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Cat Keeps Licking Lips? (You Need To Know This)

If you have noticed your cat licking its lips it may be concerning and leave you wondering why it’s happening…

Why does my cat’s tongue feel like sand-paper?

Your cat’s tongue feels like sandpaper because of the papillae on its tongue. The papillae are backward-facing rivets shaped like hooks. They grip surfaces and help the cat with daily functions such as bathing, eating, and drinking.

When you feel sandpaper on your skin, your cat’s tongue is picking things up off your skin. They may not physically pick off foreign objects. However, your cat might lift dead skin and microscopic hairs from your skin when they lick you.

Should I be worried if my cat licks its lips sometimes?

A cat outdoors staring while sticking its tongue out.

A cat outdoors staring while sticking its tongue out.

Cats will occasionally lick their lips after eating or grooming themselves, and there is no need to worry. In these cases, your cat is licking to clean themselves, which is entirely normal. Licking lips can be a sign of happiness or euphoria in a cat.

Normal reasons your cat licks their lips include:

  • After grooming
  • After eating
  • They are happy
  • They are thirsty

When the lip-licking becomes excessive, you should worry. Many medical issues are related to lip-licking, like oral and digestive issues. Pay attention to other health problems like dizziness and nausea.

If your cat is throwing up, gets lethargic, or has trouble eating, they are showing signs of other issues relating to their lip licking.

What could it be if my cat licks its lips frequently?

Ptyalism is a chronic disease when the mouth generates too much saliva, and your cat is constantly swallowing and licking the lips. Many other side effects of this illness can be detrimental to their health. You must take them to the veterinarian immediately if they have problems.

Generally, the production of saliva is considered helpful. Too much saliva can be problematic for your cat because it forces your cat to over-groom, which is uncomfortable. Overgrooming causes your cat’s tongue to become raw and can cause jaw issues.

What is the treatment for Ptyalism?

Ptyalism increases over time, so you should monitor it closely. There is no way to decrease or treat the spread of ptyalism. Work toward preventative measures instead, like dental care from your veterinarian.

Preventative measures ensure that your cat does not develop oral diseases like ptyalism.

Many veterinarians offer medical or insurance plans with dental treatments included. Find a plan that works for you and treat your cat for their dental needs. This plan might be as easy as feeding them a supportive dental diet or taking them to the diet more frequently.

Could grooming cause your cat to lick its lips?

Grooming can cause your cat to lick its lips. The drier a cat’s mouth gets, the more they will lick their lips. They may also lick their lips more the more they salivate.

To have enough saliva for their grooming process, they will lick their lips. Excess saliva helps cats swallow loose fur, dirt, and foreign objects like leaves or pieces of litter.

When a cat grooms themselves, they will lick their lips because of the excess fur, dirt, and other things on their bodies. Anything that a cat hooks on it’s papillae while grooming will be swallowed. They will later throw it up as a hairball.

What could cause a cat to over-groom?

Over-grooming is mainly caused by stress and excess saliva. To determine why your cat is overgrooming, observe your cat’s behavior. Take a note each time you notice them grooming and notice any patterns.

After finding the pattern, visit your vet for a consultation.


The most common reason cats may over-groom themselves is that they are stressed. Stress comes from many different things, like introducing something new to their environment (furniture, cat, moving, etc.).

Too much saliva

A cat might over-groom because they have too much saliva. Grooming helps the cat eliminate excess moisture from their mouths. If they are constantly grooming, they might be trying to expel the excess moisture.

Physical reasons

Physical reasons can cause over-grooming. A cat that overgrooms might have an injury or feel pain in an area. It is best to visit a vet to get a full examination for this overgrooming.

What other medical issues can cause this?

In addition to ptyalism, medical issues like tooth decay, respiratory conditions, and rabies can cause cats to lick their lips. Many more health reasons cause a cat to excessively licking its lips. In some cases, cats may experience two or more illnesses at once.

Common medical issues include:

  • Poisoning
  • Rabies
  • Mouth disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Oral cancer
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory conditions

Foreign objects in the mouth and medication allergies are also medical issues that can cause a cat to lick its lips.

