Those moments where your cat looks like a real-life tongue-out emoji are funny, cute, and worthy of sharing on your socials. But cats stick out their tongues for many reasons, not just to be playful. Sometimes, this behavior indicates that your feline buddy isn't well and needs an appointment at your local vet's office.
Let's start with a reason you don't have to worry about—pure unfettered relaxation. When cats are affectionately petted, their tongues hang out a bit, just as yours might at a massage. And when they're halfway to dreamland or taking a cat nap, their jaws loosen, and there might be some slobbering.
Have you ever had something like a strand of hair or piece of fluff adhere to your wet tongue? It's harmless, but you'll immediately blow raspberries or run your teeth along your tongue to remove the impostor. Cats have it even worse—their tongues are covered in saliva-storing papillae for grooming, eating, and drinking. Your cat might try to remove the item and then stick its tongue out for a short break.
Due to anatomy and a lack of room, flat-faced cat breeds such as Persians and British Shorthairs are more likely to expose their tongues, and this is usually not something concerning. Burmese cats, however, are prone to Feline Orofacial Pain Syndrome, a neurological disorder that often involves irregular licking and chewing behaviors.
Yes, blepping is a word. It refers to when you can see just a smidge of a dog or cat's tongue, often because it gets distracted in the middle of grooming or chowing. Your kitty might forget to tuck its tongue back in or perhaps finds it expedient to leave it out to resume normal programming once it knows what the sensory disruption is. Keep an eye on this behavior if it happens frequently or out of the blue.
If your cat is panting on a hot day, it's probably not managing the heat and will need your assistance to prevent heatstroke. Long-haired cats are particularly vulnerable when the sun is at its most imposing. Ensure your fur baby has easy access to water and a cool space. Contact your vet if you notice other worrying symptoms such as confusion or vomiting.
Catch some weird whiffs of late when your cat's mouth's been close to your nose? Or maybe you've noticed more drooling than is par for the course? Dental issues could be why your cat is sticking its tongue out. Look at your kitty's nugget bowl to see if food intake has dropped. Your cat may be in pain, so ring up the pet dentist. Ty and brushing its teeth at least thrice a week to prevent periodontal problems in the first place. There's also stomatitis which involves oral inflammation, ulcers, and a tongue that hurts real bad. Stomatitis is a treatable disease.
Traveling with pets can be an ordeal for you and your lil' ball of fluff. It includes constraining cats in ways they're not accustomed to and throwing off their routines. Unfamiliar faces and noises may be anxiety-inducing, and motion sickness causes some sticky-outy tongues too. You can prepare for a journey by getting cat-safe motion sickness medication and a soothing pheromone spray.
A tongue sticking out could be down to something as simple as not liking a taste. Or it could be because of poison. Plants and flowers can be toxic, and cats allowed outdoors may consume prey that ingested pesticides. You might hear your cat vomiting because it ate too fast, ate something indigestible, or has hairballs. Monitor the situation and get professional help if necessary.
Cats can have trouble breathing when they have heart or respiratory issues. Your cat might look a little uncoordinated and may stick its tongue out. If it coughs and its tongue or gums are blue, it's a major red flag, and you'll need to seek urgent medical attention to be on the safe side.
You'll find that elderly cats have tongues that do a lot of out-of-mouth lolling. It's not always problematic—merely a sign of old age in most cases, and there's not much you can do. Cats struggle with dementia, and the cognitive dysfunction changes how they sleep, eat, play, and groom themselves.
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