Why Does My Cat Open His Mouth?

Why Does My Cat Open His Mouth
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Last Updated on June 6, 2023 by Pauline G. Carter

Cats often open their mouths to taste scent particles and improve their sense of smell. This behavior is called the flehmen response and is common among felines.

Cats have an incredibly refined sense of smell, and the flehmen response helps them to better evaluate scents in their surroundings. This behavior involves opening the mouth slightly to draw in air, then curling the upper lip and holding the position for several seconds.

By doing this, cats are able to direct scent particles to a special gland in the roof of their mouth, called the jacobson’s organ. This gland contains sensory cells that analyze the scent and send information to the brain. While the flehmen response is typically harmless, it can be a sign of an underlying health issue if it’s accompanied by excessive drooling or lethargy.

Why Does My Cat Open His Mouth?

Credit: braseltonervet.com

Understanding The Possible Reasons Behind Your Cat’S Mysterious Open Mouth

Cats And Their Unique Mannerisms

As cat owners, we are well aware of how charmingly peculiar our feline friends’ behaviours can be. From purring to kneading to even opening their mouths, cats are never short on surprising us. However, these behaviours are not always easy to interpret, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering what our cats are trying to say.

So, why does your cat open his mouth? Let’s take a closer look.

How A Cat’S Mouth Is Built And How It Functions

Before diving into the reasons behind your cat’s unusual mouth movements, it’s important to understand the basics of a cat’s mouth. A cat’s mouth is built with some fascinating features, including:

  • A stretchy tongue, capable of lapping up liquids effectively
  • Razor-sharp teeth, specifically designed for tearing and biting prey
  • Sensitive taste buds in the back of the mouth, aiding in the detection of prey or potential toxins
  • A unique jaw structure that allows for vertical and lateral movements, helping cats catch prey effortlessly

With a better understanding of how a cat’s mouth is built, let’s explore possible reasons behind your cat’s open mouth.

Reasons Behind Your Cat’S Unusual Mouth Movement

  • Panting: Just like dogs, cats can pant to regulate their body temperature. This is common during hot weather or after vigorous exercise.
  • Smelling: Cats have an incredible sense of smell, and they can often be seen opening their mouths to smell their surroundings better.
  • Flehmen response: This is a unique behaviour observed in cats where they open their mouths and curl their lips when they smell something particularly interesting or intense. It helps them process scents more effectively.
  • Nausea: Occasionally, cats can open their mouths when feeling nauseous or about to vomit.
  • Dental problems: If your cat is experiencing pain from dental issues, they may open their mouth as a form of discomfort.
  • Vocalisation: Some cats open their mouths when meowing or purring, creating an unusual but charming expression.
  • Play behaviour: In some cases, cats open their mouths during play behaviour as a sign of excitement or anticipation.

Understanding why your cat opens his mouth can help you better understand his behaviour and strengthen your bond. Keep in mind that every cat is different and may exhibit unique behaviours, but with the right insight, you can decode and appreciate your cat’s language.

Health-Related Causes For Your Cat’S Mouth Movements

As a pet owner, you have observed your cat doing strange things like opening their mouth without any obvious reason. Although this behavior may seem harmless, it may indicate crucial health concerns that need immediate attention. Here are some of the possible health-related causes for your cat’s mouth movements.

Dental Problems And Oral Issues

Cats can suffer from various dental and oral issues that can cause them discomfort and force them to open their mouth. Some of the common dental issues that can lead to this behavior include:

  • Tooth decay and cavities
  • Gum disease and infection
  • Oral tumors and cancer
  • Broken or fractured teeth

Respiratory Distress And Difficulty Breathing

Cats may open their mouth because of difficulty breathing due to respiratory distress. Some possible respiratory issues that can cause this behavior include:

  • Asthma: A chronic respiratory illness that affects cats and may cause breathing difficulties
  • Upper respiratory infections: Contagious infections that cause inflammation and can lead to respiratory distress
  • Pneumonia: A severe respiratory illness that can cause respiratory distress and may be linked with fluid buildup in the lungs

