Does your cat stick their tongue out? Do you find it as weird as I do? Why do they do this? Are they trying to tell us something?
Let’s uncover the reasons your cat may be choosing to stick their tongue out, and what this behavior may mean.
Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out?
Cats are usually just blepping when they stick their tongue out. They may also be grooming, eating or drinking, or may have just been interrupted in one of these activities. They could also be hot or trying to get rid of something on their tongue.
Some cats stick their tongues out on a daily basis, while others do it very rarely. Both instances are perfectly normal, and you shouldn’t be particularly worried. There are some cases when the tongue may signal an illness, which I get into later.
More often than not though, it’s just one of those things cats do.
They Are Blepping
Cats are quite known for their blepping, i.e. the act of unconsciously leaving their tongue outside their mouth. They will most often, quite honestly, just forget to put it back.
This can often happen during grooming, when they get distracted by something and the tongue just stays out there. It’s incredibly funny, and you’ll likely grab the camera to show your friends just how weird the cat is.
They Are Grooming
Cats will also leave their tongues out when taking a break from grooming, more or less on purpose. They may be letting the tongue cool off, or it may just be their way of signaling that the grooming session is not over yet.
They Are Sleeping
When a cat is in deep, deep sleep, its tongue may stick out. This just means they are totally relaxed, and that their jaw muscles have loosened up, so the tongue is now able to fall out.
The same thing happens to humans, as I’m sure you already know. If you’ve ever woken up with a bit of drool on your face, you can relate to your cat’s state of sleep.
Something Is Stuck to Their Tongue
Since cat tongues are designed to gather dirt and debris from their coats, it’s no wonder that they will often get something stuck to them while grooming.
When a cat sticks its tongue out, it may just be hoping that whatever is stuck to it will fall off. They may also wiggle it around and lick their nose, or try licking you, the furniture or drinking some water to solve the problem.
They Have a Bad Taste in Their Mouth
Cats will also stick their tongue out when looking to get rid of a bad taste in their mouth. If you’ve given them a meal they didn’t particularly enjoy, or if they have bitten something they shouldn’t have, like a houseplant, they will do what they can to clean their tongue. Sticking it out seems to work for them.
They Are Tasting The Air
Cats have an incredibly strong sense of smell. When they open their mouth and let their tongue stick out, scrunching up their face, they are actually opening up their airway so that the scent from the air can hit their vomeronasal, located on the roof of their mouth. This phenomenon is called the Flehmen response
This behavior is used by cats to explore their surroundings, especially if there are other cats about. This is just their way to collect pheromones and tell, for example, if cats in the vicinity are in heat. They are also able to identify prey (and predators) with the use of this trick.
Their Breed Is Predisposed To It
Some breeds are simply more predisposed to sticking their tongue out. Brachycephalic cats, aka cats that we often call flat-faced or short-nosed, have jaws that don’t support keeping their tongue in their mouth at all times.
This includes the Persian, the Burmese and the Himalayan, which is why these breeds are so good at #TongueOutTuesday.
They Are Hot
Cats will also stick their tongues out and pant when they are hot. They can do this after a vigorous playing session, after the zoomies, or on a very hot day.
If you notice your cat panting, make sure to give them time to cool down and relax. If it’s the height of summer, find them a cool spot and offer them plenty of fresh water. If they don’t seem to be recovering after a couple of minutes or collapse, take them to the vet immediately, as they are likely suffering from a heat stroke.
They Are Nauseous
Cats will also sometimes stick their tongue out when they are nauseous. They will lick their lips and move their tongue around right before vomiting.
There are many reasons a cat may be throwing up. It might just be a hairball, or they may have eaten too much, or perhaps the food they have been given does not sit with them well. Maybe they started playing too soon after a meal.
Sasha for example has a vomiting bout when she stuffs her face with too much dry food.
If your cat is vomiting, make sure to uncover the cause, and take them to the vet if you are unsure.
They Are Having Motion Sickness
Cats can also get motion sickness, especially if they are also anxious about going to the vet. They may stick their tongue out to ease the nausea, or they may be getting ready to throw up.
Try to make your cat as comfortable in the car as you can. Note that some cats will just never get completely used to car rides, and may get sick every time.
It’s a Neurological Issue
While extremely rare, a stuck-out tongue can also be caused by a neurological disorder. You will also notice odd movements that involve the paws or head, along the weird tongue movements.
Take your cat to the vet if you notice this behavior.
They Have a Respiratory Infection
Cats may also stick their tongue out when they are having difficulty breathing. They could be suffering from a respiratory infection, in which case they will also be coughing or sneezing.
If your cat has a history of respiratory or heart disease, take them to the vet if they seem to be having difficulty breathing and are sticking their tongues out often.
They Have Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease can also be the reason your cat is sticking their tongue out. You will also notice they are drooling excessively, are refusing to eat or seem uncomfortable while eating. Their breath may also smell bad.
Take your cat to the vet if you notice any of these symptoms, as they may have a condition that requires treatment. Cats can suffer from plaque buildup, as well as gingivitis, so you want to take them in for a yearly tooth checkup too.
They Have Stomatitis
Cats will also stick their tongues out when they have stomatitis, which is an inflammation of the mouth. It will be accompanied by irritated and red gums and difficulty eating and grooming.
Needless to say, take your cat to the vet if you notice they have pain anywhere around their mouth and are having difficulty chewing or keeping themselves clean.
They Are Also Drooling
Unlike in dogs, drooling in cats is not normal and can be a sign of something serious. Dental and kidney disease can be the culprits, as can poisoning and trauma.
If you notice your cat is drooling and is sticking its tongue out, take them to the vet to see what the cause is.
They Are in The Middle of Eating or Drinking
Cats obviously stick their tongues out while eating and drinking. If they are interrupted or are taking a break, their tongue might stay outside the mouth for no particular reason. It’s just a thing cats do sometimes.
Finally, there may be another reason your cat is sticking its tongue out: you. If you laugh at them every time they do it, take a photo, pet them and give them attention, they will cotton on to the fact that you like it and will reward it.
Some cats will literally walk up to you and stick their tongue out when they want something, as you’ve sent them a signal that you like this behavior so many times before.
They may also lick your nose and keep the tongue out, which is probably up there with the funniest cat behaviors you can expect.
Sasha is the master of sticking her tongue out. Case in point:
Wrapping It Up
In most cases, cats will stick their tongues out unconsciously and will soon pull them right back. This is especially true while grooming and sleeping. In rare cases, the stuck-out tongue can be a sign of illness or disease. If your cat does not usually stick its tongue out or if you notice any other unusual behavior, take them to the vet just to be safe.