What is a blep?
A blep is a popular internet term to describe a cat (or dog) who has unintentionally left a portion of its tongue hanging out of its closed mouth. The term originated from a subreddit thread showing cats blepping in 2014 and remains popular to this day.
Most cat lovers find the blep absolutely irresistible and either reach for the camera or have to boop, by touching the blep with their finger.
Why do cats blep?
There are a number of theories as to why cats blep, although to be honest, we tend to overthink the reason why.
- Most cases of blepping are due to the cat forgetting to put his or her tongue completely back into the mouth after grooming.
- Cats who have lost a significant number of teeth may poke their tongue out because the teeth are no longer there to keep the tongue in the mouth.
- Brachycephalic breeds such as the Persian and Exotic may have problems retracting the tongue fully within the mouth because of the shortened nose. This doesn’t appear to be as common an occurrence as with short-nosed dogs.
- The Flehmen response is a biological mechanism used by several animals, including cats, to investigate scents. Pheromone-rich odours cats can trigger the Flehmen response. The cat curls the upper lips in what appears to be a sneer, in doing so, it opens two small ducts (nasopalatine canals) on the roof of the cat’s mouth behind the incisors which join up with the Jacobson’s organ. While the cat’s tongue may protrude from the mouth, this is less of a blep as the mouth is open during the Flehmen response.
When is a blep not a blep?
Open-mouthed breathing (panting) with the tongue sticking out is not a blep (although some websites claim it is). Panting is a sign that the cat is overheating and at risk of heatstroke or under extreme stress.
If you suspect your cat is overheating, move him to a cool room and offer him a drink of cool water. Contact your veterinarian to determine if medical intervention is necessary.
Related: Glossary of feline terms
Are blep and mlem the same?
No, blep and mlem are different. Blep refers to the cat whose tip of the tongue is protruding from the mouth which typically occurs after the cat has been grooming. Mlem is the sound of the tongue as it moves in and out of the mouth.