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Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out? 16 Reasons

reviewed by a veterinary box

Cats can look hilarious and cute when they stick their tongues out – which is good as they tend to do it frequently. Unlike humans, it is unlikely that your cat is rude when it sticks its tongue out – so why do cats stick their tongue out?

There is a multitude of reasons, from the innocuous to symptoms of bigger health and wellness issues. But, not every instance is a reason to rush to the vet yet. Unless this is paired with one or more symptoms, you and your pet should be in the clear.

So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, ‘why does my cat stick his tongue out?’ keep reading as I break down all of the possible reasons for this odd habit.

silver tabby cat with tongue out why do cats stick their tongues out


Cat Sticking Tongue Out? 16 Reasons Why

So, why is my cat’s tongue out? Here are the top reasons ranging from as harmless to symptoms of a more serious issue.

1. Your Cat Has Hair on Its Tongue

Interestingly, this reason can also apply to humans. I often seem to have cat fur on my tongue. 

But of course, your kitty will possibly have more due to the amount it sheds. This is especially true in the seasons when cats shed the most. Plus, their tongue is much smaller, so the hairs will take up more significant space.

This situation often occurs after your cat has had a grooming session and ends up with some hair on its little exfoliating tongue. Usually, your cat will have tried several ways to remove the hair. But if they can’t and have had enough, they will just relax and let their tongue hang out, hoping nature will take care of it.

cat tongue licking up close

2. Your Cat Is Blepping

Blep or blepping originated on the internet as an onomatopoeia. It is quite an accurate word describing the act of unconsciously leaving, usually just the tip of the tongue outside the mouth. 

Internet users usually use it for both cats and dogs, but it can also be applied to other animals (and maybe some humans??).

Thankfully it is harmless. Cats use all of their sense to explore the world, including their tongues, and sometimes they just forget to put their tongues back in their mouths. 

In fact, blepping can be a rather meditative state for your kitty. If your cat sticks their tongue out, they are at one with the moment and are often taking in all elements of its surroundings. They could just be exploring smells they hate, tastes they love, and even interesting sounds around them.

However, if it’s an old cat’s tongue hanging out and it keeps happening a few times, it could be a sign of dementia. More on this later.

3. Your Cat Wants To Get Rid of a Bad Taste in Its Mouth

Cats will usually stick out its tongue to rid themselves of the bad taste if they’ve had an untasty meal. If you have a picky cat and you want to get them to eat, you can try to add some fresh food into their bowl or incorporate play into their meals.

But, more often than not, your feline might’ve nibbled something they shouldn’t have or accidentally got flea treatment into their mouths. If you have a pet eager to chomp on anything, it is important to keep cats away from plants or objects that may be harmful. 

If they have ingested something toxic, it is imperative that you take them to the vet immediately so they can treat the issue.

tabby cat with tongue out

4. Your Cat Is Very Relaxed

Similarly to blepping, something your pet’s tongue just hangs out of its mouth because it’s in a truly relaxed state.

Sometimes when your cat is in a very relaxed sleeping position, half asleep, or is being groomed, they may be so relaxed that their tongue just kind of falls out of their mouth a bit. This can, of course, also be why your cat is drooling sometimes.

Other signs to see that your cat is relaxed include low-pitch purrs, chirps, head boops, and slow blinks. If they’re totally relaxed ad feel safe around you, you may even notice them snuggling or constantly being around you too.

5. Your Cat’s Mouth Is Out of Room

This is a situation that sometimes arises with flat-faced cat breeds. In some flat-faced cat breeds like Persians, a cat’s tongue is almost always out of its mouth. This is due to the shape of your cat’s mouth and the fact that there isn’t much room.

ginger persian cat

While this isn’t a problem, it can cause issues for your cat while eating. If that is the case, do see your vet. Sometimes vets can remove teeth to ease this issue.

6. Your Cat Has Dental Problems

If your cat also has bad breath or is not eating as they usually do, plus its tongue is spending quite a bit outside its mouth, they may have dental problems.

Brushing is preferred, but sometimes our pets are just finicky about it. Thankfully, you can help them by keeping your cat’s teeth clean without brushing. If you keep up with their dental hygiene, they can develop dental issues like gingivitis and periodontitis.

If their tongue is out, accompanied by their resistance to eating dry foods, treats, and a slowed eating pattern, it may be time for a check-up.

7. Your Cat Has Lost Its Front Teeth

Speaking of dental health, although not common, your cat can lose their teeth. Kittens tend to lose their baby teeth until they are three to four months old and will start growing adult teeth just like humans. However, if your cat loses any of their “adult teeth”, it should raise some dental red flags.

A loss of front teeth may be the cause of your cat’s tongue sticking out. A cat’s front teeth actually hold its tongue back and in place. If they are gone, there will be tongue slippage.

a vet brushing the teeth of a cat in studio

8. Your Cat Is Thirsty or Too Hot

If it is a warm day and there is quite a bit of tongue-lolling. Check that your cat has easy access to fresh water to keep your pets safe in a heatwave.

