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Why Do Cats Blep? (Sheer Cuteness Or Underlying Reasons?)

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: November 29, 2023 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: March 11, 2023  
Author:  Dexter Jones

Cats are, by their very nature, some of the cutest and most adorable creatures to walk the planet. Seriously, there are even some people that hate cats or are strictly dog lovers that can't help but acknowledge the inherent cuteness that is feline.

And just what can be cuter and more heart-warming than a sleeping cat that's blepping?

why do cats blep

Why Do Cats Blep?

If you're like most cat owners, you have probably seen blepping dozens of times before even knowing what 'blepping' even was or that it had a name. Simply put, "blepping" is the term used to describe when a cat sticks their tongue out of their mouth. 

This can be done either because the cat was just recently grooming themselves as well as after meowing or even while sleeping. The ways cats blep is varied and, at all times, cute! 

Looking at it, blepping could be confused with the cat either sticking its tongue out at you or sticking its tongue out and just forgetting that it's out. 

The truth is that there's a lot more to the story. Is it a sign of poor cat health

Below we'll get into nine of the main reasons your feline friend can find themselves with their tongues out of their mouths for all to see. Is it because they're making fun of you or did they seriously just forget??

Reason 1:  They're Doing It For You

The most precious of all reasons, they're blepping for you.

You heard that right. If you see your cat sticking their tongue out and you can't help but gush over it, don't be surprised if you find them doing it a lot more often. Cats, like any other animal, will modify their behavior to get the intended result. 

In this case, if you tend to give them a ton of head scratches and kisses whenever they blep, there's a good chance they'll associate their action with a positive response.

Simply put, rather than you training your cat, your cat is training you!

Reason 2:  They're Content

This may seem a bit strange, but just as they can blep while on guard for different scents, they can also blep when they're super relaxed and having a good time. You often see this type of blepping when your kitty is sleeping or feeling good and purring their heart out. In some cases, they may even start to do a bit of drooling!

The reason for it is actually pretty simple. When cats are relaxed, they are relaxed. In this case, that means their jaw slightly relaxes giving their tongue a bit of space to jut out.

Remember, as I stated earlier, a cat's tongue is almost always pressing to go out and only doesn't because of its teeth. When a cat is relaxed, they leave a small enough gap in its mouth where the tongue can slip out to give them that silly wacky face.

cat blepping

Reason 3: Their Mouth Is Sore

I touched on this just a bit with the first reason, but if your cat is suffering from dental issues, sore gums, inflammation, or stomatitis, it can likely be in a lot of pain. While your cat is unlikely to make a lot of fuss about it, one of the surest signs that they aren't feeling well is if their tongue is sticking out. 

As plaque and tartar build up on your cat’s teeth, this can lead to painful inflammation, bacterial infections, and gum disease.

If you find your cat licking certain things that are caustic or an irritant, this might be the result of something more severe like ulcers or kidney disease.

If you notice your cat blepping while also drooling or avoiding their food, there may be something very serious and worth visiting the local vet to help diagnose.

Reason 4: Medical Problems

If your cat is dealing with any intestinal or digestive issues, there's a chance that it can suffer a bit of saliva dribble from time to time. This can lead to a relaxing of the jaw and thus cause the tongue to slip out.

While a small number of intestinal issues should go away on their own, you want to be on the lookout for any vomit, dizziness, or diarrhea

Also, if you find your cat avoiding food while suffering all of these symptoms, it's definitely time to visit the vet and have them checked out in case it's something serious. 

Your cat could be overheating. If you see your cat blepping but they’re also panting, they could be suffering from heatstroke. Get them into a cool area and make sure they have drinking water.

Reason 5: They're Having Breathing Problems

On one hand, if you see a cat panting, you may be under the impression that it's not too dissimilar from dogs. The truth is that they couldn't be more different. Whereas dogs love to get a small pant going, cats only find themselves panting when they're having a really difficult time breathing. These pants are often open-mouthed and will tend to have their tongue sticking out the entire time.

