Cat Keeps Licking Lips

Cats lick their lips due to a variety of reasons. It can be because of displacement behavior, compulsive disorders, nausea, dental disease, oral ulcers, a funny taste, wounds, or a foreign body.

Cats also lick their lips when they are anxious or if there is something around their mouth that is bothering them.

Have you observed your cat licking its lips excessively? Keep on reading to learn what the cause might be.

Why is my cat licking its lips excessively?

Your cat may be licking its lips due to:

Displacement Behavior

As a response to anxiety, cats lick their lips when they are trying to decide whether to be aggressive or to run. For example, let’s say you take your cat to the vet and place him on the table. He will relieve his stress by a displacement behavior of licking his lips for a few seconds.

Compulsive Disorder

Your cat may be licking his lips because of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Nausea

Cats who are dehydrated or nauseated will smack and lick their lips. This can be followed by drooling and vomiting.

Allergies or an Upper Respiratory Infection

If your cat has allergies or a cold, you may see him lick his lips after sneezing.

Xerostomia

This is a condition that presents as an overly dry mouth. It can cause cats’ mouths to become dry so they have to lick their lips to compensate for the dryness. Bad breath and infected oral tissue can also be observed. There are several causes, but feline chronic renal failure is the most serious.

Dental Disease

Cats with an oral infection can also display excessive smacking and lip licking. As dental disease progresses with no intervention, plaque becomes tartar. Tartar that is above and below the gum line can produce an environment for bacteria to grow and destroy periodontal tissue. Cats will drool, not eat well, and lose weight.

Oral Ulcers

Oral ulcerations can cause pain, lip licking, drooling, and excessive swallowing. Ulcers can develop from oral and dental infections that were not treated immediately. Caustic products, such as laundry/dishwashing detergent pods or liquid potpourri, can also cause ulcers.

Funny Taste

Cats have a tendency to lick the floor. The chemicals, food, dirt, mold, soap, and other things on it can have a funny taste that causes a cat to smack and lick its lips.

Wounds

Cats lick the wounds on their bodies. While licking, their tongues can pick up fur. Licking their lips might be their way of removing the fur.

Seizures

Some cats suffer from a seizure disorder that may look like they are chomping at the mouth, biting the air, or even lip licking excessively. This is most often a focal seizure.

Foreign Body

A common cause of lip smacking can be a foreign body that is caught in the cat’s mouth. It can be a small bone or a stick.

Bites

If your cat suffered an insect or cat bite somewhere around its mouth, the pain and the swelling may make the cat lick the area.

What do I do If my cat keeps licking his lips?

First, determine the cause of the excessive lip licking. If you think that it is caused by a compulsive disorder, nausea, upper respiratory infection, dental disease, or oral ulcers, it is best to take your cat to the vet for professional advice.

Be sure to know the answers to questions such as: “When does the lip licking happen?” “Is it constant?” “When did it start?” “Does he only do it after eating?” “Does he do it when he is nervous?”

The vet will want a detailed history of your cat’s eating patterns, any change in diet, exposure to trash and toxins, appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or weight loss.

Evaluate your cat’s behavior. Is it anxious, nervous, or scared? If the cat is anxious, take the stressor away and provide a calm environment for your cat.

Xerostomia, or lack of saliva, can be treated by making sure your cat drinks an adequate amount of water every day. If this does not resolve the xerostomia, take the cat to the vet to rule out other possible medical issues.

Treat a cat’s wounds so they heal quickly and your cat will not have to lick them.

Check your cat’s mouth for any foreign bodies. Check in between their teeth and check the fur around their mouth for hitchhikers.

Check your cat’s mouth for any animal or bug bites and treat them accordingly.

Conclusion

A cat licking its lips can be a normal habit while grooming for most cats. But do not take your cat’s excessive lip licking lightly, because it can be a symptom of a serious underlying medical issue like chronic renal failure, respiratory infection, oral ulcers, poisoning, allergy, or stress.

Make sure to address the issue immediately if you suspect an illness. Take your cat to the vet for proper treatment.

Image: istockphoto.com / Natalia Kokhanova