Can vomiting cause a cat to lick lips?

After vomiting, it is normal for cats to lick their lips since cats over-salivate when vomiting. Although licking lips is normal while getting sick, this can be painful if your cat is frequently licking their lips. The best way to stop your cat’s vomiting is to treat your cat’s nausea.

Vomiting leads to dribbling on their chin and excess salivation. Licking their lips at this time is their way of cleaning themselves up afterward.

Can a shortage of saliva cause cats to lick their lips?

A shortage of saliva, also known as xerostomia, can cause your cat to lick their lips because they are trying to moisturize their lips. The lack of moisture on their lips from the saliva shortage causes them to lick their lips, often frantically.

If a cat already has a saliva shortage, over-grooming can cause a further shortage. Guarantee they do not over-groom, or they will deprive themselves of necessary moisture.

What treatment is there for a shortage of saliva?

If your cat has a shortage of saliva, several treatments are available like increasing their water intake or giving them more dental care. It is important to keep an eye on their behavior because it can help identify the root of their problem.

For instance, if you notice your cat licks their lips after visiting a dry water bowl, this indicates they might be thirsty. There are plenty of other identifiers for other saliva shortages.

Provide your cat water

A cat drinking water from a bowl.

A cat drinking water from a bowl.

The easiest way to treat a shortage of moisture is by providing adequate amounts of water each day. Giving your car water is a preventative measure and a treatment for xerostomia, which can be debilitating in cats.

Dental cleanings

Visiting your vet for dental cleanings is a preventative measure you can take to keep your cat from getting xerostomia. Cleaning your cats teeth not only prevents this disease, but it also prevents many other oral diseases like tooth rot and oral cancer.

If dental problems are the reason for your saliva shortage, visit the veterinarian immediately. Typically, it is a preventative measure. However, it can also be a great way to treat oral diseases that cause lip licking, smacking, and various types of salivation.

Take medication

In addition to taking preventative measures, you should visit your veterinarian to find a treatment that works for your cat’s underlying cause of xerostomia. They will likely offer a mouthwash or oral medical that cures or treats the oral disease. To cure xerostomia, treat the issue as soon as possible.

Can dental problems cause lip licking in cats?

Dental problems can be a cause of lip-licking in cats. When cats have gum or tooth irritations, they might lick their lips to express discomfort. Licking licks is common to dislodge an item in their teeth.

Pay attention to the side of the mouth your cat is licking their lip. It could indicate which tooth is causing the pain.

Common dental problems include:

  • Tooth rot
  • Cavities
  • Gum irritation
  • Lodged food or foreign objects

Many dental issues can cause lip licking.

Could a foreign body cause lip-smacking?

Foreign objects in your pet’s mouth can cause lip-smacking because they will be uncomfortable with the object in their mouth. Observe your cat’s mouth and check if there are any foreign objects lodged in their gums or teeth. A foreign object may cause lip smacking because they try to get the object out from their mouths.

They may also lip smack because they are in pain from the item in their mouth. When trying to close their mouths, your cat might twitch or smack it’s lips to avoid touching their lips.

Can nausea cause lip licking?

Nausea is a natural cause of lip-licking. When cats feel sick, they are often over-salivating, panting, and gasping. When your cat feels this way, you should keep a close eye on them.

It is normal to lick their lips while they are feeling nauseous since they are trying to cope, but it is still important to monitor their health.

What can cause nausea?

Nausea is caused by an upset stomach, which happens for many reasons. A common reason cats get upset stomachs is that their owners feed them food incompatible with their required diet. They may also ingest foreign substances or have a hairball.

Anything a cat swallows bad for their stomach will cause digestion issues.

How can nausea be treated?

The best way to treat your cat’s nausea is to take preventative measures and stop it before it begins. Feed them a proper diet, including a paste that breaks down their hairballs.

Take them to the vet if their nausea persists. Your vet will diagnose the problem and offer a treatment solution that works for you. A simple solution might be a dietary change.

Lindsey Browlingdon