Just like humans, dogs and cats have their own unique ways of communicating. It can be difficult to decipher these body language cues and even harder to determine whether your animals like each other! For instance, have you witnessed your dog nudging your cat with his nose and wondered what it means? Is it a sign of affection or something else entirely? Well, today, we are going to find out!
So, why does my dog nudge my cat with his nose? Your dog could be nudging your cat with his nose for a number of reasons, from affection and playfulness to aggression and a strive for dominance. It could even be out of boredom! Observing the body language of both animals closely can indicate or give clues to the underlying root cause.
It goes without saying, but if any signs of aggression are displayed (from either pet), you must separate both animals immediately.
The main thing is that you keep everyone sage.
But how do you know whether your dog likes your cat, what these aggressive cues are, and whether you need to stop any nudging altogether?
I think we need to continue to explore! So, keep reading as we shall be doing so.
Why Does My Dog Nudge My Cat?
Dogs nudge both humans and other animals, such as cats, as a form of communication. But there can be multiple reasons why they do it. The best thing to do is to observe your dog’s behavior closely to determine the cause.
Let’s run through the main ones now:
If your dog is nudging your cat forcefully, it is likely to be a sign of dominance.
For example, if your cat is happy lounging on the sofa and your dog suddenly shoves him off with his nose, it’s possible that your dog just wants to nick your cat’s spot!
However, it is worth noting that if this happens all the time, then intervention may be required.
Especially if your cat starts to show signs of anxiety or stress whenever the dog is around. Dogs that are displaying dominance may also exhibit other behaviors such as mounting and excessive barking.
On the other end of the scale, if your dog is nudging your cat’s nose or mouth gently, then it is actually a sign of submission.
Dogs do this to acknowledge each other’s dominance, which avoids unnecessary arguments and fights. It’s also a way for dogs to say, ‘let’s be friends.’
An Invitation To Play
You may have witnessed your dog bounding over to you and nudging you repeatedly on your side.
This is a clear indication that your dog wants to play. As social animals, dogs will do this to other animals, too, including cats.
As sweet as this is, always remember that cats are not as social as dogs. So, the innocent invitation may be met with a swipe if your cat is not in the mood!
Misinterpretation and confusion can also occur because the body language cues of both species differ slightly.
Dogs who want to play may also wag their tails and perform a play bow. The latter is a body posture in which the dog lowers his nose onto his front paws while keeping his back end high in the air.
If your dog nudges your cat with his nose and then licks your cat, this is a clear sign of affection. It means he is making friends!
Some dog breeds are hard-wired to nudge other animals in order to tell them where to go.
This is common in herding breeds such as Collies and Corgis.
You should be particularly wary about leaving your cat alone with dogs that have high prey drives, like German Shepherds, as they may see your cat as something to chase.
Behavioral modification should help to fix this issue but more on that later.
A bored dog is often a pushy and destructive dog! He may see your cat as an enticing toy and decide to give it a nudge just to get a reaction!
Make sure you offer your dog plenty of play sessions and walks to prevent this from happening.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Likes My Cat?
You can work out if your dog likes your cat by observing his body language. Just like humans, dogs and cats have their own personalities, so it is up to you to determine whether they are a good fit. A happy dog will often wag its tail. He will also generally have a relaxed posture, with the ears slightly floppy (depending on the breed, of course!).
If you notice your dog displaying these signs when interacting with your cat, then it is a good indicator that he is being friendly and likes his feline companion.
A dog and cat that regularly curl up and sleep together are also more than likely to be good friends.
Sleeping is a vulnerable position for both species, so this is a very good sign of trust and shows that the animals are comfortable with each other.
If, on the other hand, your dog is displaying any aggressive or nervous behaviors, then you may need to step in to resolve the issue before it escalates.
Negative signs to watch out for include:
- Raised hackles or stiff posture
- Ears pointed backward and flat against the head (bear in mind that backward-facing ears can also be a sign of submission)
- Dilated pupils
- Holding the body close to the ground with all four paws planted firmly
- Vertical, stiff tail
- Lips curled up to reveal the teeth
Factors That Influence If A Dog Like A Cat
If you are looking to adopt a new dog, there are certain factors you can take into consideration that will help you decide whether the canine is likely to be cat-friendly.
