Animals

The Fine Art of the ‘Blep’: Why Cats Stick Their Tongues Out

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Have you ever turned to look at your cat, only to notice he’s staring off into space, totally zoned out, with his tongue sticking out? Cats are curious creatures, and it turns out that this cute tongue-out position — aka a “blep” — is connected to their innate desire to explore the world and their surroundings. 

First things first, let’s start off with a little animal slang 101: What is a blep? The term “blep” was coined by some very creative person on the internet to describe when an animal, usually a cat, sticks out just the tip of his or her tongue. A quick Google search for “blep” pulls up hilariously adorable photos of very confused looking cats with their tongues out. 

TK

A very surprised cat doing a blep. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Why do cats stick their tongues out? (No, it’s not because our mischievous felines are going through their rebellious adolescent phase.) Amy Shojai, an animal behavior consultant, explained to Inverse magazine that a cat will blep when it’s curious. 

“Cats use all senses to explore the world, including taste,” she said. “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.” Hmm, it’s a little sweet and a little strange, right?

Another explanation for a cat’s bleps has more to do feline anatomy. “Canine teeth help keep the tongue in place, so this would be a more common behavior for cats missing teeth, particularly on the bottom,” a cat behavior consultant, Ingrid Johnson, told Mental Floss. Flat-faced felines in particular may be more susceptible to repeated bleps. “I see it a lot with Persians, because there’s just no room to tuck it back in.”

TK

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Johnson has another theory as well. “It’s likely they don’t feel it or even realize they’re doing it,” she said. “One reason for that might be that they’re on medication that causes relaxation; something for anxiety or stress or a muscle relaxer would do it.” 

Whether they’re sitting in squares, blissed out on catnip, or “tasting” the air with their tongues, our cats’ behaviors can be truly bizarre. Fortunately, they look pretty darn cute while doing all of that — so we can forgive their weirder, wackier moments!

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