Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Why Do Cats Leave Their Mouth Open

Don't Miss

Why Does Your Cat Leave Its Mouth Open While Sniffing

Why Does A Cat’s Mouth Hang Open?


Cats are curious animalsthey roam around your home and outdoors, investigating just about anything they can find. With their extraordinary sense of smell, they are able to navigate their surroundings and learn more about other animals.

Every once in a while, you might notice that your cat will smell something, then leave its mouth hanging open for a few seconds afterwards. It might wrinkle its nose and draw back its upper lip, the way humans do when they smell something gross. You also might notice your cat goes into a sort of trance after the initial sniff and face-making. This behavior certainly looks odd, from our perspective!

So what exactly is this all about? Is your cat disgusted by the smells, is it hurt, or is it doing something else entirely?

Turns out, this open-mouth sniffing face is caused by something called the flehmen reaction, and its perfectly normal. Cats have an organ at the roof of their mouths behind the teeth called the vomeronasal organ, or Jacobsons organ. This special sensory organ is small in size and is composed of two fluid-filled sacs connected to the nasal cavity.

The extra-deep sniff of whatever odor they are investigating helps your cat learn much more about its environment and may even trigger a behavioral response.

When Cat Panting Is Normal

Sometimes cat panting is normal and not a reason to be concerned, especially if you know what kind of activity your cat was involved in immediately beforehand.

Panting can be a normal response in cats that are overheated, stressed and anxious, or after strenuous exercise, says Dr. Elizabeth Cottrell, DVM, a veterinarian at the Cat Hospital at Towson in Maryland. It should resolve once the cat has a chance to cool down and rest. Keep in mind that cat panting under circumstances like these is rarer than it is with dogs, so unless youre sure of the cause, its worth bringing to the attention of your veterinarian.

So How Is Smelling Each Other’s Rear Ends Part Of Their Communication

What perplexes many pet owners is why cats would sniff this particular part of the anatomy. Why rear ends? The answer is anatomical. Inside the rectum are two small sacs called anal glands, which secrete a noxious smelling substance into the rectum through a pair of tiny openings. The glands are emptied naturally when the rectal sphincter muscles contract during a bowel movement. Pet owners are usually unaware of this occurrence, since the odor of the anal glands is masked by the odor of the cats stool; however, cats can definitely tell the difference.

“When cats sniff rear ends as a greeting, they can determine a great deal of information about each other.”

When cats sniff rear ends as a greeting, they can determine a great deal of information about each other. Is this cat a friend or foe? Is she going to be a good date? Is he aggressive? Is she feeling ill? And because the odor is unique to every cat and serves as a form of identification, two cats can quickly determine if they have met before.

The very act of sniffing rear ends can establish dominance and set the tone of the relationship. The dominant cat will usually initiate the sniffing, while the more submissive cat waits her turn. A submissive cat may end the sniffing and retreat. A dominant cat may stop sniffing and hiss to end the introduction. Some cats are shy and like to limit the information they give out, so they will simply sit down and clamp their tails over their rectums, reducing the odor they emit.

Read Also: How To Feed Cat With Cone

How Does The Flehmen Response Work

Its no coincidence that your cats mouth gapes open as she inhales near the litter box or on a grassy patch in the yard. This flehmen response connects a cats robust sense of smell. Heres a glimpse at how this process looks:


A curious kitty will follow her nose until she finds something that catches her attention, whether thats a seemingly bare spot on the wall or an empty ceramic bowl from supper. A cat will lean in and breathe the aroma in via her nostrils and mouth. In this initial stage, youll notice the distinguished lip curl and exposed teeth a true flehmen!

Tongue Flicking

If you look closely, youll see that your cat is flicking her tongue up and down as she sniffs a bizarre sight to behold. This flicking motion transfers the scent from the tongue to the vomeronasal organ located in the roof of the mouth.

The small ducts nestled behind the top row of teeth connect to the brain, allowing the cat to decipher what this strange smell could possibly suggest.


Drawing the aroma into the mouth and the vomeronasal organ nearly doubles the sensory experience. While a cats taste receptors significantly lag, their sense of smell could be 14 times more powerful than humans.

Thanks to the flehmen response, a cat can accurately taste another cats pheromones or another mysterious aroma while redirecting this sensory response to the reliable olfactory receptors instead.

Do Cats Come Back When They Run Away

Why Do Cats Leave Their Mouth Open?

The answer to this question is not so simple as there are many factors that may have influenced your cat’s disappearance. Cats are naturally driven by three things primarily:

  • Hunting
  • Territory
  • Reproduction

If your cat has disappeared or perhaps your cat frequently disappears and returns 23 days later, one of the above-mentioned topics might be the reason your cat is missing.