A cat that is open-mouth panting is a very serious issue, anxiety or stress will kick in and you should see a vet almost immediately regardless of how long it goes for.

Reason 6: They're Missing Teeth

Like humans, kittens and cats do have a set of baby and permanent teeth. Kittens have 26 baby teeth while adult cats will grow a full 30 permanent ones. What does a cat's mouth have to do with blepping?

When a kitten or cat loses their tooth (either from natural or unnatural means), they are less likely to be able to properly hold its tongue in place. 

Often this is because their tongue is constantly pushing out, with their teeth meant to hold it in place throughout the day. If a cat is missing these teeth, their tongue is more likely to slip out, causing a bit of blepping to occur.

blep cat

While a kitten losing their teeth is to be expected, if your adult or senior cat finds itself without some of their permanent teeth, this can be a sign of a problem. 

You should immediately see a feline dentist to determine if they are suffering from gum disease or an injury.

Reason 7:  They're Checking Out A Scent 

One thing about cats is that they don't only communicate via their meows. Cats can also let the other animals in their environment know how they feel directly through their scent. When a cat wants, it can determine a lot of things about an area entirely based on the otherwise invisible scents wafting around.

These "invisible scents" are known as pheromones and can be picked up and collected through the tastebuds of a cat's tongue.

Here's how it works: When a cat encounters a scent they're interested in, it'll stick out its tongue and collect the pheromones on it. Then, as they investigate the taste with their tastebuds, they also use special receptors in their mouth to interpret what the scent means. This process is called the flehmen response, and you might notice your cat curling their lips when they do it.

But that's not all - once they've collected the pheromones in their mouth, cats transfer them to a special organ called the vomeronasal organ  (Jacobson’s organ) which is located on the roof of their mouth. This organ helps cats process and understand the information they've gathered from the pheromones, giving them even more insights into their environment.

Essentially, a cat can literally "taste" the people and environment around them via these pheromones. 

This is done through blepping, as they curl their lips to better transfer the different pheromone scents out to their nose as well as the roof of their mouth. This can tell them who is in their vicinity, how many are in their vicinity, and if they are friendly or a threat.

Reason 8: They're Easily Distracted

Ok, we've gone through some pretty scary reasons for blepping that, if left untreated, could have some serious consequences if you aren't careful. 

Now for something a bit lighter! Another reason your cat might end up with their tongue out is actually that their grooming session got interrupted. Pretty much, while they were licking themselves, you or someone else walked in and immediately threw them off.

It's actually kind of cute since they'll often keep their tongue out as they scan the area to see what just showed up. Then, once they know everything is ok again, they should immediately go back to grooming themselves.

Reason 9: Dementia

As your cat grows older, the risk of them developing a type of cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or feline dementia, will increase. This can affect their short-term memory.

They may be grooming their fur, forget what they were doing, and be left with their tongue sticking out and confused look on their faces. Poor things.

Is Blepping An Issue? 


Well, long story short, it depends. As mentioned, while blepping in and of itself isn't an issue, depending on the circumstances surrounding it, you may be able to point to the blepping as a precursor to some particularly life-threatening issues. 

You must be vigilant and marry up all of the clues before coming to a conclusion. If they're just sticking their tongue out, it may be for fun. If they're not eating, having vomiting and diarrhea issues, drooling excessively, AND blepping, you're going to want to see a vet immediately.

Why Do Cats Blep? Summary

While blepping is a super cute pet cat action, that doesn't mean it's altogether innocuous. Make sure to always be on the lookout for any of the other signs. If you notice anything out of the ordinary alongside their blepping, it's not just fun and games.

Outside of that, just have fun with your cat, and be sure to give them extra hugs and kisses whenever they stick their little tongue out at you.

If you are concerned that your cat’s blepping might be abnormal, take them to your veterinarian or, an animal behavior consultant or a certified cat behavior consultant.

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About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.