Why do cats stick their tongue out?

Why do cats stick their tongue out? We are discussing domestic cats. You can see a classic example of this on twitter and I have embedded the short video on this page. Social media users call it a ‘cat blep’. No idea why. They think it is a sign of contentment. It might be but I think it is more than that or it might signify nothing at all.

Cat with tongue out and Pete Sampras doing the same thing
Cat with tongue out and Pete Sampras doing the same thing
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It’s a bit of a mystery as to why domestic cats stick their tongue out like this. We are talking about cats doing this when awake. When they do it they have this very passive appearance. They are almost static when they do it.

When I see it I think of Pete Sampras the great American tennis player. He did this a lot when playing tournaments. You might remember and if not I’ve included a photograph of him doing it side-by-side with a still frame of the cat taken from the video.

I couldn’t find an answer in the books that I have so I will decide myself. My distinct impression is that when domestic cats stick their tongue out they are thinking in a rather passive, relaxed (and perhaps contented) way. It’s not focused thought but a wandering mind! This is a gut feeling I have about this form of feline behavior. I don’t think much is happening inside the cat’s cranium at this time.

I wonder whether Pete Sampras was thinking when he let his tongue flop out of his mouth? Perhaps he had breathing problems! But I get the impression that when he did it it was a sign of a desire to be persistent combined with thought.

P.S. The facial expression is similar to but not the same as the feline Flehmen response which is a heightened odour detection process. In the Flehmen response the tongue is not out but the mouth is open.

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