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7 Real Reasons Why Your Dog Nibbles On Your Cat + 7 Tips

Why Does My Dog Nibble On My Cat

Are you wondering why your dog nibbles on your cat? The reasons might surprise you.

Continue reading to find out:

Why does my dog nibble on my cat(‘s neck)?

Your dog nibbles on your cat(‘s neck) for grooming purposes. A dog cleans a cat’s fur using their teeth to remove debris and dirt. In some cases, a dog nibbles on a cat’s neck to remove fleas and other external parasites. 

Is it normal that my dog nibbles on my cat with her front teeth?

Your dog nibbling on your cat with her front teeth is a form of communication. This leads to dogs and cats developing ties or strengthening their bond. As long as there is no aggression, it is normal for your dog to nibble on your cat.

7 reasons why your dog nibbles on your cat

#1: Your dog grooms your cat

Dog Grooming Cat

Aside from nibbling, the act goes by many names:

Nitting, corn cobbing, and shivering chatter.

It’s characterized by a dog doing a gnawing movement using their front teeth. It’s as if their mouth is vibrating. 

It would look like they’re eating corn on a cob, hence corn cobbing.

If your dog nibbles on your cat, it’s mainly for grooming purposes.

In animals, grooming is the process of cleaning fur with hands or mouth. It is done primarily for 2 purposes:

  • Establishing social relationships.
  • Removing parasites from areas that an animal cannot reach by itself.

This study observes that establishing social relationships is the basic function of nibbling. It clarifies that dominance and submission have nothing to do with this behavior.

In a grooming ritual, a dog gently nibbles on the back and ears of a cat. Other nibbling sites include the neck and head. 

The dog pulls his teeth through the cat’s fur, cleaning it and removing debris or dirt.

If you’ll notice, the act of nibbling comforts the cat. How would you know?

It’s by how the cat purrs, allows the dog, or doesn’t show any aggression. 

Here are the other benefits of grooming:

  • Repairs relationships affected by conflicts.
  • Reduces the tension of the cat (see more in #2).
  • Minimizes aggression between your dog and cat.
  • Increases tolerance of the dog when the cat is near the former’s resources.
  • It increases the possibility of the cat helping the dog during fights with other animals.

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

#2: Reduction of emotional tension

Would you agree that not all cats and dogs get along?

Even the ones living under the same roof. 

Sometimes you’ll suddenly hear the hiss of your cat and your dog barking as they fight.

Some researchers have studied dog-cat relationships and came up with really interesting results. 

This study found out dogs are interested in cat’s vocalizations. The sounds a cat makes catch a dog’s attention more than the smell of their urine.

Also, prey drive plays a role in the antagonistic relationship between dogs and cats. 

Prey drive is an animal’s instinct to chase and catch things. 

This explains why some dogs chase a moving cat.

On the other end of the spectrum, some dogs and cats are tighter than Scooby Doo and Shaggy. 

Just look at this family of dogs and cats:

They’re proof that dogs and cats can live in harmony.

It turns out that nibbling plays a role in why this is so. According to this study, nibbling can reduce aggression between animals.

The study also observes how dogs and cats get positive experiences from nibbling. That’s in addition to the time these animals spend together.

#3: Your dog simply loves your cat

Your dog nibbles on your cat out of affection.

And your dog has probably learned this from when they were puppies.

Remember, from the time puppies are born, they use their mouth to explore their environment. To find mama dog or the littermates, or to go to a warm spot.

And when puppies play, they use mouthing a lot. They bite, lick, and even groom by nibbling on each other’s neck and ears.

Some dogs bring this behavior into adulthood. They nibble the ears or back of other dogs to show affection.

But when other dogs are not present, your dog might do this to your cat. Particularly if your pets have been together for a long time.

A lot of pet owners make the same observations. They share on various forums that nibbling is out of affection.

And this video of a dog nibbling on the cat’s chest is proof of that:

One pet parent notices that aside from nibbling, her dog is protective toward the cat.

Another owner observes that her pets nibble on each other all the time.

Sometimes the dog and cat take turns nibbling on each other. But in some cases, the cat responds by licking the dog’s face.

#4: Nibbling is a form of communication

Pets don’t speak but they have a lot of ways to communicate with other animals.

Such as nibbling.

The results of this study indicate that dogs use nibbling as a form of communication. And this leads to a better relationship between the animals.

That’s because nibbling strengthens the bonds between the giver and recipient. 

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

#5: Your dog is de-fleaing your cat

There isn’t enough research on nibbling, or grooming in general, between dogs and cats.

However, there were studies that looked into the role of grooming between primates. The term used in this context is allogrooming.

Allogrooming is the process of picking through the hair to look for insects or debris.

If you apply that to dogs and cats, it’s removing fleas and other parasites. Just as what this study observes:

Grooming is done to remove ectoparasites from the recipient’s body.

If your cat has fleas, then your dog could be nibbling to remove those fleas.

#6: Your dog is excited to see your cat

Dogs sometimes nibble on their humans because they’re excited to see them.

Turns out dogs do this to other animals as well.

This study observes that nibbling takes place after a period of separation. 

As such, nibbling could be your dog’s way of greeting your cat. Particularly if your dog hasn’t seen the cat for a while.

