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Why Cats Stick Out Their Tongue — Vets Reveal the Quirky Reason and When to Be Worried

Plus, 7 adorable photos of cats showing off their best "blepping" skills

You’ve probably heard the phrase “the cat got your tongue,” which means you’re left speechless. But if you’re a cat owner, you may be left speechless with confusion when your cat has her tongue sticking out at you! Cats are silly and adorable creatures, and some of their behaviors are equally silly and adorable. When your cat looks over at you with her tongue sticking out — also called “blepping” — what is she trying to tell you? Keep reading to see what vets say about why cats stick out their tongue and when you should be concerned. 

The true meaning of “blep”

The slang word “blep” was coined by some very creative person on the internet to describe when an animal, usually a cat or a dog, sticks out just the tip of her tongue with her mouth closed. It’s different from panting and licking since the tongue is usually not moving. A cat with her tongue out, or blepping, usually looks a little confused but super adorable. (Click through for a guide to pet slang.)

7 adorable cats blepping

Before we learn why cats stick their tongues out, it’s important to know what it looks like. Also, who needs an excuse to look at photos of adorable cats? Keep scrolling for some adorable kitty cat bleps. 

1. Scottish Fold kitten blepping

Scottish fold cat stick out tongue

2. Orange and white kitty blepping

orange cat sticks out tongue

3. Grumpy cat sticks out her tongue

Grumpy cats stick out tongue

4. Tiny kitten blepping

kitten blep

5. Laundry basket blep

Cat in laundry basket sticks out tongue

6. Gray and white cat sticking her tongue out

cat sticking tongue out

7. Fluffy kitty blep

Cats in a box sticking out tongue

Why your cat sticks her tongue out at you

Why do cats stick their tongue out? No, it’s not because our mischievous felines are going through their rebellious adolescent phase. We reached out to some pet pros for the real reasons behind this adorable phenomenon. 

They’re just being quirky

“Cats most often blep when they are interrupted while grooming themselves,” says Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, cat behavior expert with Rover. “So their tongue was already out, and they suddenly stop and close their mouth with their tongue still protruding. I would not consider this a specific behavior with intention but just a ‘happy accident’!” They could also just be relaxed, adds Dr. Baker. “It can sometimes happen when they’re relaxed or distracted. It’s often seen as a cute quirk and is generally harmless.”

They’re getting a taste 

Cats also stick their tongue out because they’re curious — it allows them to “taste” their environment. “Cats use all senses to explore the world, including taste,” Amy Shojai, an animal behavior consultant, explained to Inverse magazine. “The Flehmen response (mouth agape) collects pheromones on the tongue and transfers them to the roof of the mouth to an internal ‘scent mechanism’ (vomeronasal organ) to detect sexual status or other info about other cats. So ‘forgetting’ to retract the tongue in these instances might be due to fascination or distraction while deciphering these kitty ‘Post-It’ notes.”

They’ve got a smaller mouth

Another reason your cat may be “blepping” can be due to their teeth (or lack thereof) or facial structure. “Some cats who have had teeth removed are going to be more likely to blep — there’s no teeth to hold their tongue in place,” explains Dr. Delgado. Your cat’s breed may also make their tongue stick out more often. Flat-faced felines in particular may be more susceptible to repeated bleps. “Cats with flatter faces like Persians and Exotic Shorthairs are more prone to belpping because their shallow mouths offer less space for the tongue to retract fully,” explains veterinarian and owner of Pet How Maria Baker, DVM. “Kittens may also blep more often as they’re still learning to control their tongues.” (Click through to see some adorable photos of flat-faced cats.)

When to be concerned about your cat’s tongue

As cute as “blepping” is, it’s important to monitor your cat’s behavior closely so you know when it’s a cause for concern. “If your cat suddenly starts blepping a lot, or you notice other signs like drooling, hesitancy to eat, bad breath, pawing at their mouth or any other changes in behavior, please reach out to your vet,” advises Dr. Delgado. “In rare cases, it could be a sign of dental or oral pain.”

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