Long-haired cats are more prone to heatstroke than short-haired breeds, so keep an eye on them. If your cat also appears disoriented or vomiting, this may be a heatstroke. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.

9. Your Cat Has Stomatitis

Stomatitis can happen to cats at any age. It can take the form of ulcers, painful gums, inflammation, and a sore tongue. Stomatitis has multiple causes – from a common cat virus to a compromised immune system to bad teeth. It is not a common disease, but it is very painful.

If your cat is also losing weight, drooling, pawing at its face, and sticking its tongue out, do see your vet. Stomatitis is treatable with medication.

tabby cat with tongue out in bath

10. Your Cat Has Dementia

Although cats can live a long time, as they deteriorate with age, so does their mind. If your cat is over 15 years old and sticking its tongue out, this could be a sign of cat dementia.

Other symptoms of cat dementia include changes to your cat’s sleeping habits, disorientation, and changes in grooming habits. Many times your cat’s sleeping position reveals they’re sick, so keep a close eye on them throughout the day.

There is no treatment for cat dementia at the moment. If you suspect this is the case, see your vet. They’ll be able to advise you on how to make your cat as comfortable as possible.

grey cat with yellow eyes and tongue up

11. Your Cat May Have Been Poisoned

This is uncommon, sometimes your cat eats something venomous, like a poisoned dead mouse. If this is the case, it will most likely stick its tongue out, trying to get rid of whatever has caused the issue. 

Remember that quite a few flowers can be toxic for cats. Call your vet asap if you think this is the case.

grey tabby cat with tongue out

12. Your Cat Is Grooming Itself

When cats aren’t sleeping, they are often grooming themselves. The tongue is a vital part of a cat’s grooming routine. 

Their tongue is covered in little spiky pieces of keratin called papillae. These little spikes are critical in allowing a cat to groom itself effectively.

If your cat is sticking its tongue out, it may take a break mid-grooming. Or, it may have recently finished grooming itself and just forgotten that its tongue was still lolling out and about.

tabby cat mouth open and tongue out in front of food bowl

13. Your Cat Has Something Stuck In or Between Its Teeth

After a tasty meal, often, we get a bit of food stuck between our teeth. We have toothpicks or floss to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling. But cats? They’re not so lucky.

When cats get food stuck in places in their mouths or between their teeth. so they will use whatever they have at hand (or paw) —their tongue. By sticking their tongue out, they can dislodge whatever they want out of their mouth.

14. Your Cat Is About To Vomit

Most cats stick their tongue out when they feel like vomiting. This is most likely to happen just after your cat has eaten, particularly if they are trying new food.

But they can also vomit due to motion sickness.  Usually, your cat’s tongue will start to wag in the car before they vomit. If you’re in a vehicle and this starts happening, try to stop it and let your cat get some fresh air before continuing with the journey. Calming treats may also help them on long drives.

ginger cat with green eyes and tongue out up close

15. Your Cat Has a Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infections in cats are quite common in cats and are similar to a cold. The good news is that you can’t catch a cold from your cat, so you should have more than enough energy to help them recover.

One o the first things you’ll notice with an upper respiratory infection is that your cat struggles with its breath. And as a result, its tongue may come out of its mouth. Other symptoms usually associated include loss of coordination or interest in grooming.

You can treat it at home with a little extra TLC, but if the problem persists for more than a few days a vet is the best option.

16. Your Cat’s Jaw Has Loosened

Again, just like with humans, while a cat is sleeping, it may become so relaxed that its jaw loosens. This can also happen while you are petting your cat. When a cat’s jaw relaxes, the tip of its tongue will come out of its mouth.

In most cases, a cat sticking its tongue out is not a cause for concern and can be pretty endearing. However, if it is an ongoing behavior accompanied by other symptoms like weight loss or lethargy, it is always worth checking in with your vet.

Scottish Fold Tabby Cat with tongue out
Scottish Fold Cat

Why is My Cat’s Tongue Out

As a pet owner, you can pat yourself on the back for doing the necessary research to ensure your pet’s well-being. 

While this list tells you 16 reasons why your cat’s tongue is sticking out, it’s not exhaustive. And a cat tongue sticking out alongside any other symptoms, it’s better to be on the cautious side and take them for a vet check-up.

But don’t worry. The majority of the time, a cat sticking its tongue out is a symptom of them just spacing out and resting in a relaxed manner.

Have you experienced a situation where a cat has stuck out their tongue? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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charlotte photo

Meet the Veterinary Expert

Charlotte recently became a doctor and studied at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. She’s volunteered in her university’s obstetrical clinic, and equine clinic, and is dog mum to 14-year-old Chiki. Charlotte loves to travel and has completed externships in Austria, Spain, and Belgium.

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