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As cat owners, we are all familiar with the various quirks and behaviors of our feline friends. From kneading blankets with their paws to bringing us “gifts” in the form of dead mice, cats have a unique set of behaviors that can sometimes be difficult to understand. One behavior that many cat owners have noticed is their cat sticking its tongue out, but may not know why this occurs.
There are a variety of reasons why a cat may stick its tongue out, some of which are medical in nature and others that are more benign. Medical reasons for a cat sticking its tongue out can include dental problems such as toothaches or gum disease, respiratory issues such as a blocked airway or sinus infection, and other conditions such as feline calicivirus or heat stroke.
On the other hand, non-medical reasons for a cat sticking its tongue out can include marking their territory by using the scent glands on their tongue, grooming themselves, or trying to cool down by sticking their tongue out when they feel hot or thirsty.
It’s important for cat owners to pay attention to this behavior and to observe any other changes in their cat’s behavior or appearance. If a cat is frequently sticking its tongue out or if the behavior is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, you’ll want to consult with a veterinarian to get a diagnosis and come up with a possible treatment plan.
Below we will delve deeper into the various reasons why a cat may stick its tongue out and how to determine the cause of this behavior. By understanding the underlying reasons for a cat sticking its tongue out, we can better care for our feline friends and ensure their health and well-being.
Medical reasons a cat is sticking its tongue out
Your cat may suddenly start sticking his or her tongue out if they are experiencing dental problems, such as toothaches, tooth decay, or gum disease. Cats may experience toothaches as a result of a number of conditions, such as infections, cavities, or the buildup of plaque and tartar. These problems can be uncomfortable, and they might stick their tongues out to ease the pain. Drooling will frequently be present along with this.
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is another oral condition that can make your cat stick its tongue out. This happens when oral bacteria infect the gums, causing discomfort. Other signs your cat might be experiencing dental pain are a lack of interest in hard food (dry food, hard treats, dental chews, etc), not wanting their face to be touched, facial swelling, or just general crankiness. Dental issues in cats are treated under general anesthesia and may include deep teeth cleaning or removal of painful teeth.
When a cat’s airway is blocked or they are having trouble breathing, they occasionally stick their tongues out. When this behavior occurs, other symptoms like coughing, nasal discharge, or sneezing are frequently present as well. You should seek veterinary care as soon as you notice any respiratory issues in your cat. Life-threatening respiratory conditions may need to be treated with medicine or oxygen therapy.
Feline calicivirus is a medical condition that can cause your cat to start sticking its tongue out. There are a number of additional symptoms of this virus including oral ulcers, sneezing, and drooling. If you suspect your cat has feline calicivirus, you’ll want them to see a vet as soon as possible. While the virus can be managed with supportive care and controlling medications (like eye drops and antibiotics), there isn’t a cure, and the death rate can be as high as 67%.
Feline calicivirus is very contagious, so you’ll want to keep your sick cat away from any healthy cats in your household. It can take as long as 3 weeks for your cat to stop shedding the virus and stop being contagious to other cats, so even if your cat’s symptoms go away, you won’t want to introduce them to your healthy cats until your vet has said it’s okay.
Heat stroke occurs when a cat’s body temperature becomes too high – this can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Symptoms of heat stroke in cats include panting, tongue protrusion, trembling, lethargy, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect your cat may be experiencing heat stroke, it is important to move them to a cool location, give them access to fresh water, and seek veterinary care.
Cat owners are often surprised to learn that cats can develop dementia as they age. In fact, about 36% of cats between 11 and 21 have signs of dementia. Dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), has a number of behavioral symptoms including sticking their tongue out, disorientation, confusion, howling, and altered social interaction.
While there is no cure for CDS, there are medications and other treatments that can help manage symptoms and improve your cat’s quality of life. If you think your senior cat may be exhibiting signs of dementia, you should consult with a vet to get an official diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.
Non-medical reasons a cat is sticking its tongue out
One possible reason why your cat is sticking its tongue out is that the cat is trying to mark its territory by using the scent glands on its tongue. Cats have scent glands on various parts of their body, including their paws, face, and tongue, and they use these glands to mark their territory and communicate with other cats. If a cat sticks its tongue out and then rubs it against an object or person, it may be trying to mark its territory with its scent.
Another non-medical reason for a cat sticking its tongue out is grooming. Cats are fastidious groomers and will often use their tongue to remove dirt, debris, or food from their fur. If a cat is sticking its tongue out while grooming, it may be trying to clean itself or remove something from its fur.
Cats may also stick their tongue out as a way to cool down when they feel hot or thirsty. Cats do not have sweat glands on their skin like humans do and rely on panting and other behaviors to regulate their body temperature. If a cat is feeling hot, it may stick its tongue out as a way to dissipate heat and cool down. Similarly, if a cat is feeling thirsty, it may stick its tongue out in anticipation of getting a drink.
It is important for cat owners to pay attention to their cat’s behavior and observe any changes or patterns. If a cat is frequently sticking its tongue out or if the behavior is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it may be a sign of an underlying medical issue and it is important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
How to determine the cause of a cat sticking its tongue out
If a cat is sticking its tongue out in addition to displaying other symptoms or behavioral changes, it may be an indication of a more serious medical condition. Coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, breathing problems, lethargy, loss of appetite, and changes in bowel or urinary habits are among the symptoms to watch out for.
If you have any concerns about this behavior, even if your cat isn’t showing any other symptoms, it’s a good idea to bring your cat to the vet. It could be something benign, or it could be a medical condition that needs immediate treatment. In any case, talking to your vet will probably make you feel better.
If your vet gives you the all-clear, it’s likely just a behavioral thing. Pay attention to when it’s happening – for example maybe your cat just doesn’t tuck their tongue back in after grooming, or maybe their mouth relaxes and their tongue falls out when they’re sleepy. It could very well be just a cute quirk unique to your cat!