When introducing a dog and cat, you should plan for a long period of introduction. First let the dog and cat smell and hear each other through a door that blocks the view. After they are comfortable, which may take several days, you can let them see each other but with two barriers between them. The barriers could be crates, baby gates, or see-through doors or windows. Or you can keep the dog on a leash or the cat on a harness and leash. The idea is for both animals to be calm in the presence of the other. Be careful to maintain both animals' trust by not allowing accidental contact. Try to keep the dog's attention, and offer rewards of praise or treats for calm behavior. Only when both animals are comfortable seeing each other should contact be allowed, and even then you must be careful to have control of the dog and try to focus his attention away from the cat. Gradually extend the period of time that they are together as long as things are going well. You should never leave the animals alone together until you feel sure they will not fight at all. And remember that dogs who accept cats calmly inside the house often treat them as fair game outdoors.
Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column runs every other week.
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