Tips to Living With Multiple Pets

Challenge: Cats and dogs that bicker

Solution: While your cat and dog may never snuggle together, you can ensure they don’t hurt each other. “Cats usually know enough to stay away, but we have to work on training the dog to stay away from the cat, especially the hunting breeds, like Terriers or Retrievers,” Dr. Burcham says. She recommends starting the learning process by doing what she calls “training an incompatible behavior.” Here’s an explanation: “Teach the dog what ‘go lie down’ means. If the dog gets up to chase the cat, tell the dog to ‘go lie down.’ If he lies down, he won’t be able to give chase, and maybe he’ll get a treat.”

Even pets of the same species tangle over toys, food and your attention. If these scuffles are happening, try adding more toys to the mix so pets don’t have to share. Also try coaxing each pet into its own space, Dr. Burcham says. To separate cats, place each cat’s food, litterbox, scratching post and bed in a different area of the house. Give dogs quiet spaces of their own, such as a bed or crate where they can escape from the other household animals. You may need to completely separate dogs at meal times to avoid conflict. Consistent training and enforcement of the house rules will keep you in charge of the pack.

Challenge: One pet dominates your attention

Solution: Whether because of its personality or needs, you may find yourself doting on one pet. For example, a new puppy may absorb your time with veterinary visits, obedience class and potty training. Or your cat might not interact with you as much as your dog. “Cats aren’t gushy with their affection the way dogs are,” Dr. Norsworthy says. “But they still want and need affection.”

Remember that all your pets require daily exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy, healthy and well behaved. Some pets even develop undesirable behaviors if they feel bored or lonely. Spread your love around — and keep your pets out of trouble — by taking all your dogs for a walk every day and spending quality time with each cat. Soon your harmonious household will be the envy of families everywhere.

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