Why Does My Dog Nibble On My Cat? (9 Common Reasons)

Categorized as Why Does My Dog
why does my dog nibble on my cat

Dogs and cats have been known to fight one another. They may not be enemies, but they are certainly not friends either. In fact, it is common for dogs to nibble on the tail of a cat, while many cats will swat at a dog’s nose or bite its ear in retaliation. So why do these two animals seem to enjoy provoking each other?

Here’s the short answer to why your dog nibbles on your cat: trying to play with your cat, trying to groom your cat (which might seem like biting), or he might be showing territoriality and marking their territory on your cat. It’s generally a behavior problem only in cases where he’s trying to dominate you by dominating other animals, which would potentially make them aggressive towards people. This is when dog owners should seek assistance from a behaviorist.

Below we’ll explore more reasons behind your dog’s nibbling behavior, and later on, I will mention some particularly helpful things you can do to control this dog’s behavior.

1. Your Dog Grooms Your Cat

A dog nibbles on a cat’s neck to perform allogrooming or social grooming. Basically, allogrooming is the process of one animal using its tongue and teeth to clean and groom other animals.

Allogrooming benefits both parties by spreading natural oils throughout the fur, as well as removing fleas, mites, ticks, and other ectoparasites that may be residing within it.

Sometimes dogs do this to other dogs as an act of submission toward other pack members, but in the case of dog and cat, it is more likely to be an act of friendship, especially if your dog and cat are growing up together.

2. Your Dog Has a Strong Prey Drive

For dogs with strong prey drive, it’s their natural tendency to chase and bite things that move. So if you have dogs such as a German Shepherd or Rhodesian Ridgeback, their prey drive may be the reason why they nibble on your cat. Much in the same way as if they were chasing and biting other animals such as squirrels or rabbits.

In my opinion, if your dog does seem to have a strong prey drive, it would be best to train your dog to stop chasing your cat to avoid any unwanted accident.

3. Your Dog is Trying to Form a Bond with Your Cat

You may see dogs nibbling each other at dog parks as a way to bond, so in the same way, it could be that dogs nibbling on cats because they are trying to establish a relationship with them.

Many times when you have two animals living together under one roof, such as cats and dogs. There will often be some sort of conflict between the species, but sometimes this can also lead to communication where your dog will do things just to get their housemate’s attention.

Again much in the same way that we humans would want others’ attention by doing things for them without asking if they wanted something done – like picking up clothes.

4. It’s an Instinctive Behavior

Your dog nibbling on your cat their front teeth is an instinctive behavior, especially for puppies.

When puppies bite each other too hard, the other puppies will turn their backs on and isolate them. This teaches the biting dog that he will be left out of games if he bites too hard. When another puppy bites the first one too hard, then the first one learns what it feels like and becomes more empathetic in the process.

This is how puppies learn to interact and control the pressure of their mouths, And some adult dogs still do it even after reaching adulthood. In this case, if your puppy doesn’t have any siblings around, your cat is going to be their surrogate sibling l.

Unfortunately, it should be noted that not all dogs learn good bite inhibition, which can make his biting go too far.

5. Your Dog is Trying to Dominate Your Cat

Another possible reason why your dog nibbles on a cat is that he’s trying to be dominant over them. Asserting dominance is a natural behavior for pack animals such as dogs.

A dominant dog will show their dominance in a number of ways, not just by nipping or nibbling. For example, he may take the cat’s food and water dish away from them while growling at the cat to make it clear that this is their territory now. Or he might mount the cat to see if the cat accepts the behavior. He will also often stare down a rival animal as if challenging them for dominance over these resources (or anything else).

When you see your dog is overly dominant and your cat is intimated, it’s best to separate them as much as possible.

The best way for this to happen is with access to separate spaces such as different rooms or even different parts of the house where it seems like there’s less chance for conflict (though never letting them out alone– always supervise these types of interactions).

If you can’t keep them apart at all times in your home, provide an area on either side of a door or wall barrier within sight distance from each other without direct contact so that they’re not near each other.

6. It is a Sign of Affection

Dogs are social animals, and therefore, they enjoy the company of other dogs. But sometimes, a playful dog might want to play with another animal in their household – like your cat! This is likely the case if one or both of them are separated from their siblings at an early age.

Instead of playing by themselves, they may look for someone else that wants to partake in some fun! In this case, it can actually be a sign that your dog likes you and/or enjoys living with you because he feels comfortable enough around you to initiate contact.

What should I do? Well, not much, really! If the cat is not annoyed or scared, then just let them be.

