your dog is young and hasn't completed her puppy training yet, you'll need to teach her some commands that will help her interact with the cat. Saying "leave it" in a stern voice when you want her to leave the cat alone is a good idea. You can also teach her phrases like "stay," "down," or "gentle" to prevent her from scaring or hurting your feline.  Remember to always praise and reward for good behavior.

Prepare for accidents
Even with supervision, cats and dogs can end up hurting each other during their initial meetings. In the case of an emergency, you must be prepared to visit a vet clinic to seek medical attention for the injured pet or pets. For minor injuries, it's not a bad idea to brush up on your first aid for dogs or cats, so you can treat any issues immediately.

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