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Why Do Cats Blep? 11 Reasons for This Behavior

Of all the adorable habits that our cats have, blepping has got to be the cutest one out there. A cat that’s blepping will have their tongue poking out of their mouths, and it’s an adorable look!

While the origin of the word “blep” isn’t clear, what we do know is that any cat lover will know exactly what you mean if you tell them your cat has been caught doing a blep or even better, if you take a photo as evidence! There are whole corners of the internet dedicated to sharing photos of cats blepping, and it’s one of our favorite things to look at when we need cheering up!

You’ve probably caught your cat with their tongues poking out, but exactly why do cats blep? There are main 11 reasons, and each has a scientific explanation. Let’s take a look!

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The 11 Reasons Why Cats Blep

1. They’re tasting a new flavor or feeling a new texture

a cat blepping
Image Credit: Pixabay

Most cats love routine, and that includes knowing what to expect when it comes to their food. So, if you’ve recently switched to a new brand of cat food with a distinctly different flavor or texture, it may take your cat a while for them to become accustomed to these new sensations.

Some cats will blep as they’re trying to focus on what exactly is different about their new food. If you’ve slowly transitioned your cat to their new diet by mixing the new food in with the old, this behavior should stop fairly quickly. If your cat continues sticking their tongue out, you may want to schedule a vet appointment to rule out allergies or any issues with your cat’s mouth.

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2. They got distracted

grey cat licking lips after eating cat food from bowl inside on floor
Image Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

Cats might often come across as regal and elegant, but sometimes they’re a little bit silly. If your cat was grooming themselves and suddenly got distracted by a flock of birds coming in to land on your bird feeder, they might completely forget what they were doing.

In this case, they can be left with their tongue sticking out, providing you with the perfect opportunity to take cute photos!

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3. Your cat is relaxed with a loose jaw

cat on the couch bleps
Image Credit: Pixabay

Just like us, when our cats relax and drop off into sleep, their jaws relax. At this point, your cat’s tongue can fall out the side of their mouth.

You’ll often see flat-faced breeds, such as Persians, blepping in their sleep. This is because the flattened shape of their face leaves less room in their mouths for their tongue. As they fall asleep, their tongue often starts to poke out as a result.

Cats with missing teeth may also blep when they’re relaxed or sleepy.

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4. They’re picking up scents

cat smelling plastic
Image Credit: Faqih03, Shutterstock

You might expect your cat to pick up scents using their noses, but some cats will use their mouth as well! Many different mammals, including cats, carry out a social behavior called the Flehmen Response. During this behavior, a cat will breathe with an open mouth and use their tongue to “move” scents that they’re picking up toward an organ called the Jacobson’s, or vomeronasal, organ.

This organ is responsible for analyzing scents, usually pheromones left by other cats. Male cats can often be seen carrying out the Flehmen Response, especially if there’s a female cat in heat in the area. If you’ve moved to a new neighborhood, your cat may be working out the messages left behind by other cats’ pheromones.

If your cat is standing still with their mouth slightly open, this is likely what they’re doing. Some cats simply forget to pop their tongue back in if they’re concentrating particularly hard on a certain scent!

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5. Some food is stuck in their teeth

cat blepping
Image Credit: Pixabay

If your cat’s been enjoying freshly cooked chicken as a treat, they may end up with a piece of stringy meat getting stuck in their teeth. If your cat is blepping but also looking a little irritated or restless, this may be what’s happened. As they try to remove the offending piece of meat, they can end up sticking their tongue out.

You can try checking your cat’s teeth if they’ll let you and seeing if there’s something that they need help removing. If you can see something but can’t remove it yourself, it’s best to call your vet and they may want to see your cat in the clinic.

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6. Your cat may have dental disease

veterinarian checks teeth of the maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

Dental disease, also called periodontal disease, is one of the main reasons that domestic cats need vet attention. As plaque and tartar build up on your cat’s teeth, this can lead to painful inflammation, bacterial infections, and gum disease. Some cats will stick their tongues out and drool more than normal if they have dental disease.

Another condition, feline stomatitis, causes ulcers in your cat’s mouth. This can also lead to a cat sticking their tongue out.

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7. Your cat could have a medical problem

As your cat grows older, the risk of them developing cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or feline dementia, increases. This can affect their short-term memory, and cats can forget what they’re doing halfway through! They may be grooming themselves, forget what they were doing, and be left with their tongue sticking out and a confused expression on their faces.

Signs of feline dementia include:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Increased vocalization
  • Dirty or greasy coat
  • Less time spent grooming
  • Disorientation

If you catch your elderly cat blepping, but it’s combined with any of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea to ask your vet for advice.

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8. Your cat could be overheating

If you see your cat blepping but they’re also panting, they could be overheating. Cats sweat through their paws, and if they start to overheat, they’ll start panting to try and cool themselves down.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Panting
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse
  • Drooling

Heatstroke is a serious condition and needs veterinary attention immediately. If your cat suffers from heat stroke for too long, it can result in organ failure.

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9. Your cat may have a respiratory issue

Respiratory problems like asthma can make it difficult for your cat to breathe. If your cat’s cute blep is combined with the following symptoms, we recommend calling your vet:

  • Lack of balance
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Increased tear production

Veterinary treatment and medication may be necessary to help your cat feel more comfortable.

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10. Your cat could be travel sick

Devon Rex cat is travelling on owners lap in a car
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

Cats often stick their tongues out while traveling, and while it’s not necessarily a true blep, it can be a sign that your cat is suffering from travel sickness. If your cat’s mouth is open and they’re panting slightly, the motion of the car or other transport may be making them feel sick.

Usually, they’ll stick their tongues back in once the journey is over, but if your cat still seems unsettled when you get home, call your vet for advice.

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11. Your cat might have been poisoned

Sick cat medicines
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

It’s a horrible thought, but sometimes blepping can be a sign that your cat has eaten something that they shouldn’t have, and they’re trying to get rid of the flavor. If your cat’s tongue is hanging out and they’re also displaying any of the below symptoms, seek veterinary attention as a matter of urgency:

  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unsteady on their feet

Household cleaners, pesticides, and certain foodstuffs can be poisonous to cats, so if you think your cat may have eaten something that they shouldn’t have, consult your vet and check out the Pet Poison Helpline.

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Blepping can be good and bad

Catching your cat doing a blep can be pretty funny. Some cats seem to do it all the time and others hardly at all. If it seems like a normal behavior for your cat and they’re in otherwise good health, go ahead and take as many photos as you like. And please share them with us!

But if your cat’s blep is accompanied by other behavioral changes that worry you, speak to your vet to get your cat a clean bill of health. Blepping is usually adorable, but it can sometimes be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your cat’s health.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay