Cat Sticking Tongue Out? Is It a Symptom of Something?

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Approved By: Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM

Certified Content. This article has been fact checked and verified by our veterinary adviser.​

Cat Sticking Tongue Out

Cat sticking tongue out? No, they're not making fun of you! Neither are they making a visual pun on the idiom “Cat got your tongue.” It may be for an innocuous reason.

For instance, she may have simply been startled while grooming and just forgot to put it back in. Or it could be a symptom of something worth taking her to the vet over.

If a cat has something in her mouth, she may have a hard time getting it out. Remember, a cat's tongue is rough so anything that gets in their mouth may have a hard time getting out.

If your cat's tongue is darting in and out like a snake, she may be trying to get something out of her mouth. In elderly cats, constantly forgetting to put the tongue back can be a sign of dementia.

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Cat sleeping with tongue out

Nothing to worry about here! Your cat just got so relaxed her tongue slipped out a bit. Snap a pic of your cute, sleeping kitty and share it with your friends. Silly caption is optional.

Cat Sticking Tongue Out Repeatedly

As said before, this could mean Kitty's trying to get something out of her mouth. Did you just feed her something she's never had before or give her some medicine?

She may not like the taste and is trying to get rid of it the way you might gag on tasting something yucky.

If your cat eats a monarch butterfly, she may make this gagging face for a few moments and decide she never wants to eat a monarch ever again. If this goes on for more than a minute or two, you might have to investigate.

She may have something stuck in her teeth or she could have a lesion or blockage that needs attending to.

Cat’s Tongue Sticking Out From Periodontal Disease

Is your cat drooling excessively with the tongue hanging out? It could be because it's uncomfortable for your cat to close her mouth.

Cats are prone to gingivitisperiodontitis and other bacterial infections that stem from bad oral hygiene. A tooth may be painfully decaying or been chipped or lost.

Time to go see the veterinarian!

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Feline Stomatitis

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Dental problems left untreated can lead to stomatitis. Painful ulcers can make it impossible for the cat to put her tongue in her mouth, meaning the poor thing can't eat. The distress of not being able to do anything with this aching mouth could cause her to pant with the tongue hanging out. 

Though severe, it is rare. Usually, such a thing will only be seen in strays or pets that are severely neglected. Take care of your cat's mouth problems right away so they don't get this bad.

Symptom Of Poisoning

Kitty might have gotten into some pesticides or cleaning products she wasn't supposed to. Or maybe she ate a mouse that had poison in its system.

Cats Sticking Their Tongue Out Due Respiratory Infection

If your cat has trouble breathing, her tongue may hang out and wag back and forth. She will also be short of breath, have lost her sense of balance and coordination and lose interest in grooming. If your cat has any of these symptoms she needs to be taken to a veterinarian to get her lungs checked out.

Tongue wagging can also be sign of motion sickness. If you’re in a vehicle and your cat’s tongue lolls out, you might need to let her out to reorient herself and get some air. Nervousness such as from an unfamiliar environment may cause Kitty to pant.

Whether it’s motion sickness or just plain discomfort of unfamiliarity, she’ll likely be back to her old self once you’re home and she’s in familiar surroundings.

cat sticking tongue out

Heatstroke can cause cats to stick their tongue out

If there’s drooling, panting and the cat is red rather than healthy pink, your cat may be overheating. NEVER leave a cat in a hot car. It can get up to 120 degrees in just thirty minutes, slowly baking the poor cat alive.

While many people believe the axiom of “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” applies to cats, you can entice a picky cat to drink water more by serving it in a little Kitty fountain.

Does your cat ignore her water dish but lap eagerly from the faucet? She might prefer to drink running water over still water.

Long haired cats in particular are susceptible to heatstroke. A cat with the early signs of heatstroke may groom excessively in attempt to cool off. The cat will restlessly try to find someplace cool.

Late stage heatstroke symptoms include lethargy, rapid pulse and breathing, red tongue, vomiting and stumbling. Eventually, an over high body temperature will cause the cat to collapse.

If you come across a cat passed out from heatstroke you can soak her with cool (not cold) water to revive her. Put an ice pack against her underside (towel to prevent frostbite) and get her to a vet right away. If a cat is conscious but showing signs of heat exhaustion take her someplace shady or better yet indoors.

Soak her if she’ll stand for it, but a wipe with a cool rag might be enough. Get her to drink some water then get her to a veterinarian. In any case, always make sure your cat can get to shade and has fresh water.

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Why do cats stick their tongue out?

Periodontal disease is a common cause for cats' drooling and having their tongue hang out. They get plaque build-up on their teeth just like we do. When it's uncomfortable for your cat to close his mouth, you may see him hanging out his tongue and drooling.

Why does my cat stick his tongue out?

It is true that if cats constantly stick out their tongue, it is likely that they are not able to close their mouth due to a possible injury on the mouth or a breathing issue such as one that is caused by a respiratory problem. If that is the case, you should have your cat seen by a veterinarian.

What does it mean when a cat's tongue is sticking out?

Cats sticking their tongue out due to Respiratory Infection. Your cat is also susceptible to infections of the nose, throat and sinuses, all of which can make him drool excessively and stick out his tongue. Particularly if he is having difficulty breathing, his tongue will wag as he tries to draw breath.

Why does my cat stick her tongue out when I pet her?

Loosened jaw. This is another common reason for some cats to stick out their tongues – particularly while they're sleeping. Just like a person would open his/ her mouth during their sleep, your pet's body can be so relaxed that its jaw will loosen.

  • Updated June 3, 2022
Mary Nielsen

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.