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My Cat Keeps Licking Lips And Swallowing

Cats sometimes start licking their lips obsessively. Why do they do this? Is this normal behavior or cause for concern? Owners often question why cats lick their lips, drool, and swallow a lot. We have the answers in this quick guide.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: December 6, 2023 | 10 min read

Sphynx cat licking its lip

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Is your kitty constantly licking her lips and swallowing a lot? It is normal for kitties to have unusual behavior, but sometimes, it can be a sign of something else going on. Owners may find excessive lip licking to be bothersome, and it can cause worry that something else is going on.

Felines are skilled self-groomers, so seeing a cat licking itself is not unusual, but when a kitty is licking their lips, swallowing a lot, and drooling, owners start to get concerned.

What does this behavior mean? In this quick guide, we discuss some of the reasons why cats lick their lips and more.

Why Cats Lick Their Lips

It is normal for felines to lick their lips and swallow to some degree. They do this after eating to clean their teeth and ensure nothing is stuck on their gums or tongues. This is also normal behavior felines exhibit if they are hungry and know a meal is coming. This behavior can sometimes indicate that a kitty is still hungry after finishing a meal. They can lick their mouths and swallow after drinking water as well to clear extra drops from around their mouths.

While a cat licking their mouth and teeth is normal behavior, there are times when it is not. It is important to pay attention to what is going on around your purr baby when she starts licking her lips. If it centers around mealtime, then the behavior is likely normal. However, felines can experience many other situations that can cause them to lick their lips, smack them, swallow, and even mouth at things. These triggers can include stress, anxiety, disease, or injury.

Owners must pay close attention to everything going on if they notice this behavior, especially if it seems to be happening more often or comes on very suddenly. Excessive licking can be indicative of something else going on, and it might be time to visit the veterinarian.

What The Vet Says

Dr. Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS shares her experience with cats excessively licking their lips. “In my experience, cats lick their lips obsessively for a number of reasons, but it usually indicates an underlying problem. A cat might lick or smack their lips if they are feeling nauseous, which may be seen alongside other signs like eating less, drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting. Nausea can occur secondary to many health conditions, including tummy upsets, pancreatitis, kidney disease, and liver problems. When your cat is in pain or discomfort, they might lick their lips more than usual too. Common causes include dental disease, as well as injuries to the mouth and tongue. Laryngitis or a foreign body irritating the back of the throat may also cause your cat to lick their lips, which is often seen alongside excessive swallowing or gagging.”

Dr. MacMillan adds, “If your cat has started licking their lips excessively, then you must see your vet. There are so many different reasons why your cat might be doing this, so it is important to get them checked over. Some conditions have the potential to be serious if left untreated, so give your vet a call sooner rather than later.”

12 Reasons Cats Lick Their Lips

Cat owners who notice their feline friends licking their lips must keep an eye on their cat’s behavior and investigate the circumstances surrounding it to determine if this is just a normal part of after-meal cleaning, self-grooming, or something more serious. Below are some of the top reasons your cat may be licking her lips and swallowing.

Some owners may look into pet insurance, as it may help cover the treatment of some of these health and dental conditions.

1. Attention Seeking

Our furry friends are quite intelligent and know that when we worry about them, we lavish them with extra love, affection, and attention. Sometimes, their odd behavior is simply a way for them to get a little more attention from us. Kitties love getting attention from humans, and if they feel like they are not getting enough, they might try different methods to get us to interact with them.

Owners should provide some extra love and attention but also keep their eye out for signs of something more serious going on. Sometimes, kitties who are seeking out more attention are, in fact, lonely. They might be stressed out or do not feel well, and that can be their way of trying to communicate that to you. Because they cannot speak to us the way we do to each other, they must find different ways to communicate what is going on. Along with using their own vocal skills, cat’s behavior and body language are the most common ways they let us know how they are doing.

2. Upper Respiratory Infection

Unfortunately, felines also get upper respiratory infections. Upper respiratory infections can lead to pain in the sinuses and drainage. Licking their mouths a lot, heavy drooling, loud breathing, and swallowing a lot can indicate your kitty might have a respiratory infection or disease.

