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Why Do Cats Lick Their Lips – Is It Normal Behavior?

We’ve all seen our kitties lick their lips. We tend to think of the gesture as a sign that they want to eat or have eaten something delicious. But as usual, our little felines are far more complicated than we give them credit for. So what’s behind this gesture? Why do cats lick their lips? 

Cats lick their lips in order to clean them. Cats also lick their lips when they are anxious, hungry, or feeling nauseous. Respiratory infections, dental issues, and too much saliva will also cause cats to lick their lips.

In this post, we’ll look at the complex reasons that cats may be licking their lips. There are various causes and triggers to this action, and as usual, our cats’ psychology plays a big part! 

Reasons Cats Lick Their Lips

Cats have many reasons for licking their lips, but below are the top ones to look out for.


After eating or drinking, a cat is likely to lick its lips to get the remaining food off of its mouth, similar to the way humans might use a napkin. They also do it to get every last delicious morsel! 

Your Cat Is Anxious

If your cat is licking their lips in response to a stressful event, like a move, a stranger in the house, or a new pet, chances are it’s a response to anxiety. They could be extremely upset, and licking their lips becomes something of a nervous tic. 

Your Cat Is Feeling Nauseous

Cats do not like to let us know when they’re not feeling well, so we have to look for the behavioral signs.

One giveaway that your pet is having tummy trouble is if they are licking their lips a lot. This, along with excessive drooling, can indicate nausea. Nausea can be for many reasons, so it’s best to ask the vet what’s going on. 

Too Much Or Too Little Saliva

Cats’ drooling can have various causes, from happiness to recent vomiting. They will likely lick their lips in response.

Licking their lips can also mean they don’t have enough saliva, and they are trying to manufacture it. This can happen in cats with a condition called xerostomia, which is similar to dry mouth. 

Your Cat Has An Upper Respiratory Infection

Colds are pretty standard in cats, as they are susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and allergies. Licking the lips, along with sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, or eye discharge, can be a sign that your kitty has an upper respiratory infection. This can typically be quickly resolved with help from the vet. 

Dental Or Oral Disease In Cats

Sadly, cats are highly susceptible to oral diseases like gingivitis. This can cause pain, among many other symptoms. As we know, our cats don’t like us to be aware of their suffering, but licking their lips could sign that their mouth region is hurting them. 

Why Does My Cat Lick Their Lips When They Look At Me

The clue why your cat is licking their lips while looking at you could be in the context. If you’re getting mad at your cat, the licking could be a sign of anxiousness.

If it’s dinnertime, it could be in anticipation of the meal or signal to you that you need to get the food ready. Our cats’ powerful gazes are usually very deliberate, and if lip-licking accompanies their stare, you can look to the above clues to attempt to decode what they want. 

Do Cats Lick Their Lips When Stressed

Cats lick their lips as a response to stress. Scientists believe this response to anxiousness is an instinct that involves sensing predators through the vomeronasal, or Jacobson’s organ, located on the roof of that cat’s mouth.

The ducts of this organ lead to the cat’s mouth and nose. This helps cats analyze their surroundings.

When they sense danger, they could be using their animal instinct to assess the situation. If your cat is licking their lips in response to a significant change in its environment, stress is probably the reason. 

Why Does My Cat Keep Sneezing And Licking Their Lips

Cats lick their lips and sneeze when they are dealing with an upper respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections are prevalent in cats. They can catch them from other cats or from being outside. But some cats are also born with colds that never entirely go away.

Colds in cats are rarely a cause for concern, but licking their lips could be a sign that they’re unable to breathe through their nose and are trying to breathe through their mouth.

In response, they feel unusual sensations or start drooling and lick their lips. Having a cold and being unable to breathe through their mouth could also be causing anxiousness, which, as noted above, causes cats to lick their lips. 

Why Do Cats Lick Their Lips When Angry

Cats lick their lips when angry to help them assess danger and the scent of invaders. Cats respond to anger and stress in a very visceral way handed down to them by their giant cat ancestors.

Anger and stress are responses to predators or outside forces that are not welcome in the cat’s domain. Licking their lips is a scientific and automatic response that proves to be helpful in critical situations.

Why Do Cats Lick Their Lips When Fighting

Cats lick their lips when fighting as part of an automatic response. Direct conflict with another animal is a definite way to put a cat’s anxiety on high alert.

Just as their tails puff up, their ears flatten back, and the hair along their spine stands on edge, they lick their lips. All of these are a response to a predator or invader.

As they signal to the cat they’re fighting using their body language, they use their genetic abilities to assess the animal’s scent, using everything they can to plan their next move. 

Why Do Cats Lick Their Lips After Smelling

Cats lick their lips after smelling to gather more sensory information. The licking allows them to process more about the environment around them.

Cats rely significantly on their senses. While dogs are always given credit for having extraordinary smelling abilities, cats’ noses are also highly sensitive.

Why Do Cats Lick Their Lips After Eating

Cats lick their lips after eating to hide the scent of trace foods leftover after a meal. They also do this to clean their face and not block their senses.

The quintessential “That was delicious!” signal can be just that in cats: A sign that they loved their food! However, those long-standing instincts kick in for cats if food is left anywhere on their body.

They’re likely to groom a lot after eating, and licking their lips could be part of that. This is because, in the wild, cats must hide their scent from potential predators. The best way to do this is to thoroughly wash off any trace of food left on their paws or mouths after eating. 

Things To Consider

A common through-line in cats’ licking of their lips is psychology. It is natural for cats to be threatened by stressful situations or perceived predators, but it’s not normal for them to be triggered by everything around them or by people or animals they know well.

If you notice that your cat seems stressed out a lot, you must take them for an evaluation by a veterinarian. There are natural and prescription methods to help ease a cat’s stress. There could also be an underlying medical cause that’s making your cat lash out. 

While not mentioned much in the above post, dental and oral diseases are prevalent in cats. If you notice your cat licking their mouth a lot and other stressors are not present, they should have their teeth checked.

Many products are on the market for brushing a cat’s teeth to remove plaque and prevent future dental complications. 

With licking, the problems are as varied in their reasons as they are in their seriousness.

Observing your cat will tip you off to the causes of their licking. If you notice frequent licking, assess the situation. It could be a sign of something serious, or it could be a sign that they loved the tuna treat you shared!