Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out? Exploring the Reasons Behind Cat Sticking Tongue Out And Open Mouths
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Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out? Exploring the Reasons Behind Cat Sticking Tongue Out And Open Mouths

In this article, we’ll explore the mystery behind the “blep,” if a cat can have a breed-specific predisposition to stick out their tongue, signs of relaxation, and what role the sense of smell can play. Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll hopefully better understand the reasons behind this relatively common question amongst cat lovers alike.

Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongues Out?

Rest assured that a cat's tongue sticking out is not always a cause for immediate concern. You may have seen this termed a “mlem” in social media posts or popular memes, but what does this term really indicate? According to an article written by Zoetis Pet Care, the reasoning behind why do cats stick their tongue out can be for a variety of reasons. This action is often done unconsciously, so it is best to describe this as a situation where a cat has their tongue hanging out. However, cat owners must always be aware that a cat with their tongue stuck out could also indicate a medical issue. A veterinary professional should evaluate and address this as soon as possible.

Eating and Drinking

Although some cats have extra toes that resemble thumbs, they still don’t hold a cup like humans do to get water. Instead, they use their tongue to lap up water. You may notice that your cat fancies running water, whether that be from a fountain or a sink. Next time they’re taking a drink, take a little time to observe how they drink water! You’ll notice it’s very similar to how a dog drinks. 

Some have equated a cat’s tongue to sandpaper, and that rough feeling they notice is the papillae on the tongue, which has a somewhat prickly feel. These papillae aid in both eating and grooming. Remember that if your cat ever displays changes in their eating, drinking, or dietary habits, they should be evaluated by your veterinarian to check for any potential health concerns.

Your Cat Is Blepping

While the term “blep” or “blepping" may be new to your vocabulary, a quick search on your favorite social media platform will prove this term is far from new and is widely used amongst cat owners and fanatics. Simply put, a blep represents a cat with a small section of the tip of its tongue sticking out. While this can be an innocent and chuckle-worthy sight, be sure to make note of any other physiological processes and the frequency at which this occurs so your veterinarian can advise you of any potential items for concern.

Your Cat Is Relaxed or Sleeping

A cat with their tongue stuck out can represent a cat at rest or one that is likely basking in the sun rays beaming through your window, catching up on some sleep, which makes sense when you think about this being an unconscious action. When at rest, the muscles in the body relax. Don’t forget, the tongue is considered a muscle!

Something Is Stuck to Their Tongue

As a pet owner, chances are you’ve had some pet hair stuck to or in your mouth at one time or another. The same can happen with cats. You may notice that your cat is sticking their tongue out repeatedly; it could be that they are trying to get something off the surface. Think about the papillae we discussed earlier; it’s easy to see how something could get stuck!

Your Cat’s Breed Is Predisposed to It

You may be surprised to hear that your cat’s breed can predispose them to the relatively routine blep. The association between a cat’s particular breed and their tongue sticking out cad often sometimes be attributed to the bone structure in their face that is characteristic of their specific breed. This is often seen in cat breeds with a face that appears flattened.

Your Cat Is Hot

Like other animals and humans, our feline friends can also become distressed by heat. VCA Animal Hospitals provides deeper insight into how a cat that appears to be panting may be experiencing trouble breathing or heat stroke, both of which are considered medical emergencies. Trouble breathing is termed dyspnea and requires immediate veterinary intervention. If you are ever concerned that your cat displays any signs of distress, seek veterinary care immediately. As discussed by Pet MD, cats cannot regulate body heat like humans can. Animals primarily release heat through their paw pads, which are relatively small compared to their body. Sometimes, your cat may appear to be panting or sitting with their mouth open in an effort to cool themselves off. 

It is advisable to ensure you know where the nearest animal emergency clinic is near your home. These facilities are often open when your regular veterinarian is not. It is best to have a plan in place and not need it than find yourself in a situation where you need it, don’t have it, and become more frantic in an attempt to find a facility where you can seek care for your beloved pet.

a close up of a cat with its tongue out
a close up of a cat with its tongue out

Cat Sticking Tongue Out: Is It Related to Smelling?

Still worried about the question, “why does my cat stick his tongue out?” This scenario with your feline friend can sometimes indicate what is known as a Flehman Response. As described by Zoetis, cats have a unique sensory tool on the roof of their mouth, which aids in their sense of smell. You may still wonder why cats open their mouths when using their sense of smell;. due to the location of this sensory tool in your cat’s mouth, if they happen upon a scent that they find intriguing, they may open their mouth to further ‘analyze’ that particular smell.


Cats and kittens can stick their tongue out or hold their mouth agape for a variety of reasons. Remember that the occasional blep or mlem can be normal! In these cases, don’t forget to snap a cute picture with your camera for an adorable keepsake. At times, a cat tongue sticking out is an adorable moment to capture. However, it is always important to make note of these instances and any other co-occurring behaviors so that you can discuss them with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats stick their tongue out when they’re happy?

When we see what looks like a smiling dog, we often equate that to happiness and contentedness. This can be the same for cats in some instances. Relaxation and being content often go paw-in-paw, so you may see a tiny bit of your cat or kitten’s tongue out on occasion when they’re relaxed, at rest, and enjoying themselves.

Why do cats do the blep?

Blepping can be attributed to several causes, such as the Flehman Response to a scent nearby, relaxation, distraction, or, at times, illness. Always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your feline friend’s behavior and health!

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