Have you ever wondered why a cat will be simply sitting or going about its day-to-day with its tongue sticking out? As adorable as it can be, cats stick their tongues out for a number of reasons and can even be a sign of a health problem. Whereas some reasons may be a little more concerning than others this article aims to help owners clarify why their kitty sticks out their tongue.
Your Cat’s Tongue
If you’ve ever been licked by a cat you will understand that it’s similar to having moist sandpaper scrape across your skin. This is because cat tongues are designed to be able to benefit their overall health by aiding grooming and eating.
The surface of the cat tongue is dotted with fleshy barbs known as papillae that are effective when combing through the fur to remove dirt and debris. If pieces of food or interesting scents are left on your cat’s fur, this could potentially attract other predators in the wild which is why your kitty maintains its coat so thoroughly.
Why do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out?
We’ll begin our guide by listing some of the most common reasons why cats stick their tongue out. However, as the list progresses we’ll explore why cats stick out their tongues for more concerning healthcare-related reasons.
They Are Relaxed
As you find your cat sleeping blissfully in his favorite spot you may wonder ‘why does my cat stick his tongue out when he’s fast asleep?’. As simple as it sounds, this happens because your pet’s body is in such an incredible state of relaxation. They feel safe, secure, and content enough for all of their muscles to relax which can also result in a loosened jaw. When this happens your cat’s jaw loosens a decent amount to let the tongue poke out for their human to take a good picture.
Since your cat’s mouth and nose are connected, they might explore a significantly interesting scent better if they have the tongue poking out. This action occurs when a cat has caught the odor of something they haven’t investigated before. This is referred to as the ‘Flehmen Response’.
When they’ve had enough of the scent, they can sometimes simply forget to put their tongue away leaving it exposed.
Getting Rid Of Bad Tastes
Your cat will often explore the world with its mouth as well as its nose, ears, and eyes. Cats stick their tongues out at times when trying to remove a bad taste from their tongue. If you notice them doing this regularly after meals, they may not like the taste of the food.
Blepping is an endearing term used when your cat’s tongue is temporarily situated on the outside of its mouth accidentally or unconsciously. This usually occurs when they’ve been disturbed when grooming.
Mid-groom, something will catch their attention which will cause them to immediately stop mid-lick, leaving the tongue poking out. It’s completely normal and they will usually tuck it back in when it starts to feel dry.
Something Is Stuck
Speaking of grooming, cats groom continuously throughout the day so it’s natural for them to get hair or debris stuck on their tongue. If you’ve seen a cat’s tongue you will have noticed the tiny, rough papillae covering its surface. These structures can help cats release loose hair from their coats as well as remove dirt or food stuck in the hair.
Due to this, cats will occasionally get things stuck in their mouth and will stick their tongues out in an attempt to get it out or have their human remove the issue for them. It’s normal for cats to try to rid themselves of the obstruction however if they are struggling for more than a minute you may need to look for yourself to try and remove the stuck piece.
Rarely, a kitten will have problems trying to remove a loose baby tooth which can cause problems in their mouth leading to them sticking out its tongue.
Similar to Brachycephalic dogs, there are also flat-faced cat breeds that are more likely to have their tongue sticking out of their mouths due to their genetic makeup. Some individual felines with flat faces will have teeth that form differently from other cats which will cause them to stick out their tongue and sometimes drool excessively.
Note: Much like Brachycephalic dogs, these flat-faced cats are also likely to develop respiratory problems and other health issues. These breeds of cats are also likely to prematurely lose teeth before the standard cat breed.
Not all of the reasons why a cat stick out its tongue are innocent. Unfortunately, when your cat’s tongue is sticking out frequently, it could be a sign of a medical problem.
If you’re concerned that your cat sticking their tongue out is more than a simple blep, take a look at the list below for more information regarding health concerns.
A Note On Drooling
Excessive drooling is affiliated with a lot of the below conditions. However, it’s important to know that cats can drool when healthy. Although a cat’s tongue feels rough and dry, cats produce saliva as we do. Owners must note that if the drool is persistent and excessive it can be a cause for concern.
If you’ve noticed that your cat sticks its tongue out frequently whilst traveling it could be struggling with motion sickness. Often coupled with drooling and panting, tongue-wagging is a common symptom of nausea which can be caused by motion sickness.
The movement of the vehicle will be the primary reason behind nausea however if your cat is particularly anxious or skittish then unfamiliar surroundings could add to the pressure. Once your cat is in the comfort in its own home the sickness will often dissipate after a few minutes.
During the warmer months, it is possible for your cat to develop heatstroke. Without access to the shade or fresh water your cat will be unable to cool down and could suffer medically and even collapse under exhaustion. That’s why it’s important to keep your cat cool on a hot day and they must never be left in a hot car.