However, bear in mind that these are just a guide.
Unfortunately, you won’t really know for certain until you introduce them!
Here are some things to consider if you are looking to adopt a cat-friendly dog:
Certain dog breeds tend to get along better with cats than others. The ones you mainly want to avoid are hunting dogs as they are more likely to view your cat as a target rather than a friend! Saying that intense training can lessen the issue but bear in mind that hunting is an instinct that cannot be removed completely.
Dog breeds that seem to do well with cats include:
- Toy dogs such as Pugs and King Charles Spaniels
- Golden Retrievers
Try to avoid dogs like terriers and greyhounds as they have high prey drives.
Is the dog generally placid, or does he bark every time he hears a noise?
When you are out for walks, does he dash after every squirrel, or is he simply not bothered by them?
All of these things will help you to determine whether a dog is potentially cat-friendly or not.
It may also be worth looking into the history of your canine companion.
Has he ever lived with cats before?
Did he chase or attack them?
If the answer is yes, it is probably not safe to leave him around your cat.
The personality of the cat should also be taken into consideration.
Is he laid back or a bit skittish?
Kittens and puppies are much more likely to get along than older animals.
Especially if your older cat has lived alone all its life – he will probably not appreciate a bouncy dog ruining his peace and quiet!
Similarly, if your cat already has anxiety, then it is best to avoid getting a new canine companion because the new smells and movements will just stress your cat out more.
Should I Stop My Dog From Nudging My Cat?
Most types of nudging are simply signs of affection and playfulness, so you shouldn’t need to stop the behavior unless it appears to be getting aggressive. Keep an eye on your cat’s body language, too, because excessive nudging can make your feline anxious and stressed. If things are left to escalate, then it could cause injury when your cat retaliates with a swipe to the face. Remember that larger dogs can also easily harm a cat, so you must be vigilant.
Watch your dog’s behavior closely whenever he is around your cat, and you will soon be able to determine whether it is affection or aggression.
Bear in mind that excessive nudging can also be caused by stress, especially in dogs that lack proper socialization as puppies.
So, try to work out when the nudging started and whether any triggers can be identified.
Does it happen more often around meal times?
When does everyone return home?
If you are out of the house for long periods during the day, your dog could be nudging your cat because of separation anxiety.
In these cases, you will need to re-train your dog to be able to cope with his anxiety triggers.
For example, if you believe the nudging is caused by separation anxiety, then start to leave the house for only a minute or two, then return and give your dog some fuss.
Over time, you can lengthen the periods you are away. If your dog becomes upset again at any point, then move back a step. It is important to be patient!
What To Do About Your Dog Nudging Your Cat
If your dog is constantly nudging your cat and your feline appears to be getting stressed, there are several things you can do to curb the issue. Positive reinforcement training is perhaps the best option to start with.
Sit with your cat on your lap or close by, and allow your dog to come into the room.
Whenever they interact peacefully, offer them both a treat.
If your dog begins to nudge your cat or show aggressive tendencies, then take him out of the room and try again later.
Eventually, he should get the message!
It is also recommended that you keep your dog in a crate or ensure your animals are separated when you are not home – just to be on the safe side.
In addition, you should ensure your cat has plenty of hiding places and vertical space to escape to whenever he feels cornered by your dog.
A cat tree, shelves, or even a few small boxes and hides around the home are all good options.
NEVER punish your dog for nudging your cat, as this is likely to make the situation worse.
Instead, simply give him a ‘time out.’
If any aggression is shown by either animal, then the best thing to do is separate them.
You can also seek advice from your vet or a behavioral expert about alternative training methods and calming remedies.
If you are thinking about introducing your dog and cat for the first time, make sure you do it slowly and with caution.
Never just leave both animals in the same room to ‘work it out.’
Short sessions where they can smell each other and interact in a controlled environment should be done over the course of a few weeks.
If any aggression is displayed, you should go back a step.
Be patient, and you should be rewarded eventually!
Cats and dogs can live well together, but you should always remember that they are entirely different species with their own needs and quirks!
By taking things slow and discouraging any negative behaviors, your fluffy companions will hopefully be able to live together peacefully.
Even if that does involve the odd nose nudge from time to time!
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I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.