What is a Blep?

Last Updated on October 13, 2021 by Julia Wilson

What is a blep?

A blep is a common 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 over-think the reason why.

  • In almost all cases of blepping, the cat forgot to put his or her tongue completely back into the mouth after grooming.
  • 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.
  • They’ve picked up a scent. 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.
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 heat stroke 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 house and is an onomatopoeic word because the sound is similar to the pronounciation of the word (similar to buzz, hiss etc).