You look over at your snoozing kitty and catch a glimpse of their little pink tongue sticking out. It’s absolutely adorable, but is it normal? Probably. Cats stick their tongues out for several reasons, and most of them are nothing to worry about. But there are a few times when the appearance of their tongue could point to a medical problem. Use other clues to find out what your cat is telling you.
1. They’re Relaxed
A lot of cats let their tongues stick out when they’re sleeping because they’re just so relaxed. When they snooze, all their muscles relax, including those that control their jaw and mouth. It’s pretty common to see a bit of their tongue peek out when they’re asleep.
Kittens, in particular, tend to suckle in their sleep. Maybe they’re dreaming about nursing or maybe it’s just a soothing behavior. Either way, you might notice them sticking out their tongue while making sucking noises and kneading with their paws. This is totally adorable and absolutely normal.
Some people refer to the behavior of a cat sticking their tongue out as “blepping.” Cute, right?
2. They’re Grooming
During or after a heavy grooming session, your cat might look up at you with a bit of their tongue showing. If they taste something funny or if some fur gets stuck to their tongue, that could explain their protruding tongue. Usually, they’ll pop their tongue right back into their mouth, but if they don’t, it could be something else.
3. Their Mouth Is Too Small
Certain cat breeds have unique facial anatomy that can make their mouth smaller than most cats. This is most common in brachycephalic or squish-faced breeds, like Persians and Himalayans. These cats tend to stick their tongues out more because their mouths are more crowded.
A tongue sticking out alone usually isn’t a problem, but if one of these squish-faced cats (or any cat) seems to be panting or having trouble breathing, it’s important to see your vet right away.
4. They’re Nauseated
If you’ve ever gagged from feeling sick to your stomach, you likely stuck your tongue out. The same can happen with cats. Nausea from being sick or even motion sickness after a car ride can lead to cat blepping. If it doesn’t resolve or is accompanied by other signs of illness, have your cat checked out.
5. They’re Hot
Cats love being warm, but if the temperature is too high, they can definitely overheat. A hot cat might blep or pant in an attempt to lower their body temperature. Move your cat to a cooler place and start cooling them down if they do this.
6. Their Mouth Hurts
Infected teeth and painful gums often lead to a cat sticking their tongue out. Keeping their tongue inside their mouth can hurt, so they’re blepping out of pain. These kinds of dental issues often make cats drool too. Your vet can address the issue and help make your kitty more comfortable.
If you’re worried about your cat blepping, take a photo of it. This can be helpful in showing your vet exactly what they’re doing (because pets never do these things in front of the doctor!).
7. They’re Sick
Cats with medical problems like feline dementia, respiratory disease, heart conditions, or those who have been poisoned might stick out their tongue because they’re sick. If it’s something new that’s come on suddenly, this could be the cause. Monitor for other signs of these conditions and seek advice from your vet.
Why Do Cats Blep?
Most of the time, cats randomly stick out their tongue because they’re relaxed, they've tasted something funny, or they have some fur stuck on their tongue. In these cases, they’ll just suck their tongue back in and continue as normal. But if your cat bleps continuously or shows any other concerning signs, definitely have them checked out by your vet. That can determine the exact cause and let you know if it’s something to be worried about.