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Why Do Cats “Blep”? (Leave Their Tongues Hanging Out)

black kitten bleps
Image Credit: Pixabay

If you’ve seen it happen, you’ve probably wondered what it was: the blep. This term refers to the tip of a cat’s tongue sticking out of their mouth. There seems to be no real reason for this behavior, but it looks adorable and kind of silly. The term “blep” isn’t a scientific word. It was made up on the internet and has caught on so well that most people know what it means by now. But what would cause a cat to do this? Do they know that they’re doing it? In this article, we look at a few reasons that cats blep and what you need to know about this cute and curious action.

1. They Forgot That Their Tongue Was Out.

Did you interrupt your cat’s bath or dinner? They may look up at you with their tongue hanging out, having not realized that it was happening! If the blep is repeated quickly, they may be attempting to remove something from their tongue. This could be a food that they don’t like or a hair that got stuck.

white cat bleps
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. They’re Relaxed.

When cats are feeling relaxed, they relax their entire body. This includes their jaw. They may loosen their jaw enough for the tip of the tongue to slip out while they’re sleeping. This is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. If you see your cat sleeping comfortably and they’re blepping, you know that they’re getting a quality nap.

3. They’re Missing Teeth.

A tongue is more likely to slip out of a cat’s mouth if they don’t have all their teeth. Teeth help keep your cat’s tongue in place, and if some are gone, the tongue can slip out without your cat even noticing.

vet checking cat's teeth_PRESSLAB, Shutterstock
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

4. They Have a Flat Face.

In breeds with flat faces, such as Persians, cats have small mouths with little room inside of them. It’s not uncommon for their tongues to stick out a little more often.

5. They’re Hot.

When cats overheat, they regulate their body temperatures through the pads of their feet and their tongues. If your cat is hot, try to help them by cooling them down. Move them into the shade, bring them into the air conditioning, and consult a vet if signs of heatstroke occur. These include panting, drooling, heavy breathing, vomiting, trouble walking, and a temperature of over 105°F.

bengal cats licking eachother
Image Credit: Ilona Koeleman, Shutterstock

6. They Have Periodontal Disease.

Even if your cat has all their teeth, those teeth could be covered in plaque. If the gums become inflamed because of the plaque buildup, this can cause swelling and abscesses. Sometimes it becomes painful for cats to close their mouths, and their tongue slips out. If you notice that your cat seems to be in pain while blepping, it’s time to bring them to the vet for an exam.

7. They’re Analyzing a New Scent.

When cats explore their environment, they use all their senses. The Flehmen Response is the act of cats “tasting the air.” They use their vomeronasal organ, located on the roof of their mouths, to take note of the air around them and identify scents. They’re also detecting signals from other cats, like spraying or scratching. Scents are left behind by other cats to mark their territories. Cats have a good way of detecting these. If your cat is indoors, they may be using the Flehmen Response to check out new food or a treat to get an idea of what’s in it and if they find it appealing. Blepping is common during this, although their mouth may be open while it’s happening.

tortoiseshell ragamuffin cat
Image Credit: Laralou Photography, Shutterstock

8. They Have Something Stuck In Their Teeth.

If you’ve ever seen a cat struggle to remove something in their teeth, you know that it can be a process. In the middle of this act, your cat may just take a moment to relax before trying again, leaving their tongue out of their mouth. The next time that you see your cat blepping, notice if they seem to be struggling with something stuck in their teeth. Perhaps you could assist them!

9. There’s A Medical Problem.

In older cats, dementia might be a concern if you see your cat blepping often, especially if they don’t put their tongue back in their mouth for long periods. They may have forgotten how to do this. Cats with dementia seem confused, have decreased appetites, may have trouble sleeping, and seem irritable. If you notice this behavior in your senior cat, have your veterinarian assess them.

vet giving cat a vaccine
Image Credit: VP Photo Studio, Shutterstock

10. They’ve Been Exposed To A Toxin.

Cats sticking their tongues out combined with drooling, vomiting, or dizziness may mean they’ve been poisoned. Even if you’re not sure that your cat came in contact with anything dangerous, head to the vet if they’re exhibiting this behavior. Common toxins to cats include:

  • Bleach
  • Antifreeze
  • Disinfectants
  • Dog flea and tick medications
  • Lilies
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Xylitol
  • Alcohol

11. They Have Motion Sickness.

Cats, like people, can get sick when they’re traveling in a car or plane. Blepping during travel is a way for them to try to deal with the feeling of motion sickness that they are experiencing. The blepping should stop once the traveling is over and the cat is stationary again.

sick cat
Image Credit: Ro_ksy, Shutterstock

Is This Normal Behavior?

Overall, blepping is completely normal. Your cat may be distracted and forget to replace their tongue, or they are trying to identify a new scent in the air. A cat blepping while sleeping is a truly relaxed cat. The tongue slips out of the loosened jaw, showing you that your cat is fully asleep and resting. If your cat bleps after eating, this is also not a cause for concern. Food can be stuck on the tongue or in the teeth, and your cat is just trying to remove it. The only times that blepping would signify something more serious are when the behavior:

  • Is constant and does not stop
  • Is accompanied by vomiting, drooling, dizziness, or weakness (heatstroke or toxic poisoning)
  • Is accompanied by confusion, lack of appetite, and sleeplessness (dementia)

If you’re concerned about your cat’s mouth health or think that a medical issue may be occurring, bring your cat to the vet for a checkup. If the cat gets a clean bill of health, the blepping is nothing to worry about.

side view of a cat's tongue that is sticking out
Image Credit: Annette Meyer, Pixabay

One More Reason

One last possible reason for blepping is simply that our cats know that we like it. You might not think that cats can be trained, but they absolutely can! They learn to use litter boxes, they learn routines, and they learn our emotions. Cats can tell when we are reacting positively to something that they’re doing. If they blep and we make a big deal out of it, laughing and taking pictures, there’s a chance that the cat realizes this and chooses to blep again just to delight us.

Conclusion

There are several reasons that cats blep. While most of them mean nothing is out of the ordinary and this is a normal cat behavior, a few reasons can be signs of an underlying health problem. Usually, cat blepping is a cute thing cats do that can entertain us and make for adorable photos. If you notice any other behavior, though, such as vomiting, drooling, or dizziness, take your cat to the emergency vet right away. Otherwise, you can enjoy this cute feline action and know that your cat is just being a cat.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay