why does my cat stick its tongue out

Why Do Cats Stick Out Their Tongues? All You Need To Know

If you’ve noticed your cat sticking out its tongue you may be wondering why they are doing this and whether or not you should be concerned.

It’s common knowledge that dogs frequently stick their tongues out as a way to cool themselves down but, what about cats?

tongue out cat

Your cats tongue is perfectly adapted to grooming and getting rid of food and loose hair but this can cause unpleasant items to end up in your cat’s mouth. This can result in your cat holding its tongue out trying to remove the item.

Dental diseases, heat stroke, motion sickness, poisoning and other health issues can play a role in your cat holding its tongue out and drooling so keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms and take your cat to the vet if necessary.


Ask a Vet

If you are concerned about why your cat is sticking it’s tongue out then speak with a vet ASAP to help you work out what’s going on and what needs to be done. JustAnswer allows you to talk in real-time to veterinary experts for a small fee.


If your cat is sleeping with part of the tongue sticking out, snap a cute picture and enjoy. There’s nothing wrong, your cat is just very relaxed.

If you’re unsure or worried, seek veterinarian advice for your furry friend.

Some of the primary reasons why a cat may stick its tongue out include:

1. Testing Out A New Taste Or Scent

If you have ever had a bad cold before, you probably know that besides losing your sense of smell, your taste could be affected, too. 

That’s because your mouth and your nose are closely interconnected, and so they are for most other mammals, not just humans. 

Cats use their mouths to test out the consistency of various things in their environment, which is why they might decide to nibble on the unlikeliest of things.

cat having a taste of oblivious mans ice cream

But when they want to smell something, and they want to understand the significance of that scent, they might keep their mouths open and sometimes, even stick their tongues out. 

What’s good about this is that you probably have nothing to worry about — if it only happens on occasion, it’s probably for this reason. 

Keeping their mouths open to test out a new scent can make some cats forget all about retracting their tongues, especially if they want to learn info about other cats, such as whether they’re in heat or not. 

So, if your cat’s keeping her mouth open, her face is completely concentrated, and she does this for just several seconds, she’s probably learning a new smell.

2. A Breed Predisposition

Flat-faced cats are more likely to stick their tongues out, so you’ll notice this behaviour a little more often in breeds such as the Persian. 

Persians have a different type of anatomy, which means that while in other cats, the teeth, meaning their location, size, and orientation, somehow keep the tongue in place, this rule might not apply to them. 

cat with tongue sticking out

Also, flat-faced cat breeds are not only more likely to develop respiratory problems, conjunctivitis, and other such health issues, but they’re also more likely to lose their teeth before it’s naturally time for them to do so. 

Some Persians have such flat faces that they might salivate all the time, which will inevitably lead to them making the ‘blep’ face at least every now and then. 

3. Kidney Failure

Unfortunately, cats are among the likeliest species of animals that have a high chance of developing urinary health problems, including kidney failure. 

This is because they hardly consume enough water throughout their lives (which is also why we recommend giving your cat canned food, too, not just kibble).

Cats that have kidney failure or urinary blockages can suffer from uremia, a condition where the animal is incapable of getting rid of urine using the natural passageway, so there are certain urine components that end up in their blood flow.

The pet’s body will then try to eliminate these substances through the breath (they can even reach the brain in some cases, and if this happens, it’s usually deadly). 

As such, the cat will keep her mouth open, and her tongue will occasionally stick out. 

Moreover, uremic cats often develop necrosis inside their mouths, and having gum ulcers is not fun. The cat will experience pain, drooling and try to keep her mouth open in an attempt to avoid letting her tongue come in contact with the rest of the oral tissue.

What a Cat Uses Its Tongue For

a close up of a british short haired cat's tongue

If you’ve ever been licked by a cat you’ll know that their tongues are quite rough and dry, this is because they use their tongues to groom themselves. The small barbs that cover the tongue (called papillae) are essential for grooming in order to collect any loose hair or food particles (they work like a bit like a super-efficient, wet cat brush).

Cats do not want any of their food stuck in their coat because in the wild the smell can attract other predators to the area. Of course, if your cat has cleaned something from their coat it will then be stuck to their tongue and go into their mouth.

If the item is unpleasant your cat may want to get rid of it but, unlike humans, a cat cannot just reach up and grab the item. Your cat may move their tongue in and out of its mouth as a way to try to remove the unwanted item.

If you see your cat repeatedly sticking its tongue in and out, this ordinarily should only last a minute or two.

You can check your cats mouth for inflammation and sores as well as stuck bits of food.

If you cannot see anything, the behaviour should not persist.

However, in older cats this behaviour or not being able to hold the tongue in the mouth may be a sign of dementia. If you are concerned or are noticing this behaviour, it is advised that you consult a veterinarian.

My Cats Tongue is Out While Sleeping

This is completely normal; your cat is simply very relaxed and the slack of his jaw has allowed the tongue to stick out slightly.

If you see this behaviour, do not worry. Just as you may see your cat twitch during sleep, their tongue may stick out a bit too.

My Cat is Drooling & Licking Frequently

a tabby cat licking its lips

If your cat tends to lick a lot, you may also notice that they are occasionally drooling too.

This can be expected as cats produce saliva and therefore seeing some drool is normal.

However, there are situations when seeing this that should cause alarm bells to ring. Below we’ve outlined some of the key ailments that may cause this behaviour.

Periodontal Disease

Seeing your cat’s tongue sticking out and drool being produced may be a sign that closing their mouth is uncomfortable. This is commonly caused by periodontal disease, which is a bacterial infection resulting from poor dental hygiene.

The inflammation that infections, tooth decay or a chipped tooth can cause is very painful for your cat and that is why you are seeing signs of this in the form of the cat’s mouth being open and drool present.

Feline Stomatitis

This is a condition that is contributed to by poor dental hygiene. It can result in very painful ulcers forming in your cat’s mouth, throat, tongue and gums.

Key symptoms to look out for:
• Inability to close mouth
• Excessive drooling
• Inability to eat or groom
• Panting
• Tongue hanging out

Feline stomatitis is relatively uncommon but is a severe condition. To help avoid conditions such as this from occurring you can alter your cat’s diet so that it includes food that encourages oral health by reducing tartar and plaque and you can offer dental treats that help keep your kitty’s mouth and teeth clean and fresh.

If you have noticed any sores, discomfort or blood in your cat’s mouth or saliva then you should consult a veterinarian.

Calicivirus

This is a viral disease that affects cats regardless of age or other predisposing factors. 

Outdoor cats are more exposed to it since they can get bitten by other animals and contract the condition far more easily compared to indoor-only cats. 

Most cats that have Calicivirus will develop upper respiratory infections, but the disease tends to affect the mouth, too. 

Some pets can develop ulcers of the tongue, gums, lips, and sometimes, even their nose. 

This can make both breathing and swallowing difficult, which is why these cats often have a hard time feeding. 

Since excessive salivation, pain, and breathing difficulties are all signs of this viral infection, these cats are more likely to stick their tongues out compared to healthy ones. 

While there is a vaccine against the Calicivirus infection, it does not prevent cats from catching the disease. It does, however, make it possible for them to develop milder symptoms in case they get it from other animals.

Heatstroke

A cat who has been left in a very hot environment and has no access to fresh clean water may suffer from heatstroke. It is important to encourage your cat to drink regularly, particularly in the hot summer months, an easy way to do this is to give them access to fresh flowing water with a cat water fountain.

the catit senses 3 water fountain

Ordinarily, a cat’s temperate stays at around 38 degrees Celsius and this does not commonly fluctuate.

Your cat may stick their tongue out as a way to try to regulate temperature when suffering from heatstroke.

Without shade and access to water, it is very difficult for the cat to regulate temperature and panting is not very effective.

Signs of heatstroke:
• Tongue out – very red in colour
• Drooling
• Panting
• Struggling to stay balanced

Note: Elderly, obese and certain long-haired breeds are more susceptible to heatstroke.

If you are concerned your cat is suffering from heatstroke, take steps to gradually cool down his temperature and consult a veterinarian.

Motion Sickness

A cat who is in a car with its tongue out, panting and drooling may be experiencing motion sickness.

Motion sickness can be caused by fear, an imbalance of the inner ear, unfamiliar surroundings and past traumas. The sickness should subside when your cat is out of the car and at home.

Poisoning

Your cat sticking its tongue out may also be an indication of poisoning.

A poisoning situation may occur from the cat coming into contact with pesticides, household cleaners, fertilisers (which may have been used on household plants such as orchids – which are safe for cats on their own but fertiliser can be dangerous), prey animals that have been poisoned or toxic plants such as lilies.

If there is a chance your cat has come into contact with poison and is showing symptoms such as:

• Excessive drooling
• Sticking tongue out of mouth
• Vomiting
• Difficult breathing
• Dizziness

You should seek veterinarian assistance immediately.

Respiratory Infection

Nose, throat or sinus infections can cause a cat to stick their tongue out and drool. If the cat is having a hard time breathing, the tongue will wag as the cat tries to inhale.

Signs of respiratory infection include:
• Shortness of breath
• Excessive drooling
• Tongue out
• Lack of balance
• Lack of interest in food and grooming

If you suspect your cat is suffering from a respiratory infection, seek veterinarian advice.


Also Read: Why Do Cats Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them?

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