How Far Do Cats Go?

Most cats are within a 1-mile radius of their home when they go “missing.”

Read Also: Do Cats Like The Smell Of Vanilla

What To Do When Your Cat Meows

When your cat is meowing, pay attention to the circumstances to see if you can help.

If your cats meows seem persistent or inexplicable, look for something obvious that they may need, like food, water, or clean litter, and also make sure that they are safe.

If they continue to meow without an obvious reason, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough checkup.

Could There Be A Different Reason Why My Cats Mouth Hangs Open

The Flehmen reaction is harmless and can even be fun to watch. However, there can be other reasons for a cat to keep his or her mouth open. Some cats seem to forget themselves for a second or two during grooming, staring at something with their mouth slightly ajar. They may even close their mouth and leave the tongue hanging out there!

Recommended Reading: Can An Indoor Cat Become An Outdoor Cat

What To Do If Your Cat Is Missing

Indoor-only cats that escape often go into defense mode, especially if they are timid. This means they will hide even when called. They may not want to show themselves. If your cat recently bolted, know that it is likely they are nearby, so don’t go heading off in your car for a ground search, instead:

  • Be patient.
  • Sit quietly, and call them calmly.
  • Leave a door to your house open.

What Does The Flehmen Reaction In Cats Look Like

Why do cats open mouth after smelling?

A cat comes across an interesting smell. After some intensive sniffing, he or she will usually stop, open his or her mouth a little and take a few seconds to ponder. This is often followed by a distinct facial expression. Some owners read that as Ewwww, whats that smell! and it can be fun to watch

Heres a nice example of a calico cat investigating a special scent on a blanket

And another cat discovering something invisible yet clearly fascinating on a table

Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Cat Pee Smell Home Remedies

Why Do Cats Leave Their Mouths Open After Smelling Something

Why does a cat smell something and then keep its mouth open for what seems like an abnormally long amount of time? Its called the flehmen response, a.k.a. stinky face. As kitten rescuer Hannah Shaw writes on Instagram, its a cats way of analyzing an unfamiliar and interesting scent. The flehmen response allows the scent to travel to the vomeronasal organ on the roof of the mouth. Also called Jacobsons organ, the vomeronasal organ is a region of sensory cells within the olfactory system of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

Though the cat is contorting its furry face into a strange expression, it’s just actually pulling back its upper lip. The cat uses its mouth, not nose, to suck in air and filter it into the vomeronasal area. Scientists think the sensory information moving through the vomeronasal organ falls somewhere between the sense of smell and taste. Dogs have these receptors, too, but the average cat has 30 kinds of receptors while a dog has only nine. Big cats like lions and tigers also exhibit the flehmen response.

Similar to the flehman response is the blepa cat’s adorable habit of not quite retracting its tongue all the way. Here, the cat is smelling its environment by collecting pheromones that are passed to the vomeronasal organ. It might look silly and cute like a flehman response, but cats do it for a reason.

The next time Fluffy makes that face, snap a photo or video and post it to , and try to figure out what she’s sniffing.

Do Cats Get Turned On When You Pet Them

Neutered females and even neutered males will do this. While the behaviour is sexual in origin, in neutered pets it has been turned into a gesture of affection. All your stroking is a bit like feline foreplay, but dont worry your cat doesnt actually expect nookie, its just showing you how good it feels!

Also Check: How Old Is 20 In Cat Years

Causes Of Abnormal Cat Panting

Cottrell says there are a number of health problems that could lead to panting in cats, including:

Asthma: This can cause panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate, she says. Asthma occurs when a cat breathes in particles that stimulate an allergic reaction. Treatment for asthma in cats often involves medications called corticosteroids or bronchodilators.

Heartworm: Although more commonly associated with dogs, cats can get heartworm, which can cause breathing difficulties. Treatment is supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and oxygen therapy in more severe cases, Cottrell says. As heartworm disease can be fatal, it is important to keep all cats on a monthly heartworm preventative.

Congestive heart failure: Accumulated fluid in and around the lungs can cause deep, rapid breaths, coughing, and panting, Cottrell says. Treatment might include draining the fluid from around the lungs or medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make the heart contract with more force.

Respiratory infection: As you might expect, respiratory infections in cats make it difficult for a cat to breathe, which could cause panting. The cause is usually viral but development of a secondary bacterial infection would warrant antibiotics, Cottrell says. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier.

What Scents Trigger The Flehmen Reaction

Why Do Cats Leave Their Mouths Open After Smelling ...

You may have noticed that your cat doesnt make its weird sniffing face all of the time. Its likely that it only does it for certain smells and when sniffing certain parts of your home. The scents that are processed by the Jacobsons organ are called pheromones.

