Animal column: Cat’s protruding tongue may signal health issues |

Animal column: Cat’s protruding tongue may signal health issues

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist

Dear Henry,

Just curious, my cat has started sticking his tongue out, I mean a lot. He will just sit and stick his tongue out at me. It’s cute, but should I be concerned?



Dear Arnold.

I’m glad you brought this up. While yes — it’s cute, I had a kitty with this habit. While some cats just do this for no apparent reason, my concern with your cat is that it is new behavior. If you cat was doing this its whole life and your veterinarian had seen no signs of trouble, then I would say you just have a silly kitty.

A protruding tongue can be a sign of fairly serious oral issues such as periodontal disease, which is very common in cats. Periodontal disease is easily diagnosed by your veterinarian during an oral examination. Some cats also experience gingivitis or stomatitis (inflammation of the entire mouth). When severe your cat will often paw at its mouth, refuse to eat, drool excessively, and stick out its tongues. This particular oral disease is very painful and requires immediate treatment that can include antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and in extreme cases extraction of all the teeth. Don’t worry: cats get along just fine toothless.

Oral tumors, ulcers on the gums (a common sign of kidney failure), broken teeth with nerve damage, or exposed nerves and temporomandibular joint disorders can also cause a cat’s tongue to stick out.

The bottom line is any time your cat’s or dog’s behavior changes in a noticeable way don’t take a chance; call your veterinarian! A checkup will make sure your furry family member is happy and healthy and give you peace of mind.

I hope this was helpful.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit, or

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