Why Do Cats Stick Out Their Tongue?

Why Do Cats Stick Out Their Tongue
4 minutes to read

There is a lot of weird stuff cats do that we humans find funny. It could be purring and kneading or sticking the tongue out. It is even possible to catch a cat sleeping with tongue out which helps us wonder, why do they do that?

 

Cats stick their tongue out to get rid of food or hair that is stuck on their tongue. You may also notice cats sticking their tongue out during winter to cool their bodies from the heat. Also, disease, dental issues, or motion sickness may cause a cat to stick its tongue out.

 

You must admit that your feline looks goofy each time they stick their tongue out. The funniest bit is when they have the tongue out and stare blankly into space. Weird right? Read on to discover why cats have this strange behavior.

 

Important

When a cat sticks the tongue out for more than a minute, it could be a sign for something serious. The same goes for cats sticking their tongue out repeatedly.

 

Why do cats stick out their tongues?

Why Do Cats Stick Out Their Tongue

Cats stick their tongue out for many reasons. Some of them include;

  • Swallowing food and grooming
  • Interpreting their surrounding
  • A sign of relaxation
  • A symptom for sickness

 

Swallowing food and grooming

Cats roll their tongue to swallow food or groom their bodies through licking. They can do this because of the unique structure of their tongue. A feline’s tongue has what you call papillae which are sharp projects that curve backward.

 

🐱 Fun Fact

The barbs lining a cat’s tongue are made of keratin, the same stuff that makes up the human nail.

 

The papillae in a cat’s tongue push food backwards to help the cat in swallowing. These same barbs lift loose hairs off the coat during grooming. Papillae also make a cat’s tongue sticky which sometimes works against them.

For instance, when a cat lifts hair off it’s caught, it cannot spit the hairball and rather pushes it to the back of its mouth. This is why most cats swallow hairballs and start choking. The same can be said for food, if a cat does not like the taste of kibble in its mouth, it has no way of wiping the sticky food from its tongue.

To find relief, a cat will stick its tongue out to stop tasting the food or hair strands.

 

Interpreting their surrounding/Flehmen Response

Besides swallowing and grooming, cats use their tongue to interpret their surroundings as well. When cats are in heat season, they can pick up pheromones emitted by another cat through the tongue. You will notice your feline sticking the tongue out as if to taste the air. They will then roll their tongue to the upper part of their mouth known as the vomeronasal organ.

This organ interprets the message passed from the tongue and tells the cat what to do next. If they sniff the pheromones off of a female, the cat knows it is time to mate. Interestingly, cats will use the same technique to smell your dirty laundry or discover your stash of potato chips.

So when you see your cat stick their tongue out in the air and hold a thinking look, they are just being curious about a new scent they picked up.

 

A sign of relaxation

Sometimes a cat will be deep in sleep and relax the jaws while at it. During this snoozing mode, the cat might stick its tongue out unknowingly. The same thing can happen when you are petting the cat on your lap. The soft strokes of your hand can send the cat into a deep sleep and stick its tongue out. This cat sleeping with the tongue out phenomenon is commonly known as blepping.

 

 

A Sign of Sickness

Sign of sickness

Cats sticking their tongue out is normal if it is for any of the mentioned reasons. But if your feline has its tongue out for more than a minute, then there could be a problem with its health.

Some diseases that can cause your cat to have its tongue out include;

  • Feline Stomatitis
  • Teeth deformities
  • Periodontal disease
  • Cooling down

 

1. Feline Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a disease that causes ulceration and inflammation around the soft tissue of the mouth. The disease commonly affects the gums, inside of the cheeks, tongue, and the back of the mouth. The painful ulcers can prevent a cat from closing its mouth hence the tongue sticks out.

Other symptoms of feline stomatitis include difficulties in feeding, excessive drooling, and panting with tongue out.

 

2. Teeth deformities

A cracked tooth could cause a cat so much pain whenever they lick their mouths. Some felines will opt to stick the tongue out to prevent themselves from feeling this pain. Missing front teeth could also cause a cat to stick its tongue out and drool at the same time.

 

3. Periodontal Disease

This is an infection of the gums caused by a buildup of plaque in the teeth. When plaque forms in a cat’s teeth, it provides a breeding ground for bacteria. The plaque hardens and destroys the soft tissue of the teeth. This causes bacteria to spread to the roots and form a dental abscess.

A cat may stick its tongue out to prevent it from touching the painful abscess in its mouth.

 

4. Cooling down

Cats use their tongues and paw pads to cool off. If it gets too hot in summers, a cat will stick its tongue out to expel as much heat as possible. If you notice your cat sticking tongue out and drooling, take it to a shady area to cool. Extreme heat can send a cat into heatstroke.

 

Final words

Cats sticking their tongue out is normal feline behavior. But if the habit becomes frequent or goes for more than a minute, your cat could be sick. Take your cat to a vet to have its oral health checked.

 

Resources

  1. Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out? A Complete Guide By Christina Bontempo, thehappycatsite.com
  2. Why Do Cats Stick Their Tongue Out? (+ 6 Surprising Cat Tongue Facts) By Emily Parker, catological.com

See Also


Frequently Asked Questions

A cat licking you is a sign of affection. They learn as kittens when their mother groomed them. A cat may also lick you to detect and interpret a new scent on your skin.

A cat’s tongue is designed to trap food and hair. When they are grooming, stray hairs get caught on the tongue and do not come off easily. The cat may stick its tongue out to try and get rid of the hair.

Your cat is by no means mocking you. The feline might have picked up a new scent on you. It is also possible that the cat has something stuck in its tongue or teeth. Some dental diseases could also cause a cat to stick its tongue out.

A cat can stick its tongue out and forget to put it back. This often happens when the cat catches an interesting scent and gets carried away trying to decipher the new smell. Some cats will stick their cat out longer when feeling excessively hot.

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