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Having multiple furry friends in your home can be fun and fulfilling. However, if you have animals of different species — like dogs and cats — it can also be challenging. Many dogs and cats don’t naturally react well to one another, which means that they might not enjoy having each other’s company at home. Therefore, if your dog doesn’t immediately take to your cat (or vice versa), there are some simple things that you can do to help improve their relationship, so everybody can be healthy and happy at home. Here are four of the simplest and most effective tips for helping your cat and dog get along better.

1. Start on a Leash

The first time you introduce your dog and cat to one another, start with both animals on a leash. Try a harness and leash with your cat, and a head harness and leash with your dog. Let the animals meet slowly, sniff each other and get used to being around one another. Once neither seems fearful or overly-excited, you can slowly let the cat off the leash. Once the cat has gotten comfortable, let the dog off the leash last. This will give the cat time to adjust — and cats tend to be the more fearful creature in the dog-cat pairing.

2. Give Your Cat a Place to Escape to

When you introduce your dog and cat, give the cat a place to where she can run and hide. That way, if the dog is overwhelming her, or if she feels fearful, she can find a way to escape. Providing a hiding place for a cat lowers the stress level of the situation. Try providing a perch or a place up high, where the cat can get above the dog if she wants to.

3. Try Using Baby Gates or a Crate

Baby gates are a great way to slowly introduce animals to one another. Put up baby gates or a crate to contain you dog then let the cat wander. Baby gates and crates allow the animals to see and smell one another and get to know each other without the risk of an altercation.

4. Don’t Force It

No matter how much you want your cat and dog to get along, you can’t force them to like (or even tolerate) one another. If their rapport seems tense or uncomfortable, don’t force them to spend time together. It can take weeks or even months to get animals used to one another, so focus on slowly increasing their exposure to one another. With luck and time, you’ll see that animals are used to each other and maybe even enjoying spending time together, too.

Having both a cat and a dog as pets can be a lot of fun, especially if you can get them to love each other just as much as you love them. If you’re having trouble getting the animals to get along, you may want to consult your veterinarian or animal behavior specialist, who can work with your pets or give you helpful tips for improving their relationship.