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Understanding the genetic differences between dogs and cats will help you ease them into the idea of sharing a space. Dogs are pack animals and may see a cat as a fellow pack member if introduced early in life. Cats, however, are very territorial. A cat may interpret behavior that a dog would see as innocent fun as threatening. If you’re adopting, it’s a good idea to ask the shelter or rescue group how the animal behaves around other pets. Usually they have tested this in their facility or collected this information from previous owners.
Before introducing a dog and cat, the dog should be obedient to simple commands and be comfortable on a leash. Keep the cat in a confined area where he/she feels safe and can acclimate to the sounds and smells of the dog. With the dog still on the leash, allow the cat to come out of its space and observe the dog. After a few days of supervising their reactions to one another, you can take the dog off the leash, but never force them to interact. It’s important for you to be relaxed around both pets, as animals can easily pick up on anxiety in their owners. Also, remember to reward the good behavior of each pet with treats and praise.
There are benefits to both pets sharing a home. The company of a cat can help ease separation anxiety for a dog that doesn’t like being left alone. They also get more stimulation throughout the day than single pets. By managing the introduction properly, your dog and cat may even grow to like each other!