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If you are lucky enough to own a cat, you get to enjoy all their unique behaviors. You see all the headbutts, the need for belly rubs, and the varying methods they use to grab your attention. Among all these, you might have noticed your cat sticking their tongue out. This is a quirky trait, and we see this at different points in our cat's lives. You are probably wondering why they do it. We've done the research to explain this trait and will break down why your cat may be doing it.
For some cats, sticking their tongue out is just one of their adorable characteristics with no explanation behind it. In other cases, there is something causing this behavior. Your cat may be sticking their tongue out for one of the following reasons:
- The Flehmen Response
- Your cat is relaxed
- Bad taste or even food stuck in the teeth
- Medical conditions or a disease process
Some of these reasons are part of a cat's nature, and others should spark some worry. Read on as we break down the possibilities and explain what exactly a cat BLEP is.
Why Your Cat Is Sticking Their Tongue Out
Let's take a closer look at the various possible explanations for this behavior.
The Flehmen Response
The flehmen response is also known as the flehmen grimace. This response is seen in many animals, our cats being one of them. During the flehmen response, the pet curls back their upper lips revealing the teeth. The nostrils typically close, and the pet inhales. During this inhale, the tongue usually makes an appearance.
This reaction or response is triggered by pheromones or other scents in the area. This movement and change in breathing helps to transfer these smells to the vomeronasal organ or the Jacobson's organ. Your cat interprets information from these scents or pheromones. They can sense predators or prey in the area and the presence of estrus.
Many scents can trigger this response in your cat. Triggers include other animals, certain foods, and even your dirty laundry.
Your Cat Is relaxed
If your cat is in a completely relaxed state, they may stick their tongue out. In this relaxed state, the body is loose, and this includes the jaw. When the jaw becomes relaxed and loose, it unhinges a small amount. This movement gives way for the tongue to flop out.
Bad taste/Food stuck in the teeth
In some cases, you see your cat repeatedly sticking its tongue out. Sometimes they do this right after they eat or play around with a toy. This repeated motion usually means they are trying to get a taste out of their mouth or something is stuck in their teeth. Kittens may stick their tongue out in this repeated motion if they are trying to loosen or knock out a baby tooth.
Getting a taste, food, or a baby tooth out of the mouth should only take your cat a minute or two to achieve. If your cat continues to stick out their tongue rapidly, they may have a sore in the mouth or another issue. If you notice this behavior, consider bringing your pet in to see your veterinarian for a health check.
Medical conditions or Disease process
For some cats, sticking their tongue out can be a symptom of an illness or disease they are experiencing. Pushing the tongue out of the mouth can be a symptom of the following conditions:
- Senior Dementia
- Dental Issues
These conditions can happen for many reasons. Some dental issues are common and expected with an aging cat.
Alongside pushing the tongue out, you may see a decline in appetite, energy, and overall change in behavior with these conditions. If you are worried your cat is experiencing one of these issues, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.
Why Does My Cat Stick His Tongue Out When Sleeping?
You may have caught your cat sleeping with its tongue out. This is usually a cute scene. Cats sometimes stick their tongue out when they're sleeping because they are in the relaxed state we talked about. They may unhinge their jaw a bit while asleep, and gravity allows their tongue to stick out.
In some cases, a cat will stick their tongue out when they are asleep to cool themselves down. Cats lack the ability to sweat like us humans, so they lick themselves as a means to keep themselves cool. In some cases, a cat may also pant a little to cool down. This shouldn't happen too often or be too pronounced.
If your cat is breathing through their mouth with their tongue out while sleeping, it's possible that they a little hot. You can try cooling the area to help them cool down.
Read more: What’s The Ideal Temperature For A Cat?
Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out When You Scratch Them?
If your cat is sticking their tongue out during a pet session, it is because they are happy. When your companion is scratched in the right spots, this releases hormones throughout their system. The response of sticking their tongue out in these instances is similar to the flehmen response.
Cat Sticking Tongue Out And Shaking Head
The action of head shaking with the tongue out can be caused by a few different things. If your cat ate something they were not supposed to, this object could be wrapped around the tongue. If you saw them playing with a string or chewing on a toy, you want to check to ensure nothing is wrapped around the tongue.
Head shaking can point to an ear infection or ear mites as well. If your cat is experiencing head shakes while their tongue is out, it is best to get assessed by your veterinarian to rule out infections or the presence of a foreign object.
Cat With Tongue Out And Drooling - What To Do?
A drooling cat can be responding to scents in the environment, as in the flehmen response we talked about, or simply being interested in some smelly delicacy. However, excessive drooling with the tongue out can also indicate dental disease or other conditions regarding the mouth.
Monitor your cat for other symptoms like lack of appetite, pawing at the mouth, or reluctance to put the tongue back into their mouth. These symptoms can indicate they are in pain or experiencing inflammation of the tongue or mouth. With these concerns, you will want to schedule a vet visit. At the appointment, they may recommend your cat stay for a dental exam.
Is A Cat's Tongue Dirty?
A cat's mouth, in general, is dirty. Just like our mouths, your cat's oral cavity harbors bacteria of all sorts. Cats use their tongue to clean themselves but, this does not mean their tongues are clean. If anything, using their tongues to pull dirt off their body makes their tongues even dirtier than we think.
Read more on our blog post, "How To Brush Your Cat's Teeth."
Why Are Cat Tongues Scratchy?
If your cat has given you a lick, you have felt how scratchy their tongue is. A cat's tongue includes papillae or scratchy spines. These papillae act as a multi-tool for your cat. Their scratchy tongue allows them to pull water into their mouth, strip the meat of their prey, and acts as a hairbrush. These sandpaper tongues play a vital role in survival, and your cat's ability to groom.
Read more on our blog post, "Why Do Cats Clean Themselves After They Eat."
What Is A Cat BLEP?
A cat BLEP is the unconscious act of your cat sticking the tip of the tongue outside the mouth and leaving it there. We often hear the word BLEP associated with cats, but this has been seen in many species. BLEP is an internet-made word, but undeniably perfect to explain a cat with their tongue out.
Cats have many reasons to have their tongue out and about. Always monitor the situation and your cat's well-being if you suspect they are sticking their tongue out due to compromised health.
If you are ever concerned about the behavior, take a video and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss. There is no shame in being an overprotective cat parent. In the cases where health isn't a concern, enjoy your cat's BLEP and have a laugh. Nothing is much cuter than a curious cat sticking their tongue out.