3. Allergies

Kitties licking their mouths may be suffering from an allergy sensitivity. Felines can experience environmental allergies just like humans, and sometimes, they will come in contact with substances, plants, and even foods that can trigger these allergic reactions. Your purr baby may be licking her own face after sneezing or because their mouth feels dry or itchy.

4. Nausea

A kitty who is suddenly licking her lips a lot might be experiencing stomach upset or nausea. These feelings can trigger them to drool, making them lick more. Felines experiencing nausea or stomach issues will often vomit and may lick themselves after that. Nausea, along with obsessive lip licking, can be a sign of kidney disease, so it is important you have your kitty examined by the vet as soon as you can.

5. Anxiety

Stress and anxiety often lead to odd behavior in both humans and felines. Our pets can get stressed out for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they do not like being left home alone. If they are scared, fighting with another pet, or simply feeling ignored, they might start to exhibit signs of stress. Certain feline breeds are very unhappy when left alone and will suffer from separation anxiety. That can lead to abnormal behaviors, including obsessively licking the mouth and teeth and going for extra drinks of water.

6. Ptyalism

Ptyalism is a condition that causes added salivation. This can happen in both humans and felines. In felines, it generally means they are either making too much saliva or having trouble swallowing a normal amount of saliva. This condition causes them to drool, lick their lips and swallow. There are a few medical conditions that can cause ptyalism. A tumor on the salivary gland is fairly rare but can occur, usually in kitties over 10 years old.

Felines can also develop something called a salivary mucocele. This is a condition where saliva gathers under the skin after damage to the salivary glands or ducts. This happens most commonly under the tongue and jaw.

7. Overly Dry Mouth, Xerostomia

Felines can develop an overly dry mouth. A condition referred to as Xerostomia. Saliva production slows down, causing the mouth to be dry and uncomfortable, and can actually impact a feline’s ability to eat. Cats may turn away their food even if they are hungry, smack their lips, lick, and stick out their tongue while trying to eat.

This can happen a lot in senior kitties and those experiencing kidney failure. Some cats undergoing cancer treatment who are experiencing dehydration, are on certain medications, have a fever, have been under anesthesia, or are in treatment for cancer may be at risk for this to occur.

8. Toxins

Cats are inquisitive creatures, and they get into a lot of different things. As hard as owners try to be careful, there is always the chance that our pets will get into toxic or poisonous substances. These can include chemicals, foods, plants, and human products with ingredients that are poisonous to felines.

Felines who have ingested something toxic that is poisonous or that tastes really bad may start licking their mouths, lip-smacking, and swallowing to get rid of the taste. It is important that you seek emergency vet care immediately if you suspect that your kitty has been exposed to or possibly ingested any chemical or poisonous substance.

9. Injury

Trauma or injury to the mouth or teeth may lead a kitty to start drooling more. This can happen in a variety of ways. Some kitties like to chew on things and may chew on wood, electrical cords, string, or even clothing and blankets. This can lead to a variety of injuries in the mouth that will cause them to start licking obsessively.

10. Dental Disease

Cats often suffer from dental disease and different oral issues. This is an often-overlooked area of grooming and care. It can be tricky and sometimes seem impossible to brush a cat’s teeth, so it often becomes an overlooked issue, which can rear its head as a severe dental disease later in a cat’s life. Broken teeth, ulcers, gum disease, lesions, and oral infections can all trigger excessive drooling and licking.

11. Tooth Decay & Overgrown Teeth

Along with dental disease, felines can develop tooth decay, which can be very painful. Without regular cleaning, their mouths can become full of bacteria, which can start to infect the gums and decay teeth. In some cases, their teeth may grow crowded or overlap each other. This is extremely uncomfortable, and cats may run their tongues along their teeth and mouths as a way to try to self-soothe.

12. Other Illness

Cats lapping at their mouths excessively may have any number of underlying medical issues. These include kidney disease, oral ulcers, a seizure disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, a wound or bite, infection, and more. It is essential that owners pay attention to their pet’s behavior and seek out veterinary advice if lip licking and swallowing do not stop or are accompanied by any other signs and symptoms.

My Cat Licks Her Lips A Lot. How Can I Get Her To Stop?

Russian Blue Cat licking paw
A cat licking her lips a lot may be exhibiting normal behavior.

The first thing to do is inspect your pet for any sign of injury, growth in the mouth, disease, or trauma to the face and mouth area. Look around to see if she has chewed up anything that may cause injury or if there are signs of her ingesting something toxic. It is essential to rule out any of these significant medical issues or life-threatening situations immediately. When it comes to a pet’s health, we choose to err on the side of caution rather than assume everything is okay.

Owners can try to offer their pets a distraction, like a treat or a toy. Making sure your kitty has access to fresh, clean water and plenty of food is essential. If they are simply hungry or thirsty, this may stop the behavior. If your cat has trouble eating, has difficulty drinking, or refuses to eat or drink, that can indicate something more serious.

Why Is My Cat Smacking Her Lips?

Lip-smacking differs from cats licking their lips, though sometimes they can happen together. Lip-smacking is when a cat opens and closes her mouth, making a loud noise. This can be a normal part of a kitty’s eating routine, but sometimes it is a sign of “displacement behavior.” Cats exhibit this type of action when they feel unsure, threatened, or anxious. Lip-smacking can also be an indicator that a kitty is having stomach distress. Mouth injury, dental disease, oral ulcers, dehydration, and injuries can also cause it.

Lip-smacking should be paid attention to. Consult your veterinarian if it seems out of place for your cat. Please pay attention to your kitty’s overall demeanor, observe what is happening around them, and examine them for any injury, infection, or other irritants that may be causing this habit.

My Cat Is Drooling A Lot. Should I Be Worried?

Healthy cats are not normally big droolers, so a purr baby drooling is something owners should pay close attention to. Cats drooling excessively may be experiencing a painful condition preventing them from swallowing, may have some sort of irritant or injury in their mouths, may be sick, may have a dental concern, or might be having an emotional reaction to stress.

Cats generally only drool a minimal amount normally, so if your cat is drooling a lot, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know kitty owners have plenty of questions about lip licking and what to do about it. Below, we answer a few of the top queries.

Chocolate Point Siamese licking paw
You can try to distract your pet from lapping at her lips and see if this stops the behavior.

Should I try to stop my cat from licking her lips?

Observe your pet, examine her for any kind of obstruction, injury, growth, or another oral issue, and then contact your veterinarian. Because cats are so unpredictable, and the range of things that could be causing this kind of action is so wide, it is simply best to get in touch with your vet. A kitty licking her lips more than usual is generally not a normal habit, and this is something you will want to check in with the veterinarian about sooner rather than later.

Is it normal for my cat to lick her lips?

In some circumstances, it may be normal for a cat to lick their lips. They will do this after a meal, before a meal if they are hungry, as part of self-grooming, and sometimes as a way to show excitement or happiness. If this begins to happen all the time, or your purr baby seems distressed and is not eating or is acting differently, this is something to pay close attention to.

Why do cats always lick themselves?

Cats are known for licking themselves, and they do this for a few distinct reasons. Licking can be part of grooming or how they exhibit affection towards other felines, dogs, and humans. Sometimes, this is part of a bonding experience. If this becomes extreme, this habit is a problem. Kitties who are lapping at their mouths or a particular part of their body over and over should be examined by a veterinarian.

Can my cat get chapped lips from licking too much?

Yes, felines can get chapped lips and dry mouths. They can also develop mouth sores and fungal infections that may look chapped. If your cat looks like she has chapped lips, a swollen mouth, or a discharge, please call your vet as soon as possible to get her examined.

Understanding Feline Behavior

A huge part of being a cat owner is learning to understand their behavior and body language. Sometimes, the slightest behavior change or vocalization is the only indicator an owner will get that something is wrong, as cats are very good at masking illness and pain. Things like licking, being clingy, pulling out their hair, biting, or a change in appetite are all signs owners should pay close attention to. From staring at us all day to suddenly freaking out at something we cannot see, feline behavior is not simply odd, it is how they communicate with us.

Kitten on back in bed being tickled

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