You’ve seen your cat licking her lips countless times. Cats are known for their fastidious grooming habits so it’s perfectly logical to assume frequent lip licking is just a normal part of feline hygiene, right? Is there ever a reason to be concerned about this behavior? Lip licking is normal in most cases but there are some instances where the behavior could indicate something more serious is going on. What’s normal lip licking and when should you be concerned?
Here are some reasons why cats lick their lips, including when you may need to pay closer attention and consult your veterinarian about the behavior.
The most common reason cats lick their lips is for post-meal grooming. The behavior is based on a cat’s instinct to remove scent traces after devouring prey. Leftover scents could be detected by other prey and alert them that the feline predator is in the area. Since cats are also prey themselves because of their small size, it’s important to remove scent traces after eating so they don’t put themselves in danger by alerting larger potential predators.
2. Oral Pain
Lip licking can indicate oral disease or mouth pain. You may also notice drooling. This drooling is different from the drooling displayed when a cat is happy (usually while kneading). Along with frequent lip licking and drooling, the cat may paw at her mouth, show a decline in appetite, and you may notice a foul mouth odor.
Cats who lick their lips when there’s no food present may be experiencing nervousness or fear. To more accurately determine this is the cause, observe the immediate circumstances and pay attention to other body language signals as well.