Insects And Parasites Infesting Your Cat’S Oral Cavity

Insects and parasites infesting your cat’s oral cavity can cause them to open their mouth frequently. These pesky parasites can cause your cat to experience discomfort and itchiness. Some examples of insects and parasites that affect cats’ oral cavity include:

  • Fleas: These parasites can be found in cats’ mouth and cause irritation and itching
  • Mites: Ear mites can move from the ear canal to the mouth
  • Ticks: Ticks feeding on cats can get lodged in the mouth and cause discomfort

Although seeing your cat open their mouth seems like a harmless behavior, multiple major health causes are associated with this behavior. Therefore, if your cat repeatedly shows this behavior, it is best to consult with a vet to determine the underlying cause and to proceed with a treatment plan accordingly.

Behavioral Causes Of Cat’S Mouth Opening And Its Implications

Have you ever seen your cat randomly opening their mouth? It’s not just a random act; it’s a behavioral response to something they’re experiencing. Let’s explore some of the reasons for this behavior and what it could mean.

Aggressive Or Defensive Behavior In Cats

  • Cats may open their mouth defensively as a warning sign when feeling threatened.
  • Aggressive behavior in cats could also lead them to open their mouths, baring their teeth to attack.
  • In some cases, cats may open their mouths when playing rough, but it’s usually a sign of aggressive behavior.

Cats And Their Vocal Communication

  • Mouth opening is an essential part of a cat’s vocal communication. It’s their way of expressing emotion and communicating with humans and other animals.
  • Cats use mouth opening accompanied by purring as a sign of happiness, expressing how content they are.
  • In contrast, a cat’s mouth tightening or closing can be a sign of displeasure or aggression, which could quickly escalate into a physical confrontation.

Anxiety And Fear-Based Behavior In Cats

  • Cats that experience stress or anxiety often open their mouths to pant, signaling their discomfort.
  • In some cases, cats may open their mouths due to anxiety which could lead to excessive grooming or excessive scratching.
  • If your cat is feeling fearful, it may open its mouth to increase respiration, preparing to flee or attack the perceived threat.

Understanding your cat’s mouth opening behavior can help you communicate better with them. Although it’s not always a cause for concern, observe your cat’s behavior and body language to determine whether they’re comfortable or anxious. By paying attention to their non-verbal cues consistently, you can help build a more positive relationship with your furry companion.

Frequently Asked Questions On Why Does My Cat Open His Mouth?

Why Is My Cat Opening Her Mouth Frequently?

Cats open their mouths to cool down, to smell better, or because of dental issues.

Should I Be Worried If My Cat Opens Her Mouth While Sleeping?

No, it’s normal for cats to open their mouths while sleeping or dreaming.

Is It Normal If My Cat Opens Her Mouth After Smelling Something?

Yes, cats open their mouths to activate the jacobson’s organ and improve their sense of smell.

Why Does My Cat Open Her Mouth After Exercise Or Playing?

Cats open their mouths to cool down through panting after exerting themselves.

What Should I Do If My Cat Is Continuously Opening Her Mouth?

If your cat seems uncomfortable, consult your vet. Open-mouth breathing can signal a health issue.


After considering the various factors that may cause your cat to open his mouth, it’s notable that this behavior is common in cats. While it may appear unusual to humans, it’s entirely natural for cats. Cats often open their mouth to pick up scent molecules in the air, as a response to heat or stress, or simply out of excitement.

More significantly, it’s imperative to look out for any potential dental or oral health issues that may cause your cat to open his mouth frequently. Regular oral hygiene is crucial to ensure that your cat’s mouth and teeth remain healthy.

Finally, it’s essential to note that while some cat behaviors may seem odd or unusual to humans, it’s imperative to understand that it’s simply natural for them. By observing their habits, we can gain a better understanding of their behavior and keep them healthy and happy.

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