10 Possible Reasons Why Cats Stick Their Tongues Out

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Cats truly are creatures of mystery. They do all kinds of things that have owners scratching their heads! Of all their quirky behaviors, sticking out their tongue is one of the weirdest.

Everyone associated tongue wagging with dogs. So when a cat does, it’s truly a sight to behold. You might see that fleshy pink muscle when your cat is grooming or eating, but seeing it out beyond that is certainly strange.

So, is it any cause for concern?

Cat sticking it's tongue out

That all depends. This behavior could be innocent or it could be a sign of some underlying health issue. Understanding why your feline friend sticks their tongue out is important. It could mean the difference between snapping a picture and taking a trip to the vet!

10 of the most common reasons why cats stick their tongues out.

#1. Free Jaw Muscles

Have you ever walked in on your kitty napping with their tongue out? This is perfectly normal! When cats sleep, their jaws become loose just like dogs and humans. It’s pretty common when felines are put under sedation as well. The tongue can simply slip out of their mouth, leading to a truly picture-worthy look!

There’s no cause for concern here as long as your cat’s tongue goes back into its mouth upon waking. Most cats will realize their tongue is sticking upon once they regain consciousness and put it right back in.

#2. Caught By Surprise

Cats use their tongues in many unique ways. Thanks to the unique texture of the tongue, it’s an important tool for grooming. Cats aren’t fans of traditional baths, but they will groom themselves regularly.

cat with tongue hanging out

The tongue acts as a comb of sorts. It rids the fur of dirt and grime while also preventing tangles from forming.

If you catch your cat by surprise, they may stop mid-lick to see what you’re doing. In many cases, cats will simply forget to put their tongue back into their mouth!

Cats like to stay as still as possible when they are caught off guard. It’s why they stop in their tracks if you walk by. If your cat so happens to have their tongue out when this happens, it’ll likely stick around for a few minutes before your cat continues with what they were doing.

#3. Food Stuck in the Teeth

Cats can get food stuck in their teeth just like humans. Unfortunately, they don’t have the pleasure of using a toothpick to get it out. Most cats aren’t super concerned with leftover food in their maw. But it can cause some discomfort if the food lodged in an uncomfortable position.

You might see your cat sticking their tongue out repeatedly in an effort to dislodge it. If this behavior persists, consider investigating gently. You might be able to dislodge the food yourself with a toothbrush or fingernail.

#4. Something Stuck on Tongue

This issue is pretty common with felines! Your cat’s tongue might appear smooth from a distance. However, it’s covered in a ton of tiny little spines. This is what gives the tongue that signature sandpaper-like texture.

While the unique texture of the tongue is perfect for grooming, it also makes it easy to get things stuck! Cats frequently get fur caught in their tongues. When this happens, they’ll repeatedly stick the tongue in and out of the mouth to try to get it off.

Again, you can provide some assistance if your cat trusts you enough. Just be gently and remove whatever is causing the issue with your finger.

#5. Dental Disease

Unfortunately, many cats suffer from dental problems at some point in their life. Feline dental care isn’t practiced by owners enough. This can lead to a bevy of issues.

Many cats experience gingivitis, periodontal disease, abscesses, and more. These problems are all very painful and can make it difficult for your kitty to eat.

If you notice swelling, discharge, or strong odors around your cat’s mouth, you might want to consider getting a diagnosis from your vet. Luckily, feline dental problems don’t have to be permanent. Most issues can be treated with surgery and extractions.

#6. Unpleasant Taste

Cats are naturally curious and can get into a lot of trouble when left to roam. They’re known to eat all kinds of bugs and animals when they get the chance. When this happens, your cat might get a taste of something they never want to taste again!

This foul taste will send your cat into a frenzy. They may start to run around while sticking their tongue out every few seconds. Like dealing with hair or furballs, this behavior is all about getting rid of the uncomfortable feeling.

There’s not much you can do to provide relief. The taste will go away on its own or with a drink of water. The only time you should be concerned is if your cat got into some poison. If that’s the case, take a trip to the vet!

#7. Excessive Heat or Dehydration

Like dogs, cats will stick their tongue out and pant when they are hot. This is a natural behavior that helps to lower body temperature. Cats don’t have sweat glands all over their body. They have some on their paws, but it’s not nearly enough to cool down without panting.

Panting helps your cat take in cool air quickly. To provide relief, move them to a cool room and provide access to plenty of water. If the problem is not addressed, your cat could experience dehydration or heatstroke.

#8. Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are relatively common in the feline world, too. These infections are caused by viral or bacterial agents. The bacteria take hold in the lungs and respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe.

Cats will stick their tongue out and pant in an attempt to breathe easier. In serious cases, you might notice that your cat is lethargic or having a difficult time standing up.

Take your kitty to the vet as soon as possible. Respiratory infections are easily treated with fluids, nutritional support, and medications. But if you fail to address the problem at all, your cat’s symptoms will get even worse. The condition can be fatal if your cat has other health problems as well.

#9. Feline Dementia

Sometimes, cats just simply forget to put their tongue back into their mouth. This might seem all fun and innocent, but it’s actually a serious problem that affects elderly cats.

When they get older, cats can suffer from feline dementia. Also known as Cognitive Dysfunction System, it’s similar to dementia in humans. Cats will slowly forget how to function at all. The condition affects memory, awareness, and overall responsiveness.

This is a very serious issue with no known cure. There are ways that you can manage it. But the lifespan for cats with dementia is relatively short.

#10. Stomatitis

Stomatitis is another serious disease with the potential to be fatal. It’s a severe dental problem that leads to the formation of ulcers. These ulcers can become so big and painful that cats are unable to eat.

The aching ulcers often cause panting and drooling. There are some ways that veterinarians treat stomatitis. However, the method they use largely depends on when you catch it. So, bringing in your cat sooner rather than later is paramount to the prognosis of the disease.


As you can see, there’s a bevy of reasons why you might see your cat’s tongue sticking out. This behavior is usually a symptom rather than a cause. Luckily, it’s a pretty benign behavior in most cases.

Seeing your cat’s tongue sticking out like a dog is not something you see every day. If you suspect that there’s something serious going on, take your feline friend to the vet. It’s better to catch issues early on than to ignore them until they become grave.

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