Every cat has their own unique quirks – from twitching in its sleep to lounging in tight spaces such as shoeboxes. While some of these antics are just funny or cute, we might find certain other behaviors completely strange or even worrisome.
For example, why do some cats do weird things with their tongues? For cat parents, this is a mystery!
Thankfully, it is normal for cats to stick their tongue out occasionally, and should be no cause for concern. However, some instances might be health-related, so it is best to look out for other symptoms to determine whether you need to take a trip to your vet.
In this post, we will reveal some of the reasons cats do weird things with their tongues. Read on to learn more!
Why is my cat doing a weird thing with his tongue?
There are several possible explanations as to why a cat might make weird tongue movements, and it is useful to understand these feline behaviors so that you can distinguish which situations need your serious attention. Common scenarios are explained in detail below:
1. Cat blep
Have you ever caught your furry friend staring at the window with his tongue lolling out of his mouth? It looks rather cute and adorable, but it leaves many cat owners wondering about this odd behavior. According to animal experts, blepping is a normal behavior in cats. Sometimes, our feline friends blep simply because they forget to pull their tongues back in after grooming or smelling something.
If your cat bleps regularly and it is accompanied by other behavioral changes, it is best to have him examined by the vet. Sometimes a cat’s tongue might loll out due to a jaw injury, and regular blepping in older cats could indicate dementia.
2. Flehmen response
Perhaps you have witnessed your cat doing the weird tongue thing after sniffing your shoe – almost as if he is sneering at the smell. This famous cat “stinky face” is actually called a Flehmen response, and cats do this when they pick up an interesting smell and want to do an in-depth investigation.
What happens is that the cat partially opens his mouth to allow the scent to travel through his vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacob’s organ. Cats pull back their upper lip to absorb as much scent as they can, almost like tasting while smelling the scent. Sometimes, they forget to pop their tongue back in as they process the sensory information they have just collected.
So, no need to feel bad the next time your kitty seems to pull back in disgust after smelling your shoe. He is simply curious and processing the scent!
Cats sometimes stick their tongues out when they are stressed, anxious, or overheated. Unlike in dogs, panting is not normal in cats. Although there are instances when cats pant after a lot of physical activity, it is still far rarer in cats than in dogs.
If your feline friend is panting after playing a game of laser pointer, give him some water and allow him to cool down. If the panting does not subside and is accompanied by other symptoms like changes in mobility, excessive vocalization, rapid breathing, or coughing, call your vet right away.
Lastly, hot weather can also cause cats to pant. Watch out for signs of heat stroke if your pet has been outdoors on a hot day. Move him to a cooler location to relax and make sure he is hydrated. If the panting does not subside and you notice signs of heat stroke, such as agitation, bright red tongue, pale gums, increased heart rate, or breathing problems, take your cat to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately.
4. Feeling relaxed or sleeping
When your furry friend is relaxed, you might notice his mouth is slightly open and the tip of his tongue is slipping out. This is normal! It is almost the same as when humans’ mouths gape open during sleep. Cats can get so relaxed that their jaw muscles start to loosen, causing their tongues to peek out of their mouths while drooling.
You may find this “tongue hang” either cute or odd, but rest assured your pet is just enjoying some hunting escapades in his dreams.
5. Something stuck in the mouth
Cats like to lick things. They lick their fur to keep it clean. They lick every last bit of food from their bowls. They also lick a lot of other weird stuff that triggers their curiosity, from plastic bags to chemical residues on the floor.
Now, imagine a cat’s tongue – its surface is covered with little curved spines or hooks, called papillae. These are capable of picking up fur, dirt, or debris from any surface your cat licks. So, it is possible that Fluffy can sometimes get something stuck in his mouth, and pushing his tongue out is his natural response to get rid of whatever is stuck to it.
Sticking out his tongue could also be the first sign of nausea in your cat, especially after an excessive licking session. If you notice other symptoms such as hyper vocalization, restlessness, drooling, and lack of appetite, you might need to give your vet a call.
The list of possible causes of nausea in cats is extensive. It may be motion sickness, allergies, hairball issues, or ingestion of something unpleasant or indigestible. It is also possible that Fluffy just hates his new diet. Try to get to the bottom of things with your vet so that any underlying conditions can be treated immediately.
7. Breed-related tongue issues
Certain cat breeds are predisposed to having abnormally-formed or misaligned jaws and teeth. For example, brachycephalic cats such as Persians and Burmese cats have shortened facial bone structures, giving them a scrunched-up appearance. Due to these abnormalities, there may not be enough room to comfortably keep their tongues in a lot of the time.
8. Stress or anxiety
Anxiety is another possible culprit when your cat slips his tongue out of his mouth. For example, if you are traveling with your cat for the first time, the stress might cause him to drool, hyper-vocalize, and become restless. Anxious cats who are not well socialized and trained to travel also tend to display problematic behaviors such as excessive grooming, aggression, and slight panting.
Fortunately, there are products available to help calm your feline during a long trip, such as Feliway Pheromone Spray and ThunderShirt. However, the long-term solution should include socializing and training your cat if you plan to travel regularly together.
9. Periodontal disease
Do you know that periodontal diseases are common in cats? In fact, about 50 to 90 percent of cats aged four and above will have some type of dental problem. While some of these oral issues are minor, others can seriously affect your cat’s quality of life.
Cats with certain types of periodontal disease experience a lot of discomfort in their mouth, which can cause weird tongue or mouth movements. Fortunately, most of these problems are treatable and can be prevented with proper dental maintenance. That includes regular brushing, proper diet, and annual visits to a feline dentist.
10. Respiratory infection or congestion
If you notice signs of congestion and troubled breathing in your cat, it is best to have him examined by the vet immediately. Respiratory infections can be fatal if left untreated. Other signs to look out for are drooling, lethargy, and the presence of blue-tinged tongues or gums.
Stomatitis is an oral disorder in cats that causes inflammation of the gums, throat, and mouth. This can cause a lot of discomfort and pain, possibly resulting in weird tongue movements. Cats with stomatitis might also vocalize excessively, have difficulty eating, and display aggression due to oral pain. The cause of stomatitis is not clear, but most experts believe it has something to do with genetics, retroviral diseases, periodontal disease, or an overactive immune system.
12. Neurological disease
It is possible that your cat is making weird tongue movements due to a neurological disorder. Typically, diseases that affect the neurological system inhibit the cat’s control of certain body parts, and this can include the tongue. For example, feline orofacial pain syndrome can cause exaggerated licking and chew due to facial pain and discomfort. Although periodontal diseases seem to trigger the onset of this condition, the majority of cases seem to affect Burmese cats.
So, if you notice your cat making weird tongue movements along with excessive grooming, chewing, and pawing of the face, it is better to be safe than sorry – take him to the vet for proper diagnosis and medical care!
Why is my cat flicking his tongue?
Cats might flick their tongues for many reasons. It might be to investigate an interesting odor they have picked up or to calm themselves during a stressful situation. However, it is also possible for cats to flick their tongues to soothe oral pain or discomfort.
While it can be challenging to determine whether something is genuinely wrong with your pet, it is important to stay vigilant for unusual symptoms. Regular licking of the mouth is just one, but there are also other behavioral changes that might emerge as your cat tries to conceal his condition.
Cats cannot speak for themselves – they rely on their human owners to do that. By collecting more information about your cat’s symptoms and history, it will be easier for your vet to pin down exactly the condition that is causing his oral discomfort.
Why is my cat opening and closing his mouth?
Aside from the weird tongue movements, cats might open and close their mouths in an attempt to get your attention, or if they are in pain or feeling lonely. While this behavior does not always mean trouble, it can be indicative of serious concern if the cat opens and closes his mouth to breathe, or if it seems there is something stuck inside his mouth or throat. If you notice your cat breathing this way, take him to the closest veterinary clinic immediately.
Wrapping it up
Cats use their tongues to interact with their environment. They lick their fur to get rid of dirt and unwanted smells. They also lick anything that piques their curiosity. Thus, it is not that surprising that they sometimes stick out their tongues – they may be enjoying a scent or just falling asleep in front of you.
However, if their weird tongue movement is accompanied by any concerning symptoms, it is best to consult your primary vet immediately.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi