Admit it or not, a simple photo of a kitty sticking out its tongue out can instantly brighten your mood. Thanks to the internet, we now have a term for such expression – blep. In this post, we’ll answer why do cats blep.
Is this cute, murky expression something that every cat must do? Or do they blep to capture the attention of their owner? Is it a symptom of a medical problem?
What is a blep?
A blep is an animal behavior or expression, usually being done by cats, where they expose a tiny amount of their tongue out for seconds or even minutes.
Once captured, it is found to be Instagram-worthy.
Theories of a Blep
Animal behavior consultants, cat experts, and feline lovers have different opinions and explanations on why do cats blep.
The Tasting the Air Theory
It's one of the most common and accepted explanations on why do cats blep.
According to animal behavior consultants, felines stick their tongue out to “taste” the air as part of the Flehmen response.
They blep to gather pheromones in the air that were released by other cats.
Once the pheromones are collected on the tongue, they transfer them to the roof of their mouth; Then, their vomeronasal organ will interpret the scents.
Although, they may also do this for other scents that may intrigue them, such as your shoes.
The Stray Hair Theory
For cats, tongues are used for almost everything – eating, drinking, and even grooming.
You might’ve noticed your feline licking its coat. Such behavior is to remove hairs, dirt, and traces of food from their fur.
At times, some of the hairs or dirt gets stuck on the cat's tongue, particularly on its papillae(Papillae are tiny barbs that cause the rough feel on their tongue).
When this happens, the only solution a cat has is to stick its tongue out.
The Forgot to Put It In Theory
Another plausible reason for a blep, especially if your cat is eating or grooming itself is that it simply forgot to retract its tongue.
It can happen if it suddenly looks to you or to something else that intrigued it.
The Relaxed Theory
More so, a cat may be so relaxed that it was no longer aware that its tongue has fallen out of its mouth.
This is likely to happen when kittens are asleep or if your feline is taking a muscle-relaxing medication.
The Breed-Specific Theory
Some breeds may also tend to blep more than others. This could be because there's no enough room in its mouth to rest its tongue comfortably.
Flat-faced cat breeds such as Persians may blep more often simply because of this reason.
The Missing Teeth Theory
It's another anatomic explanation, according to some experts. Since teeth keep the tongue in place, the absence of even one tooth can cause a cat's tongue to flop out.
It is more likely to happen if the missing tooth/teeth came from the lower portion of the mouth.
Based on these theories, there’s generally no reason for you to worry if your feline is blepping.
However, if you have observed that behavior being exhibited more regularly by your cat, then you might want to have it checked to make sure.
When you should worry about your Cat’s Blep
A blep should be a quirky and cute behavior.
However, if your cat’s doing it more frequently than usual, then maybe it’s not because of those reasons above.
Here are some medical problems that could cause a blep.
Although not very alarming, a blep can be an indication of your feline’s oral problem.
It can be because of its gums or teeth. As such, you might want to bring your cat to a veterinarian for proper evaluation.
One particular problem that could be found is the periodontal disease.
It is a gum disease that may cause a feline to drool excessively and hang out its tongue.
It is caused by a plaque build-up that can, later on, destroy bone and tissue. It may also form cavities between its gum and teeth.
Periodontal disease is one of the most common conditions that cats in the US tend to acquire. It can affect cats of all ages.
As a feline lover, you may keep your pet free from such disease by brushing its mouth and gums.
However, when it gets worse, you would need a vet for a thorough cleaning, polishing and fluoride application, or worst, surgery.
It is a rare yet severe health concern among felines, but cats of all ages and breeds can still be affected.
It could be caused by dental disease or triggered by other immune-mediated conditions.
Feline Stomatitis is also found to be related to other viral infections such as calicivirus, feline leukemia, and bartonellosis.
It is characterized by inflammation in a cat's mouth and gums.
There might also be an ulcer in the mouth and ulcerations at the back of the throat, lips, and tongue.
As such, a cat with feline stomatitis might refuse to eat and groom its coat.
If you observed this on your cat, better bring it to a vet immediately for long-term treatment.
Similar with dogs, a cat panting and sticking out its tongue means that it’s already too hot and trying to regulate its temperature.
The quick solution to this is to bring your feline under a shade and give it fresh water.
However, once it experienced heatstroke, you might want to visit a vet.
The more usual victims of heatstroke are elderly cats, obese, and flat-faced breeds.
When you take your cat for a ride, you might want to observe its behavior.
When it's sticking out its tongue, drooling and panting, it already means that your feline companion is dizzy. Later on, it can even result in vomiting.
Similar to humans, cats can also get upper respiratory tract infections.
Once infected, they would drool and expose their tongue. Other indications include shortness of breath, loss of balance, and lack of appetite.
When you see these symptoms on your pet, better have a vet check on it.
With older felines, a tongue exposed doesn't mean that they are trying to be cute. It could be a sign of dementia.
As such, they are unable to keep their tongue inside their mouth anymore.
Other symptoms are staring at walls, constant crying, easily agitated, lack of appetite, and unable to use their litter box properly.
An appointment with the vet will guide you on proper care for your old cat.
Since cats use their tongue for almost everything, they are very prone to poisoning.
They can be poisoned by garden pesticide, household cleaning products, and even mice.
Well, there are many reasons on why do cats blep.
Although a blep is an indication of a health concern, you must remember that it’s also part of their natural behavior.
You don’t have to be paranoid because after all, a blep makes your feline look so cute and adorable.