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My Cat Is Smacking Their Lips, What’s Wrong? Vet-Approved Reasons & Advice

Vet approved

	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Like any other devoted pet owner, you’ve probably spent hours staring at your cat and studying its every move. No doubt—cats are unique and fascinating beings, and they exhibit some very strange behavior. You surely noticed your lovely furry feline friend smacking their lips occasionally. Is this a weird ritual they have, or is it a reason for worry? Lip-smacking is usually an entirely harmless behavior that cats exhibit right after a delicious meal or during a cuddle. However, there are certain situations when lip-smacking can point to severe medical conditions.

Read more on this topic below to find out all the possible scenarios when a cat might smack their lips and whether you should be worried.

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The 4 Possible Causes of Cats Smacking Their Lips

Every cat owner will notice their cat’s small daily rituals and most of the time, these rituals are entirely normal. Lip-smacking is a normal routine a cat occasionally enjoys. Below you can find some common reasons a cat may smack their lips, most of which are usually harmless.

1. After a Meal

As you’ve probably noticed, dogs and cats absolutely adore showing you how delicious their meal was by grooming themselves afterward. This ritual includes smacking their lips and licking their gums to remove leftovers. The cat will usually lick the fur around the lips, gums, and teeth as a regular grooming ritual after each meal, so a little lip-smacking is nothing to worry about.

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2. During Petting

Cats have a habit of licking themselves and smacking their lips when they are content. These feelings are most likely to appear when petting or cuddling your cat, so if you see the cat licking itself, don’t worry about it. This is the cat’s unique way of communicating how content and appreciative they are of all the attention received.

a woman's hand petting a cat
Image Credit: Yerlin Matu, Unsplash
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3. Dental Issues

Many unavoidable health complications in cats come with old age, such as dental diseases. While plaque and tartar are undesirable conditions, they are not entirely unexpected in older cats. They can cause bacteria to develop, and you can expect your senior cat to do a lot of lip-smacking and licking if they have an oral issue causing excessive drooling.

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4. Bad Taste

Since cats are natural predators, they may find insects and strange plants they’ll want to play with and nibble on, so it’s not uncommon for them to stumble upon a bad-tasting plant with a strong flavor. This unpleasant experience can cause the cat to produce more saliva and smack their lips. This is typically harmless—as long as the plant they’re chewing on is non-toxic—and it’s the cat’s way of dealing with an unpleasant taste in its mouth. Of course, it’s best to avoid letting your cat chew on any plants, no matter their toxicity.

black bombay cat outdoor licking mouth
Image Credit: Henrik Veres, Pixabay

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When Should You Worry?

While we’ve mentioned the most common causes of cats smacking their lips, there are some moments when lip-smacking can be a cause of worry. Usually, when the cat smacks their lips excessively and is accompanied by other strange behavior, you may need to see your local veterinarian for some advice.


Stress has one of the most harmful effects on your pet’s body. When your cat is stressed, you will notice many clear symptoms, such as vocalization, agitation, and aggressiveness. Sometimes, the stress in cats can be very subtle, with only a few signs. Excessive drooling, swallowing, and lip-smacking can sometimes be a clear sign of a stressful situation for cats. If you notice this behavior, try to remove the cause of the stress or remove your cat from the stressful situation.


Feeling nauseous is a common reason for lip-smacking in cats because of the excess saliva their body produces. When you know your cat has stomach problems, you can expect to notice them smacking their lips. While stomach problems are not normal, they are not always a cause of worry and can happen due to hairballs or changes in diet. However, if there is repeated lip-smacking, it’s time to speak with your vet.

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Final Thoughts

Cats smacking their lips is usually an entirely normal reaction to something they’ve eaten or a simple expression of satisfaction. The cause for this behavior can be as simple as a delicious meal or as complex as an underlying medical condition. Acquiring all the information you need will be valuable, as you can rule out any potential risks of quickly finding out that your cat is simply grooming itself.

If you are still unsure and worried, you can always take your cat for a checkup at the vet.

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Featured Image Credit: Karina Chilanti, Shutterstock