Long-haired, obese, and older cats will struggle significantly more on hot days so it’s important that extra precaution is applied when caring for one of these felines.
Symptoms Of Heat Exhaustion/Stroke In Cats:
- Excessive drooling
- Panting (although not as obviously as dogs pant when warm)
- A bright red tongue
- Rapid heart rate
Note: Although cats don’t seem to drink as regularly as canines, you can encourage your cat to drink more water by purchasing a fountain. This is because cats sometimes prefer to quench thirst via running water, which is why some felines drink from leaking faucets.
You might notice your cat’s tongue sticking out if they have ingested or tasted something toxic or irritating to their stomach. For instance, household cleaners/chemicals, rotten prey, pesticides, or spoiled food can have a huge impact on their health. In addition to this, some plants and flowers can be poisonous to cats including lilies, tulips, and daffodils.
The symptoms of poisoning can be somewhat similar to heatstroke. If you suspect either is the culprit, consult your vet asap before symptoms can spiral. If particular organs are affected by poisoning you may notice your cat drinking and urinating excessively or they could develop diarrhea.
Symptoms Of Poisoning Can Include:
- Excessive drooling
- Tongue stuck out of the mouth
- Breathing problems
If your cat has difficulty breathing it may leave its tongue hanging out of its mouth. They may also wag their tongue in an attempt to draw breath. Cats with a respiratory infection may lose all interest in grooming and will also lack the ability to balance themselves as they would normally. If you suspect an infection, talk to your vet who can complete the necessary evaluations.
Symptoms Of A Respiratory Infection:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of grooming
- Difficulty balancing themselves
- Nasal and eye discharge
In extreme cases, your cat can develop kidney and urinary problems from a lack of water intake. Uremic cats will leave their mouth open as a way to expel urine components through their breath as the urine is unable to be released through the natural passage. When this happens, cats will let their tongue hang out which can also cause drooling.
Furthermore, your cat’s mouth can develop ulcers as a result of being uremic. When this happens most cats will stick their tongue out so that it doesn’t brush against the ulcers causing further pain.
Symptoms Of Kidney Failure:
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Brownish colored tongue
- Mouth ulcers on the tongue and gums
- Bad breath
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Dry fur/coat
- Frequent urination
Note: If your cat has a history of kidney trouble consult your vet for advice and care. Consider changing its diet to wet food. You can also add wet-food toppers to kibble to add extra hydration to your cat’s meal. Alternatively, try a water fountain as mentioned above, as some cats prefer running water as opposed to a water dish.
Cats are typically clean animals however it is possible for bacteria to build up in their mouth due to bad oral hygiene. If the problem is neglected, the cat could suffer from tooth decay and even tooth loss as a result which can massively impact your cat’s quality of life.
As expected, bad oral hygiene can lead to dental diseases in cats and not just humans and other animals such as canines. The build-up of bacteria can eventually cause abscesses or a chipped tooth resulting in missing teeth. Dental tools and cat toothpaste can be purchased in an attempt to stave off disease and plaque.
Your cat drooling and letting their tongue hang out can be a sign of gingivitis or periodontal disease. When their tongue is hanging out persistently it may be too uncomfortable for them to tuck it back in as contact with the oral tissue can cause pain. The plaque build-up in your kitty’s mouth will cause an immense accumulation of bacteria and inflammation of the gums.
Although a rare dental condition, feline stomatitis is the result of extremely bad and untreated dental issues the result of which can be grievous. Cats can suffer painful ulcers situated on their mouth, tongue, gums, and throat.
When your cat suffers from such painful dental diseases, it can prevent them from eating which can cause weight loss. This is why it’s important to take care of their mouth from the minute you bring them home as a kitty.
Symptoms Of Dental Issues Include:
- Sticking out their tongue
- Loss of appetite/Not eating
- Lack of grooming
- Not being able to close their mouth
Dental Hygiene Tips
Cat owners can purchase specific treats that aid their cat’s dental health by fighting plaque and other bacteria. In addition to this, owners can opt for appropriate diets as well as buy toothbrushes and toothpaste designed for cats.
If You Suspect – Talk To Your Vet
Your kitty is an important member of the family so getting the care that they need is crucial. If you suspect any of the issues above are the reason behind why they stick their tongues out, take a trip to your vet and discuss what symptoms and other signs your cat may be displaying.
Summary – Cat With Tongue Out
Cats sticking their tongue out can sometimes be completely harmless and owners will often have nothing to worry about. However, if your cat is exhibiting concerning symptoms and has a history of healthcare issues, it is always worth seeing your vet. If you catch a condition early, often it will be much easier to treat.
- Cat Sticks Tongue Out When Petted, AnimalPath