Pheromones are chemical substances that every animal secretes to communicate with other animals in its species. Cats secrete pheromones through glands on their face, paws and anus and use them to mark their territory and leave scent indicators for other cats, familiar and strange.

Usually, cats will have the flehmen reaction when sniffing urine or feces from another cat, since these substances contain pheromones. The scents may also be lingering on furniture and even on you. Male cats often use the flehmen reaction to pick up on pheromones from female cats who are in heat, while mother cats use it to keep track of their kittens.

Your cat might also have the reaction when sniffing furniture or walls in the home. Cats will often rub their faces on furniture and objects to mark them with their pheromones, which indicate feelings of calm and familiarity. This is your cats way of reminding itself and other cats that this place is safe. They might also scratch on things to leave pheromones from their paws.

Don’t Miss: What To Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate

Heatstroke Can Cause Cats To Stick Their Tongue Out

If theres drooling, panting and the cat is red rather than healthy pink, your cat may be overheating. NEVER leave a cat in a hot car. It can get up to 120 degrees in just thirty minutes, slowly baking the poor cat alive.

While many people believe the axiom of You can lead a horse to water but you cant make him drink applies to cats, you can entice a picky cat to drink water more by serving it in a little Kitty fountain.

Does your cat ignore her water dish but lap eagerly from the faucet? She might prefer to drink running water over still water.

Long haired cats;in particular;are susceptible to heatstroke. A cat with the early signs of heatstroke may groom excessively in;attempt;to cool off. The cat will restlessly try to find someplace cool.

Late stage heatstroke symptoms include lethargy, rapid pulse;and;breathing, red tongue, vomiting and stumbling. Eventually, an over high body temperature will cause the cat to collapse.

If you come across a cat passed out from heatstroke you can soak her with cool water to revive her. Put an ice pack against her underside and get her to a vet right away. If a cat is conscious but showing signs of heat exhaustion take her someplace shady or better yet indoors.

Soak her if shell stand for it, but a wipe with a cool rag might be enough. Get her to drink some water then get her to a veterinarian. In any case, always make sure your cat can get to shade and has fresh water.

Do Cats Recognize Their Owners By Sight Or Smell

Clearly, cats are good at visual recognition except when it comes to human faces. Instead of facial recognition, cats may use other cues, like our scent, the way we feel, or the sound of our voices to identify us. Researchers from Tokyo University found that cats do recognize their owners voices.

Read Also: What Is A Cat’s Normal Heart Rate

Meowing And Leaving The Mouth Open


MagnusStultus said:;Today I have had to keep my cats locked up in my room while the repairmen came. They are both indoor cats and wouldn’t survive outside. I joined them and one of them started meowing and keeping her mouth open. I am extremely frightened right now and really would appreciate any advice and any help. The repair work is for the air conditioner; so could it be heat? Whatever it is the keeping the mouth open after the meowing frightened me enough that I immediately turned the computer on to ask for help here.Should I schedule an emergency house call or vet appointment or is there some other potential explanation besides sickness?


StephenQ said:;it could be stress.; Have they been let out of the room yet and if yes, is it continuing? Open mouth breathing isn’t good, medically it is often significant, but this seems stress induced.; The first thing is to remove the stressor and see if she gets better soon.


Maybe Its Just Stress

Why is my cat open mouth breathing?

In certain situations, when a cat becomes very stressed, it can sometimes stick out its tongue and pant.

If you notice this occurring, try your best to get your kitty calmed down as much as possible by speaking softly to it and petting it if you can.

However, if you notice it becoming more stressed, getting weaker, or its tongue appears to be red rather than pink, get to a veterinarian, since this could indicate heatstroke.

Read Also: Is Cat 5 The Same As Cat 6

Cat Sticking Tongue Out Repeatedly

As said before, this could mean Kitty’s trying to get something out of her mouth. Did you just feed her something she’s never had before or give her some medicine?

She may not like the taste and is trying to get rid of it the way you might gag on tasting something yucky.

If your cat eats a monarch butterfly, she may make this gagging face for a few moments and decide she never wants to eat a monarch ever again. If this goes on for more than a minute or two, you might have to investigate.

She may have something stuck in her teeth or she could have a lesion or blockage that needs attending to.

Why Do Cats Meow

Cats use dozens of different meows to communicate. But did you know that the majority of cat communication from one cat to another is through body language and scents?

In fact, cats rarely meow to each other, but will often meow to humans. Why is that? What are cats trying to tell us when they meow?

You May Like: How Old Is 14 In Cat Years

Is Your Cat Disgusted With You When It Has Its Mouth Open

Pin it here!


Hi, Im Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

More articles

Popular Articles

Wet Cat Food For Kidney Disease

Brands Of Wet Cat Food