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Why Does My Cat Swat the Dog? 6 Reasons & How to Stop Them

Written by: Brooke Bundy

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a german shepherd dog staring at the tabby cat

Why Does My Cat Swat the Dog? 6 Reasons & How to Stop Them

Even though the saying goes, “They fight like cats and dogs,” many felines and canines are actually friends. They’re more likely to form a deep bond if they meet at a young age, but even if you’ve adopted a new cat or dog, they may still learn to enjoy each other’s company over time. If your pets are usually fast friends but one party suddenly starts to act strange, they can be trying to get even or playing aggressively.

If your mild-mannered cat suddenly develops a habit of attacking your good-natured dog, for instance, you might want to take them to the vet for a checkup. If they’re new to each other however, or if this is a characteristic behavior, here are six reasons why your cat may be pummeling Fido’s face.

cat paw dividerThe 6 Reasons Why Your Cat May Swat Your Dog

1. The Dog Pushed Them Over Their Limit

Cats can only take so much. If your energetic puppy persists playing with your cat after your feline has had enough, they may be punished by a swift bop on the nose. If you notice this behavior, help your dog give the cat some space. Redirect them with a toy, or make sure your cat has a place to hide where the dog can’t reach.

Dog Barking at Cat
Image By: AyazHan, Shutterstock

2. Fear Aggression

This is more common in new animal relationships, but occasionally even old friends might startle each other. Maybe your dog likes to sneak up behind your cat and scare it. Swatting can be a reaction to fear.


3. Redirected Aggression

The neighbor’s dog taunting your cat through the window or a bird chirping out of reach could be annoying your cat. Your dog might not have even done anything to provoke the attack, but your cat sees the opportunity and they’re mad, so they might take a swing.

cat and dog together on sofa
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

4. Territorial Behavior

Your cat wants to let your dog know that they don’t share. If your dog loves to steal your cat’s favorite warm sunny napping spot or likes to hide away their catnip toys, they might be the ones in for a surprise.


5. Predatory Behavior

A hallmark of a bored cat, your feline might pounce on your dog if they’re lacking prey. Giving them a stimulating toy lets them indulge in their hunting instincts without attacking your dog’s nose.

cat and dog
Image By: ilyessuti, Pixabay

6. They’re Being Playful

When dogs and cats become comfortable in each other’s company, they’ll sometimes engage in roughhousing that looks similar to how they played with their littermates. Dogs may nibble on the cat, who “retaliates” by swatting them. Hissing or awkward, stiff body language denotes fear or aggression, but languid swipes of the paw could be a display of affection towards your dog.

Cat ball divider 1How to Train Your Cat to Get Along with Your Dog

Whether your dog and your cat have known each other for years or met yesterday, both tend to be territorial creatures who will likely compete for favorite spots in your house and your heart. You should make sure your dog and cat have separate quiet spaces where they can go when they’re tired of each other. This is especially important for your cat, who may prefer to rest on elevated surfaces such as on top of their cat tree where they feel isolated in a good way.

If your animals are new to each other, don’t force the new relationship. It could take months before they’re fully adjusted, but it will happen. At worst, they’ll learn each other’s boundaries and tolerate each other. In the best-case scenario, however, they’ll be lifelong friends.

You should always introduce new animals as gradually as possible to reduce stress. Let your dog sniff a blanket from your cat and vice versa before they see each other to familiarize their scents. You might even house them in separate rooms for a few days while everyone becomes acclimated to the new smells. When they do meet, let them sniff each other. Animals have their own way of sorting things out, and generally, if the cat was there first, they’ll lay down the law for your dog from the beginning. If the dog was there first, you’ll need to make sure that they’re not being aggressive towards the cat, so your feline doesn’t feel threatened. As long as both parties feel safe, they’ll learn to get along over time.

If a fight breaks out, don’t yell. Fear might have been the instigator and fighting or acting like they’re in trouble can make it worse. Spray both of them with water or distract them with a loud noise to redirect their attention. Separate them until they can calm down and safely try again. It’ll take a little time and patience, but they’ll probably learn to work it out.

You can always call an animal trainer or animal behaviorist for advice. If you adopted your new pet from a shelter, they’re usually happy to help and might even let you bring both to a safe room in the shelter for a guided meeting.

cat paw dividerConclusion

It’s pretty common for cats to swat at dogs, but the good news is that it’s also common for dogs and cats to form close friendships with each other. Make sure they have their own dedicated spaces where they can take a time out if they start to grow tired of each other. If they’ve just met, give them plenty of patience to work things out. Eventually, they’ll probably be friends but don’t rush the new relationship so it can grow organically.

In the meantime, you can reassure them that you love them both. If this is a new behavior between old friends, you might want to take your cat to the vet to make sure they’re feeling okay or give them something to do so they’re not bored.


Featured Image Credit: Skullman, Pixabayy

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