Cat Sticking Tongue Out? What to Know About this Oddly Adorable Behavior.

Cat Sticking Tongue Out? What to Know About this Oddly Adorable Behavior.

Cat sticking tongue out ... is this your cat trying to send you a message – neener, neener – or does it indicate a problem with their health? Here’s what you need to know.
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If you notice your cat sticking their tongue out, almost as if they’ve forgotten to put it back in their mouth, you may be thinking, what the blep? (Yes, blep is the made-up internet term used to describe this oddly adorable behavior.)

So what’s next? Is your cat destined to be an Instagram star or is blepping something that should concern you? Read on and we’ll give you the scoop on cats sticking their tongues out.

7 Surprising Reasons Why Cats Stick Their Tongues Out

#1. They Know You Love It

Sure, dogs are easily trained with positive reinforcement, especially when there are biscuits involved, but many cats are the same! If your cat sees you freaking out (in a good way) when they blep, they may step it up to get a reward, whether it’s your attention, a treat, or a snuggle.

#2. Who Ya Callin' Smooshy Face?

Flat-faced cat breeds, also called brachycephalic breeds if you like to impress your friends with big words, are more prone to blepping because they don’t have the right anatomy to keep their tongues tucked inside their mouths all the time. The most common flat-faced breeds include Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese cats.

#3. Whoever Smelt It ... Dealt It?

There’s a smorgasbord of odors in and outside a home, some more appealing than others. Well, cats gather intel about their environment through scent. Specifically, they use their vomeronasal organ (another impressive word), located on the roof of their mouths, to taste the air. This process is called the flehmen response.

As they do this, you may see your cat open their mouth and curl their lips, with an expression as if to say, Eww, who tooted? Don’t worry. This grimace doesn’t mean they’re repulsed. It’s simply how they look when they’re analyzing interesting smells. And oftentimes, their tongue hangs out in the process!

#4. They're Chillin' Like a (Cat) Villain

Ahh, nothing beats a good cat nap. And when your cat is stealing a few winks, or even just lazing around, their jaw muscles can relax, leaving their mouth ajar for the tip of their tongue to poke through. And, like the humans in the home, your cat may drool a bit too! When they wake up and start doing other things, sometimes they just forget to put their tongue back into their mouth.

#5. Your Cat Is Motion Sick or Not Feeling Well

Going for car rides is not high on a cat’s list of Fun Ways to Spend My Time. Many cats get motion sick in the car, and the stress and anxiety that goes along with it only makes matters worse. When cats are motion sick or not feeling well in general, they may drool more than usual. This excess saliva can cause them to keep their mouth relaxed and open, giving you a peek of their tongue.

#6. Your Cat Is Hot

While your cat may need to take a little break after a competitive game of tag, they shouldn’t be panting like dogs do. If your cat is open-mouth breathing, with or without their tongue sticking out, this can be a sign of breathing difficulty. If it’s a hot day and a cool-down with some fresh water isn’t doing the trick, you’ll want to contact the vet. In addition to panting, signs of heatstroke in cats include drooling, vomiting, rapid pulse, lethargy and trouble walking.

#7. Your Cat's Dental Care Isn't Up to Snuff

Sure, cats are independent creatures, but one thing they can’t do for themselves is take care of their teeth. If you’re not giving your cat dental care at home, or taking them in for yearly teeth cleanings, this leads down the path of periodontal disease (severe gum disease), which can take years off a cat’s life, as bacteria from infected gums can damage their vital organs, like the heart and kidneys.

Gum disease starts with plaque, which naturally forms on a cat’s teeth after meals. If the plaque doesn’t get removed, it can harden into tartar on your cat’s teeth.

Because bacteria in plaque and tartar cause inflammation, your cat may find it more comfortable to stick their tongue out of their mouth. And if gum disease has advanced enough, they may be missing the teeth that help hold their tongue in place.

Signs of gum disease in cats

  • Bad breath (often the first warning sign)
  • Yellow-brown tartar on cat’s teeth (check their back molars ... this is where tartar accumulates most)
  • Gums look red or swollen
  • Difficulty chewing, only chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food, or refusing food
  • Pawing at their face or not wanting to be touched around the face
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood on toys, treats or dishes

There are four stages of periodontal disease in pets, and you don’t get to the point of severe inflammation and tooth loss overnight. In fact, in the earliest stage – the gingivitis stage, which 70% of cats are in by age three – gum disease is completely reversible with good cat dental care at home.

Cat Dental Cleaning Costs

The key to your cat’s home dental care is to stop plaque buildup. Plaque is sticky and gummy and easy to remove at home, but tartar requires scaling tools and your kitty going under anesthesia for a professional dental cleaning.

Cat dental cleaning costs are usually around $300 but can vary quite a bit depending on where you live, the age of your cat, and whether your cat needs pre-anesthetic blood-work screening or tooth extractions (tooth removal). Your veterinarian should give you an estimate, so you’re not surprised about your cat’s dental cleaning costs.

Good-to-know info: Cat parents who give their pets dental care at home often report that they don’t have to get their cats’ teeth professionally cleaned as often, if at all. Less money at the vet = more money for salmon treats.

Cat Dental Care: Meet Your Easiest. Solution. Ever.

We’re not going to stick our tongues out (that’s the cat’s job) and be all judge-y if you’re among the 86% of people who rarely brush their cat’s teeth.

There IS an easier way to do cat dental care, one that allows your cat to be completely oblivious and allows YOU to maintain your dignity: Oxyfresh Water Additive.

This genius solution does the job of a toothbrush – eliminating plaque and bad breath – but without all the hassle, claw marks and death stares from your cat. Just add Oxyfresh Water Additive into your cat’s fountain or water bowl daily and you’re good to go. It’s that bleppin’ easy!

What’s our secret for healthy cat smiles? Proprietary Oxygene® ... a safe, non-toxic ingredient that oxidizes the harmful bacteria that cause plaque and cat bad breath right at the source.

Best of all, this cat dental care solution is free of flavors and scents so even the pickiest cats will be none the wiser!

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The Final Word on Cat Sticking Tongue Out

No doubt about it: your cutie-patootie cat looks even more adorable with their tongue sticking out. And if it’s a behavior that they’ve always engaged in, you can chalk it up to one of their little quirks. However, if the behavior comes on suddenly and they’re showing signs of not feeling well, you’ll want to make an appointment with the vet to make sure the cat-sticking-tongue-out situation isn’t something serious. And be sure to get rolling on a cat dental care routine if you haven’t already. Not only can this save you some serious bucks at the vet, but it will enhance your cat’s health and happiness. Meow!

melissa gulbranson oxyfresh cmo

Meet the Author

Melissa Gulbranson is the Co-Chief Operating Officer & Chief Marketing Officer for Oxyfresh. A recipient of the Pet Age's "Women of Influence" Award, she’s passionate about educating pet parents in ways that really resonate with them. Melissa loves days on the lake and hiking with her fur kid, Parker, and husband, Doug. Parker (a total ham) can be spotted running laps through the office each morning, greeting every team member. You can find Parker near the treats, and Melissa on Linkedin.