Cat Sticking Their Tongue Out – Here’s Why!

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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.

A gorgeous maine coon cat sticking out his tongue for no reason, Cat Sticking Their Tongue Out? [Here's Why]

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

A beautiful maine coon cat on a black background

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.

A gorgeous blue tabby cat sticking out his tongue on a white background

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.

A beautiful Bengal cat licking his nose

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:

  • Stomatitis
  • Infections
  • Senior Dementia
  • Dental Issues

A man opening his cats mouth

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.

A super cute little kitten sticking out his tongue while sleeping

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.

A gray Chartreux cat sticking out his tongue while looking at the camera

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.

A british shorthair cat licking his nose

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.

A gorgeous maine coon cat sticking out his tongue for no reason

In Summary

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.

A gorgeous cat wearing round glasses sticking out his tongue

 

4 comments on “Cat Sticking Their Tongue Out – Here’s Why!

maddy July 15, 2021
very nice site can any one visit my blog ehotness com i appreciate your time and help thank you.
Janice H July 13, 2021
I feel that my cats stick their tongue in and out of their mouth when they want something to eat; feral cat semi-approached me with tongue flicking--It was very hungry and I fed it; indoor cat signals me he is hungry with a little tongue tip hanging out briefly...
Mrsty1203 June 13, 2021
We just adopted a cat in January who is 4 years old. She has the most adorable habit of sticking her tongue out a little at me when she’s trying to get my attention. She does it a lot, more than any other cat I ever had. It’s definitely just a trait of hers.
gilmargl June 10, 2021
My not-so-young cat has only recently started letting her tongue poke out. I'm assuming it's a result of having teeth removed, including the 2 upper canines. Her face also appears to be more pointed.

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