Reasons why your cat sticks out her tongue when petted include that she may be analyzing pheromones, tastes, and textures in connection with the “Flehmen response” behavior, there’s food stuck between her teeth, or because of dental issues. Your cat may also be sticking her tongue out when petted because of health concerns like dementia and stomatitis.
Why does your cat sticks her tongue out when petted?
Cats have various behavior that we oftentimes find bizarre like kneading or jumping sideways. However, it’s important to note that their behaviors have meanings and connections to their survival instincts. Seeing your cat stick out her tongue when petted is another unique cat behavior that is easy to misinterpret.
We often think that a cat sticks out her tongue when petted because she is hungry or asking for food. But you’d be surprised to know that there’s more than meets the eye! And yes, there’s a slang term for a cat sticking her tongue out, the “blep”. This just goes to show how popular this particular behavior is, among cat enthusiasts.
The tongue-sticking-out phenomenon among cats is closely linked to the so-called “Flehmen response”. This particular cat behavior happens when a cat grimaces as its tongue traps pheromones then flick-transfers it to the duct in the roof of the mouth. Then, the cat curls the upper part of the mouth in a sneer-like manner. Cats use this second-sniff mechanism to analyze pheromones especially the males who are more attuned to checking sex-related information regardless if they are neutered or not.
These are the common reasons why cats stick their tongue out when petted:
1. Your cat sticks out her tongue when petted as part of the so-called “Flehmen response” behavior
As mentioned earlier, this is closely linked to the “Flehmen response” and they do this to assess their environment out of curiosity and to gather information. This so-called behavior also helps cats to feel secure in their surroundings. Cats tend to forget to retract the tongue during such instance out of distraction or fascination which leads humans to notice the blep more rather than the mannerism being part and parcel of the “Flehmen response” behavior as a whole.
2. She may be sticking out her tongue because of dental issues
Cats with missing teeth particularly on the bottom part tend to stick out their tongues more often. Flat-faced cat breeds like Persian cats are also more susceptible to bleps since there’s not much room inside the mouth to tuck the tongue back in. Other probable dental issues may also include sores and gum disease, caries, tooth decay, and abscess.
3. Your cat may be doing it because of a certain medication
A cat may be sticking her tongue out when petted because she’s in a relaxed state due to her medication. Certain medicine for anxiety tends to relax muscles and this may also result in a tongue sticking out.
4. She may be trying to loosen something out from between her teeth
If you see your cat sticking her tongue out when petted, don’t freak out! She may just be simply loosening something out from between her teeth. She may just have finished her meal and some bits and pieces got stuck between her teeth. She may just be “flossing” something from her teeth, that’s why.
5. She may be doing it because of a health condition
Certain health conditions may cause cats to stick their tongue out randomly and repeatedly. These conditions may include the following:
- Feline dementia – also known as cognitive dysfunction system or CDS, is related to the aging of a cat’s brain and occurs as they age. It influences a cat’s learning, memory, responsiveness, and awareness. One sign of dementia in cats is the inability to keep the tongue from sticking out.
- Feline stomatitis – It causes severe inflammation to the mouth and gums of cats and can cause great pain and a bleeding mouth. This condition makes cats stick their tongue out, drool, lose their appetite, and even pant painfully.
- respiratory infections – This condition is characterized by the clear or colored discharge from the nose and eyes and may include coughing, sneezing, and swelling of mucous membranes. An infected cat may have difficulty in breathing, drool excessively, and tend to stick her tongue out repeatedly.
6. Your cat may blep because she’s trying to regulate her temperature
Cats tend to blep because they’re regulating their temperature and this happens when the weather is hot and humid, after a vigorous playtime with fellow cats, if they’re in a hot car, or when they’re running a fever. Sticking their tongues out enable cats to normalize their temperature to avoid heat exhaustion which could pose serious risks.
Fun facts about a cat’s tongue
Here are some facts about a cat’s tongue before we discuss the reasons why cats stick their tongue out:
- a cat’s tongue is covered with little barbs called papillae which are stiff spines that curve backward to pull hair and bits of food.
- cats use the papillae to remove meat from their prey’s bones
- the papillae are rough and feel like sandpaper to the touch since it’s covered with a sharp keratin sheath similar to that of the human nails
- cats can’t taste anything that’s sweet