8 Reasons Why Your Dog Nibbles on Your Cat

If your dog nibbles on your cat, you may want to know why and what you can do about it. This article will explore the reasons your dog nibbles on your cat and how you can stop it.

So, let’s get started.

The Reasons Your Dog Nibbles Your Cat

Grooming Your Cat & Establishing Social Relationships

If your dog nibbles on your cat, it could be for grooming purposes. Dogs can clean a cat’s fur with their paws or their mouth. Animals groom for two primary reasons:

  • Removing parasites
  • Improving social relationships

Some studies suggest that establishing social relationships is the basic purpose of grooming. In a grooming ritual, a dog gently nibbles on the back of a cat. Other nibbling sites include ears, neck, and head.  

The dog pulls its teeth through the cat’s fur, removing debris or dirt. And if your cat has fleas, chances are your dog is nibbling to remove those fleas.

Here are some other benefits of nibbling:

  • To resolve conflicts and repair social relationships.
  • To reduce stress and tension
  • To reduce aggression between your cat and dog
  • To increase the dog’s tolerance when the cat is near its food or toys 

Note: Nibbling is a grooming ritual that provides a positive experience for both animals.

Teething

Teething pain can lead to nibbling, but this nibbling tends to be less gentle and can hurt your cat.

If your puppy is teething, give it plenty of teething toys to work through the pain without causing pain to your cat.

A Strong Prey Drive

Some dogs nibble on cats because they have a strong prey drive. Some breeds with a strong prey drive include German Shepherds and Huskies.

These breeds can even kill cats and other small animals. So, if your dog has a strong prey drive, you will need to supervise it around your cats.

Anxiety

Nibbling can be a symptom of anxiety and is common in shelter dogs and dogs who experience neglect.

It can range from situational anxious nibbling or swing into a full-blown compulsion if the situation triggering the behavior persists.

Anxious dogs may nibble on anything near, including the dog’s legs, furniture, and the cat.

If your dog is nibbling out of anxiety, it’s a good idea to consult a pet behaviorist who can retrain the compulsion, or it can lead to the dog nibbling itself bald or harming other pets.

Reduction of Emotional Tension

Prey drive plays a role in the hostile relationship between dogs and cats. It’s a dog’s instinct to chase and nibble things. As mentioned above, nibbling can reduce aggression between animals.

Jealousy

Sometimes dogs are jealous of other animals in the house. A dog that nibbles your cat when paying more attention to the cat than the dog is a good example.

In this case, it would help to give your dog extra attention throughout the day. Alternatively, you can train your so that it learns to behave. You can follow the tips below to see how you can train it in this case.

Communication

Dogs don’t speak, but they have many ways to communicate with other animals. Some dogs may use nibbling as a form of communication. And this leads to a better bond between the animals.

Note: If your pets aren’t familiar with each other, nibbling can be a good way to develop friendships.

Expressing Excitement

Dogs sometimes nibble cats because they’re excited to see them. This type of nibbling happens after a period of separation. It’s your dog’s way of expressing excitement and greeting your cat.

Some dogs may display a strong maternal instinct toward the house cat. They can nibble on your cat’s neck, ears, or back, usually followed by heavy licking of the head, eyes, and ears.

How to Stop Dogs Nibbling On Cats

As mentioned above, a dog nibbling on cats is usually harmless. But if your dog’s nibbling is excessive or harmful, you need to take steps to eliminate the behavior.

Separate them

The fastest way to get your dog to stop nibbling on your cat is to separate them. This way, you can prevent situations that might harm your cat. Most dogs don’t mean to hurt the cat; rather, they can’t resist the urge to nibble. Experts suggest a couple of approaches that can cure this.

Carrier Technique

One technique is to use a protective carrier for your cat while the dog is under leash control. Use this technique only if your cat is confident and won’t be unduly stressed. Don’t use this method if you have an anxious cat.

Place your cat in a protective carrier while the dog is in another room. Provide a toy to help keep the cat calm.

Bring the dog into the room and offer its favorite treats or chew toys to keep it focused on you and reward the calm behavior.

Ask the dog to practice a sit or to stay on command. Practice obedience commands your dog knows very well and reward it for obeying.

Offer the best treats for moving away from the cat. The idea is to teach your puppy that it gets better attention and rewards by ignoring the cat rather than nibbling it.

This technique works more quickly. You can teach your dog to respond to the cat’s presence in a way that makes it impossible to start nibbling.

Ensure the cat’s safety by keeping the dog under leash control to prevent any nibbling. Most puppies prefer cat-nibbling to any other reward, so don’t allow your dog to get a taste of it.

Have plenty of tasty treats handy. These should be irresistible and something the dog only gets for this exercise.

Don’t confine your cat at all. Allow it to move around while you keep the dog’s attention on you as much as possible by offering the treats.

If the cat makes an appearance or otherwise draws the dog’s attention, give it a tiny taste of a treat.

Be consistent. Offer this treat reward every time, whether your DOG is calm, excited, looks at the cat, or anything else. The idea should be: A cat’s presence equals a dog treat.

Use the leash to keep your dog safely away from the cat, but don’t force its attention. You want the dog to choose to look at you for the treat, not forced to do so. Given time, the dog’s brain will connect the dots and understand that it should look to you for a treat when it sees the cat. It’s impossible to nibble while accepting that yummy treat!

Continue to reinforce this behavior for at least one week or more. With consistency, most dogs will get it within only a few sessions.

Match Personalities

If you haven’t adopted your cat or dog yet, try to match their personalities. Some dogs have a high prey drive, and they’ll always try to chase and nibble a cat. If that’s your dog, you’ll be happier if you don’t adopt a cat.

An energetic, playful cat does best with a playful dog, as long as neither sees the other as competition or prey. A relaxed, older cat might get along better with an older dog. Don’t try to force two personalities that don’t mix well.

Teach Basic Commands

To cut down on your dog’s excessive nibbling, you may need to teach basic commands to your dog again. Including:

“sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” Next, test your dog’s obedience in distracting situations and with things that excite him. Your ultimate goal is for your dog to obey these commands when it’s around your cat. Make sure your dog is on a leash when you first test its obedience with the cat present.

If you need to bring in a dog trainer or behaviorist, that’s okay. Some dogs with high prey drives need professional help before learning to leave a cat alone.

Redirect the Behavior

You’ll have the best shot at controlling aggressive behavior if you catch it early and redirect it. Once dogs discover that they love nibbling cats, the behavior can be tough to unlearn. So try to catch it early. If it tries to nibble or chase your cat, tell it “no” and put it in a separate room for a few minutes.

As soon as you find your dog fixating on your cat, redirect its attention immediately. When your dog turns and obeys you, praise it and offer treats. If your dog is calm around your cat from the beginning, reward that behavior. Make sure your cat has a way to escape, just in case. Consider using cat trees, tall furniture, and cat shelves as escape routes.

Keep Your Dog Entertained and Busy

An energetic and restless dog is more likely to nibble a cat. Take your dog for frequent walks and throw in some games of fetch, training sessions, and agility courses. The more you engage your dog’s mind and body, the less likely it will expend extra energy on your cat.

Additionally, give your cat a safe space where it can relax away from your dog. Keep a calming diffuser in the room to help your cat manage any stress. This drug-free solution mimics a cat’s natural pheromones helping it feel relaxed and happy.

Establish Separate Feeding Schedules

It is common for dogs to become more aggressive when they are eating. If you feed your cat and dog together, your dog might become aggressive towards your cat. So, avoid feeding multiple pets in the same room.  

Be consistent

It would help to be consistent when training your dog to get along with your cat. It is unlikely that you will be able to get it to leave it alone with just one training session completely. But if you train it consistently, you will get much better progress over weeks or months.

Train it early

It’s important to start training puppies early to leave your cat alone. Your puppy will be much better behaved as an adult and avoid nibbling your cat.

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