Blepping is a term that refers to the act of leaving the tongue, usually the tip, outside the mouth unconsciously.Usually it is used in reference to cats, but other animals can blep too.
Even if you’ve never heard the word blep, if you have pets, you are probably aware of this behavior. Recently, the internet has been inundated with this trend of sharing pictures of pets with their tongues hanging out of their mouths—either slightly or entirely on full display. This unleashing of a pet’s tongue is a blep!
Animal behavior consultant and cat expert Amy Shojai says blepping is actually connected with the way cats investigate their surroundings.
“Cats use all senses to explore the world, including taste,” she explains. “The Flehmen response (mouth agape) collects pheromones on the tongue and transfers them to the roof of the mouth to an internal ‘scent mechanism’ (vomeronasal organ) to detect sexual status or other info about other cats. So ‘forgetting’ to retract the tongue in these instances might be due to fascination or distraction while deciphering these kitty ‘Post-It’ notes!”
Basically, blepping is the face cats make when they’re acting as detectives.
“When a cat displays the Flehman response, she’s basically analyzing a particular scent,” Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat behavior consultant, confirms to PetMD. “It’s used primarily for analyzing pheromones from other cats, especially the ones found in urine, but a cat will use it for other interesting scents that require more thorough investigation, too.”
Why Does a Pet Blep?
So for some cats, blepping may be a normal behavior, but what about dogs?
Bleps can occur for many different reasons. Knowing the typical, at-rest state of your pet’s tongue is the key to identifying whether or not a blep is normal or calls for medical attention. Sometimes, a pet’s tongue is just too big for their mouth and their tongue pops out just a bit to give their tongue enough room to be comfortable. In other cases, a pet might have had damage to their jaw, teeth, or face in a way that makes their mouth unable to support their tongue staying put and so their tongue just naturally slides out.
Hanging Tongue Syndrome
In dogs, a blep might actually be a case of Hanging Tongue Syndrome. If your dog is suffering from Hanging Tongue Syndrome, their tongue can become cracked, dry, and painful, similar to chapped lips. Although Hanging Tongue Syndrome might not be life threatening by itself, it calls for a visit to the vet to determine if it’s a sign of something more serious.
Next time you see a pet sticking it’s tongue out at you, you’ll know what to call it! But it’s not always a pet trying to show you how cute he or she is, some pets with bleps could be sick or injured. Keeping an eye on your pet’s tongue is a great way to keep tabs on their health.