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Pets can coexist peacefully

Despite cartoon caricatures of dogs preying on unsuspecting cats, and cats hunting down birds and small rodents, these stereotypical adversaries can, and often do, live quite peacefully together.

Many different types of animals can live together in one household, but it is up to the pet owner to ensure each animal gets his or her share of attention and proper care.

In 2009, a shelter dog named Lily made headlines in Iowa when she accepted a litter of orphaned kittens and began nursing them and mothering them as if they were her pups. There have been tales of a baby horse raised by a goat, and even a leopard caring for a baby baboon after having fed on the baboon's mother. Although few might advocate welcoming a baboon and a leopard into a family residence, this tale does illustrate that the misconception of survival of the fittest, or animosity among species, may be somewhat unfounded.

With this in mind, individuals who are worried about commingling pets in the house may not need to fret so much. This is especially true if they pay attention to some pointers about making the household peaceful for all.

* The unifying force in peaceful coexistence is the establishment of boundaries among animals. In the wild, certain species accept a dominant or submissive place within the social order. In the household, things may get out of hand if two animals are trying to exert their dominance over territory. It is important to establish yourself as the pack alpha or leader. If pets view you as the one in charge, they may be less likely to fight for position with another pet. Establish your dominance early on and reinforce it from time to time.

* Although all animals have the potential to be territorial, males, particularly those intact, are more likely to exhibit territorial aggression. Therefore, for the health and safety of your pets, consider neutering. You may also want to consider females of the breed, particularly because females tend to be less territorial than males.

* Ensure each animal has his or her own sleeping and living areas so that they will feel safe.

* Always supervise animals that are commingling. Even if they are getting along at one point, they may not always be so friendly.

* Wash your hands in between handling one pet or another. Sometimes the scent of another animal can trigger aggression.

* Keep your pets in separate rooms when you are out of the house, unless they have a proven track record of behaving among one another. Remember the adage ... "While the cat's away, the mice will play."