7. Your Dog is Jealous

Your dog might be jealous. We often think of jealousy as a human emotion, but it’s actually common in dogs too. Your cat may get more attention from you or your spouse than your dog does, and this could make them feel left out. He may try to express their jealousy by nibbling the cat, which is an act of aggression that can escalate into fighting.

8. Your Dog has a Strong Herding Instinct

Some breeds were originally bred for herding jobs, and because of their high herding instinct, they will probably try to herd smaller animals like cats or children.

This is especially likely if the dog is a herding breed, such as a:

  • Old English sheepdog
  • Shetland sheepdog
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Cardigan Welsh corgi
  • Rough collie
  • Australian cattle dog
  • Australian shepherd
  • Pembroke Welsh corgi
  • German shepherd
  • Border collie

The best thing anyone can do for a dog with a high herding instinct is to tire out their dogs with consistent training or exercise.

9. Your Dog is Stressed or Anxious

A dog that is stressed out or suffering from anxiety will start acting up and redirect their anxiety to you if you’re around or the cat! Stressful situations such as loud noises can also cause your dog to begin nibbling on your cat as an outlet for their stress and frustration.

If you see your dog nibbling on your cat followed by behaviors like barking, howling, shivering, cowering, it’s best to separate your dog and allow them to calm down.

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Nibbling On Your Cat?

1. Introduce Your Dog and Cat Properly

If you’re getting a new cat, you want to be sure to set the stage for a strong bond between your dog and cat. Here’s a simple guideline for introducing your and cat:

First, plan an introduction with your dog on a leash and the cat in its carrier if you need to. Keep food treats handy, give them some space, then let them sniff each other under supervision.

It’s important that your pet is comfortable being near the other animal so he may not be as aggressive or territorial once they’re both at home. When it seems like there are no issues, release one of those animals while continuing to supervise closely for any reactions from either party.

2. Keep The Rivalry Between Your Dog and Cat Civilized

If you notice any signs of rivalry between your pets, then there are some steps you should take:

  • Keep both animals safe with pet gates, so they don’t have access to each other.
  • Give them plenty of space – don’t let one pet bully another
  • Give each animal enough individual time with its owner.
  • Feed both pets in separate rooms, so they don’t have to compete for food
  •  Play with both pets together, such as by throwing a toy back and forth between them.
  • If they fight, give each pet some time away from each other before trying again.

3. Train Your Dog Bite Inhibition

As mentioned before, some dogs haven’t learned to control their bite. If your dog hasn’t had a chance to learn bite inhibition, please consider doing a bite inhibition training session.

How to Train Bite Inhibition

Depending on the dog, you can teach your dog to be gentler with their mouth by making a high-pitched “ow!” sound if he bites too hard when playing with you. Some people also like to say “Ouch!” and others prefer “Oooooh!”

If your dog noticed your reaction and has backed off, be sure to reward them with a treat and praise. Unfortunately, some dogs may be too tired or over-aroused, they may not respond to your yelping.

In this case, the only thing that you should do is to give them a time out for a few minutes in their crate.

4. Give Them An Alternative Item to Chew

This one is pretty straightforward. Give your dog a chew toy that he can nibble on instead of your cat, and you’ll find their interest in the feline will usually stop.

It’s a good idea to keep a chew toy at hand or keep a variety of chew toys readily available in every room of the house. When your dog is excitedly running toward your way, showing their teeth, catch their mouth on a toy. Doing so will teach your dog what is OK to bite or chew.


It is not uncommon for dogs to bite and nibble on a cat’s tail, ears, or nose. These animals are generally just trying to play with your pet (which might seem like biting), groom them (which may feel like biting), or show dominance.

Dog owners should seek assistance from a behaviorist if their pet is showing aggression towards other animals.

Related Questions

1. Why Do Dogs Nibble Cats with Their Front Teeth?

This behavior is a form of communication between animals that have developed a bond or through play. Contrary to popular belief in some cultures that it’s usually aggressive and not playful, many dogs also show the same behavior with other family pets they are comfortable with (cats and occasionally even smaller animals like rabbits).

2. Why Does My Dog Act Like a Cat?

It’s possible that your dog is copying the cat’s behavior because they grew up together.

3. Why Is My Dog Obsessed With My Cat?

Every dog has different reasons why they chase after cats that reside in the same household. One major reason is the natural instinct to hunt prey. This is especially true for breeds that were originally bred for hunting, like hounds. Even if your dog isn’t a purebred hound, they may still have a strong prey drive due to their ancestry.

4. Why Does My Dog Lick My Cat?

Your dog may be licking your cat as a form of play, grooming or you’ve encouraged it.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.