Cat sticks out tongue – Now what?

Cat behavior can be puzzling at times, and one of those intriguing habits is when a cat sticks out his tongue. While it may seem strange, there is usually a good reason behind this behavior. In this article, we’ll discuss some possible causes and interpretations of why your cat sticks out his tongue. 

Reasons why your cat sticks out his tongue

Cooling down

When it is very hot, cats basically go to sleep in the coolest places. Then they suffer the least from the heat. At night they go hunting again. But when it’s extremely hot and your cat can’t escape the heat, he’ll have to find another way to keep his body cool.

Us humans sweat in that case. Because water ends up on our warm skin, this water will evaporate, extracting heat from our body and cooling us down. Cats, however, can only sweat through the soles of their feet. That is not enough in extreme heat. That is why they wash themselves more extensive when it’s hot. By wetting their fur, the saliva can then evaporate just like the sweat in humans. If this is still not enough to cool down enough, they will pant and stick their tongue out. This way they also evaporate a lot of water, which cools their body. However, cats don’t do this very quickly, which is why you may not have seen it before.

Cat sticks out his tongue because it hurts.
Recognize a smell by tasting

Cats have a good sense of smell and can use their tongues to capture and analyze odor particles. The fragrances come on their nose, among other things, and by licking them and putting them in their mouths, they can better recognize the smell. Some cats do this a lot. Again and again lick their tongue over their nose and look around alertly. However, our house cats have become a bit lazy, so we don’t see them doing that very much anymore. Because well, your food will be prepared for you anyway.


If cats are sick, for example due to a virus or eating something that was spoiled , they can also stick out their tongue. You often see them swallowing a little more than your cat usually does. He tries to swallow away the nauseated feeling. You often also see that your cat is drooling with nausea. Whole threads of drool can hang from its mouth. Sometimes they even become so nauseous that they vomit.

Nauseous cat is drooling. This cat almost sticks out his tongue.
Pain in his mouth

When cats have pain in their mouth, they often stick out their tongue. You can think of tartar that has caused inflammation of the gums, or licking up toxic chemicals that cause a kind of burns, wounds on the tongue or even very thick swellings in the mouth. All good reasons to have pain in his mouth and therefore to stick out his tongue.

Diagnosis of why your cat sticks out his tongue

Exclude overheating

First of all, you should ask yourself if it is currently very hot where your cat lives. Maybe that’s why he sticks out his tongue. Especially if it is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (=32 degrees celcius), it may very well be that your cat is just panting to get his body temperature down. In that case, it is best to first take his body temperature with a (human) rectal thermometer.

You insert this thermometer into his anus with the help of some vaseline. A normal body temperature for a cat is below 103°F (=39.5°C). If it is higher than that he has a fever or he is overheated. If it is very hot in his environment then he cannot lose his heat sufficiently when his temperature rises above 103°F (=39.5°C). In that case you have to moisten his legs and head a little so that he can lose extra heat. If it is above 105°F (=40.5°C) you should urgently go to a vet. When the temperature rises above 106°F (=41,0°C), it runs the risk of dying from overheating. 

mouth inspection to exclude wounds

Didn’t your cat get too hot due to a hot environment? Then you look in his mouth. First, lift his lips to view his incisors. Then you pull the lips back a little to assess his molars. Also check out his tongue and throat. You do this by pushing your finger into the small cavity behind his fangs. He will probably open his mouth himself a bit. Then you can open his lower jaw a little further. Don’t do this too far because then he will struggle and you won’t see anything anymore.

Do you see a lot of dark red gums, blood or pus? Then you’ve probably found the cause of your cat sticks out his tongue. With this, it is best to go to a vet to have it assessed. If necessary, your vet can prescribe a pain reliever to ease your cat’s discomfort.

Mouth inspection to look for the cause why this cat sticks out his tongue.

If it is a very small wound, you can treat it with some hydrogen peroxide 3% solution. Put this on a clean cotton swab and dab it on the wound in its mouth 3 times a day. The inflammatory reaction should have improved a lot after a day or two and completely have disappeared after 5 days. Your cat should no longer stick his tongue out after a few days. 


Does he not have an elevated temperature and no wounds in his mouth? Then there is a good chance that he is nauseous. Give him something to eat that he normally eats right away. Is he not interested in it? Or does he eat it at a slow pace? Then he is probably nauseous. If you have a younger cat, you can watch this for a day or two. But if your cat is older than ten years, it is best to go to a vet to rule out serious problems, such as kidney failure. Incidentally, a cat with nausea as a result of a viral infection can also have a high fever. But then a normal temperature prevails in his home.

Did you decide to wait a few days and see if your cat heals by itself? Then it is very important that he gets in some food. Cats get fatty liver quickly as a result of not eating and they can die from this serious medical problem. So at least make sure that he eats some food by means of tasty sweets or a bit of cheese or sausage. You can also give the wet food you see below. This contains many more calories than normal wet food, so he does not need to consume a lot of it to prevent fatty liver disease. By warming wet food a little, cats often eat it better than when it is cold.

What next?​

So your cat should not be overheated or have problems in its mouth. If he is, it is best to take him to the vet. Have you been unable to find why your cat sticks his tongue out? And does your cat just seem nauseous? Then you wait a while while you make sure that he eats a little bit of food every day. Make sure he does not vomit and that once in two days he has some stool. Good luck! Hopefully your cat is feeling better soon.