#7: Your dog displays a strong maternal instinct toward the cat

Dog Nibbles On Cat Due To Maternal Instinct

If your dog is a dam, then it could be showing maternal instincts toward your cat.

And your dog does that by nibbling on your cat’s neck, ears, or back.

This is a behavior observed in some dogs toward their puppies. Nibbling is usually followed by heavy licking of the eyes, ears and head.

7 tips to stop your dog from nibbling on your cat

#1: Prevent external parasite infestation

A dog would nibble on a cat because the cat has external parasites.

It’s never pleasant for your pets to have fleas and ticks.

Thus, inspect your cat’s skin and fur for flea infestation. Sometimes you can’t see fleas but you might find ‘flea-dirt.’ 

Flea-dirt is digested blood. That’s proof that there’s flea in your pets and probably your home.

It’s important to prevent flea infestation. Cat fleas can infest your dog just as dog fleas can infest your cat.

Worse, these fleas can infest humans and other animals.

Did you know that a female flea can lay around 4000 eggs in a few weeks?

Caution: Prevent flea infestation. Have your pets protected from parasites by getting them vaccinated or have them treated against fleas.

#2: Give your dog nibble objects

At some point, your dog’s nibbling might become too rough. Especially if they don’t know bite inhibition.

Bite inhibition refers to a dog’s ability to control the pressure when they’re biting. Dogs start learning this when they are puppies. Learning continues when they are playing with other dogs or cats.

Unfortunately, not all dogs learn good bite inhibition. Some factors could affect it such as excitement or even aggression.

Thus, a nibbling could turn into a bite. And it could hurt your cat.

And if it hurts your cat, it may turn aggressive toward the dog and scratch them in a split second.

To control your dog’s nibbling, give them nibble objects. There are a lot of toys and chew bones you can get for your nibbler.

This chewing stick is an ideal chew toy even for aggressive chewers. Or you can get this Nylabone chew ring toy.

These toys encourage positive chewing behavior. And these can divert your dog’s attention away from the cat.

Warning: Always keep an eye on your dog when chewing. Toys that are easily destroyed into pieces could choke your dog or cause stomach blockage if ingested. Choose durable toys and ask your vet for recommendations. It’d be best to get a chew toy that benefits your dog’s dental hyegine. 

#3: Say ‘no’

One of the best ways to prevent nibbling is correcting it before it starts.

If you see your dog about to nibble on your cat, stop them through commands or sounds.

‘No,’ ‘enough’ or ‘stop’ is a good start. Say the word in a firm voice.

You can also do a recall as this can divert their attention from nibbling. And when your dog follows the command, reward with praises or treats.

#4: Avoid punishment

Punishing won’t get you, or your dog, anywhere.

I heard some owners suggesting the use of a squirt bottle. Here’s how it works:

When your dog is about to do an undesirable behavior, squirt them with water in the face.

It does get the job done of stopping your dog. But only in the short term.

And what happens if your dog happens to love the punishment? Then it fails to modify the undesirable behavior.

Also, for punishment to work, your dog must not have previous association with the squirt bottle. Thus, using it will only be effective in the first few applications.

Here’s another thing…

If a punishment doesn’t modify a behavior, then it’s ineffective

And if you keep using the punishment, it’s abuse.

I find that positive reinforcement is more effective in modifying a behavior. This had been backed by science and research.

This report shows that positive reinforcement is better than aversive methods. Aversive methods include positive punishment and negative reinforcement.

Caution: Many studies have proven that aversive methods cause stress in dogs. Even verbal cues can become aversive in dogs trained using aversive methods. 

On the other hand, positive reinforcement is reward-based. Reward comes in the form of attention, play, praises and food. 

You use these rewards to reinforce good behavior.

#5: Teach your dog impulse control

Stop your dog from nibbling on your cat through impulse control.

Impulse control is an individual’s ability to control urges and impulses. 

It’s useful in a lot of situations. Such as when walking or if there are too many distractions around.

Your dog can learn impulse control through consistent training.

Here are a few pointers when teaching your dog impulse control:

  • Teach your dog to look at you. Call their name. As soon as your dog looks at you, give them a treat.
  • Make them wait long for a high value treat. The purpose of doing this is to make your dog focus on you longer.
  • Teach your dog the ‘leave it’ and ‘settle down’ commands. ‘Leave it’ comes in handy when your dog is about to nibble on your cat.

#6: Take your cat away

Sometimes, you need to take your cat away from your dog. 

But only if your dog is nibbling roughly. 

Thus, it’s important to keep an eye on your pets, especially if they have not been together a long time. 

At the first sign of discomfort or aggression from any of the animals, separate them. Because someone might get hurt.

Warning: Though cats are smaller than adult dogs, they can get feisty and scratch a dog. Or a dog might lose control and bite or chase a cat.

#7: Let your dog nibble on your cat

Not all nibbling is bad.

In fact, this study observes all the positive outcomes of nibbling. It can actually help the pets to establish a lifelong friendship.

It’s easy to see whether nibbling is done positively. Both the dog and the cat are comforted by it. No hackles, no growling, no snarling or hissing.

As such, it’s okay to allow your dog to nibble on your cat’s ears, head or back. It’s essential to help them get along.