Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongues Out? 5 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

black kitten bleps

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Does your cat have a habit of sticking their tongue out? This particular cat behavior has gained some internet fame. When a kitty sticks out just the tip of its tongue, it is referred to as a “blep.” It makes for adorable photos, but have you ever wondered why cats do this?

In general, this endearing behavior is harmless and comes down to your individual cat’s personality. However, sometimes, there may be an underlying reason why your cat is sticking its tongue out. The reasons for this behavior range from perfectly healthy and normal to potentially serious health conditions. In this article, we will break down all of the possible reasons why your cat is “blepping.”

hepper single cat paw divider

The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Sticks Their Tongue Out

1. They’re Exploring the World

Cats rely heavily on their senses to understand their surroundings, and their tongues are no exception. In fact, they can detect pheromones using a vomeronasal organ, located in the nasal cavity and extending into the roof of their mouths. So, a cat caught mid-blep might simply be trying to decipher scent signals or other information from another cat.

2. It Comes Down to Anatomy

Some cats are more susceptible to blepping than others due to differences in anatomy. Cats with missing canine teeth are more likely to stick their tongues out because these teeth typically help keep the tongue in place. Cats with flatter faces such as Persians are likely more susceptible to sticking their tongues out than other breeds.

white cat bleps
Image By: Pixabay

3. They’re Feeling Relaxed

If your cat is relaxed and asleep, their tongue may subtly slip out. This can be completely normal for some cats, while others will never do it.

4. They Were Interrupted During Eating or Grooming

If your cat has been suddenly interrupted during their usual grooming session or while eating, or if they have some more food left in their mouth, their tongue may be out and doing a blep. This is nothing to be concerned about.

5. Underlying Medical Conditions

In most cases, it’s considered perfectly normal when a cat sticks their tongue out. Sometimes, however, medical conditions can be an underlying cause of this behavior. If you think your cat may have a health problem connected to this behavior, make sure to take them to your vet instead of trying to diagnose the problem yourself.

This article is just a guide on the most common causes for cats sticking their tongue out and does not include all the possible medical issues leading to this behavior, and it cannot be a replacement for a complete veterinary clinical exam. Let’s look into some of the possible most common causes, all of which require veterinary attention.

Dental Problems

Sometimes, your cat may just have food stuck in their teeth. Other times, however, there are more serious issues at play. One of them is dental disease, which may involve gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth resorption. Signs of dental disease in cats often include drooling, pawing at the mouth, awkward chewing, reduced appetite, a preference of wet food over dry food, bad breath, and more.

If you don’t stay on top of your cat’s dental hygiene, they could develop dental problems such as tooth decay and tooth root abscesses, which can lead to sores or a foul taste in your kitty’s mouth. It is recommended that you brush your cat’s teeth at least three times per week to prevent plaque buildup and keep serious dental problems at bay.

Oral Infections

Certain infections can cause inflammation in your cat’s mouth. Some infections, such as feline immunodeficiency virus or calicivirus, can cause ulcers on your cat’s tongue, soft palate, and the back of their throat, causing pain, drooling, bleeding, pawing at the mouth, and a reduced appetite. This is also a reason a cat’s tongue may be sticking out more than usual.


Stomatitis is a serious inflammation of the gums, the floor and roof of the mouth, and the tongue that differs from gingivitis. The exact cause of stomatitis is unknown, but it is thought to be the result of an autoimmune reaction to plaque. In addition to sticking out their tongue, your cat will be in pain and may drool, paw at their mouth, have a bad breath, struggle to eat, or have a decrease in appetite. They may also stop grooming because it is too painful.

Oral Cancer

Cats can develop various lumps in the mouth and base of the tongue, causing the tongue to be sticking out more than usual or their facial expression to change. These lumps can be benign or malignant, and the signs of cats having a tumor in their mouth is very similar to dental disease or stomatitis signs.

Respiratory Disease

Cats that are struggling to breathe or that are breathing with an open mouth like a dog panting may seem like they are blepping or sticking their tongue out. If they have a wide body stance, are struggling to catch their breath, or are breathing very fast and panting, they need to see the vet straight away. This is a life-threatening emergency.

Toxin Exposure

Coming in contact with a toxic or irritant substance will cause many cats to drool, retch, vomit, stick their tongues out, or, depending on the toxin, develop neurological signs.


Cats that are suffering with a stomach upset, motion sickness due to a car drive, or certain systemic organ disease may feel nauseous. This exhibits as drooling, lip smacking, or the tongue being out and may ultimately lead to retching and vomiting.


Cats that are too hot ( often from outside in the sun for too long, being in a poorly ventilated area, or after a strenuous exercise) may pant, thus sticking their tongue out as a way to cool themselves down. However, be mindful that overheating can easily lead to life-threatening heat stroke, and this needs immediate attention.

hepper cat paw divider


There are many reasons why your cat may stick their tongue out, and most of them are harmless. However, if your cat has other signs that could point to a health issue, make sure to visit your veterinarian to find out what’s going on.

You might also be interested in: 

Featured Image Credit: herbert2512, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database