Cat Lip Smacking – 12 Reasons and Solutions

Smacking their lips is typical behavior in cats. Lip smacking, or “matting” as it’s also called, is the act of licking their lips and then sticking them together with saliva before opening their mouth to smack them against each other. This may sound strange, but there are reasons behind this odd habit that pet owners should be aware of.

Some cats may also exhibit lip smacking as part of playtime with other animals, such as another cat or dog. If the frequency is increasing, there can be other reasons for this strange behavior that we will show you below and how to deal with them.

cat smacking lips

Causes of Cat Lip Smacking

The reasons behind this strange behavior can be minor or severe, demanding your utmost attention. Let’s take a look at what makes your feline friend smacking its lips:


Excessive lip licking may be a sign your cat suffers from ptyalism. This condition causes them to produce too much saliva and can result in vomiting, nausea, or chronic diarrhea. Moreover, if your pet is suffering from Ptyalism, some other symptoms that you might witness include drooling and no interest in food.

Ptyalism is dangerous, and it comes from specific issues like kidney problems, dental disease, ingestion of toxins, salivary gland disorders, and much more. If you notice or feel ptyalism in your cat, don’t try to deal with it as it is a fatal disease and rush to the vet for proper treatment.

Remember, Ptyalism will never disappear on its own, and if left untreated, it will make your cat suffer more.

Displacement Behavior

This indicates anxiety in cats. Some cats smack or lick their lips when they are anxious, nervous, and/or under stress. This is especially true for kittens or young cats.

For example, when you are taking your kitten to the vet, even for a regular checkup, they will get nervous and start smacking their lips a lot. This is a clear indication that your young feline is getting anxious and wants to run away.

Compulsive Disorders

Some cats, especially older cats, smack their lips because of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is identical to OCD in humans. Principally, it is a normal habit that they cannot get rid of, and it remains in them till the end.

Having said that, cats going through OCD will excessively and rapidly smack their lips, and some of them will also lick their fur.


Lip licking sometimes indicates a sickness in a cat. When cats feel nauseous or dehydrated, they lick and smack their lips to get moisturize or catch excess saliva from their lips. In some cases, you can also notice that your pet drools or dribbles a lot after the smacking, and they will eventually throw it up.

Of course, both these are tell-tale signs that your cat is dealing with nausea. So, take her to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Dental and Mouth Problems

When cats lick their lips a lot, it’s because they have a dental disease or other oral health issues. It is common for pets with dental problems to rub and suck on sore areas in order to alleviate the pain. In some cases, this behavior can become obsessive-compulsive if left unchecked.

In dental problems, plaque builds up and gradually converts into tartar above or below the cat’s gumline. This tartar causes inflammation, and bacteria will flourish inside your cat’s mouth, making her uncomfortable. If that’s the case, this can be severe and damage your cat’s periodontal tissues.

If your cat suffers from dental or any mouth disease, she will not eat well, drool, her breath will become smelly, and you might also witness sudden weight loss in the cat.

Oral Ulcers and Canker Sores 

Similar to dental and mouth problems, oral ulcers and canker sores can be extremely painful. The ulcer and sores both cause irritation around the cat’s mouth, and then it leads to lip-smacking in cats. Apart from lip-licking and lip-smacking, you can also see excessive swallowing around their mouth.

Usually, Ulcers are caused because of oral and systemic infections and various dental diseases. In a few cases, these issues may result in kidney diseases.

Canker Sores are common in cats that usually remain indoors. This is mainly caused due to the ingestion of a toxic or caustic element. These caustic elements can be household items such as laundry detergents, essential oils, or potpourri in liquid form.

Funny or Unique Tastes

Cat lip-licking or smacking is not always a severe problem, and often it occurs when your cat tastes something funny or unique. Remember, cats are natural lickers. If they lick a surface after it has just been washed or an unclean ground, various natural and environmental elements can leave a strange or nasty taste in their mouth, and they will smack their lips.

Cuts and Wounds

Cat smacking their lips can be a result of a cut or wound. Often cats lick their wounds directly, but sometimes they pull out their fleece around the wound and start licking the wound. This action creates a lip-smacking sound, and cats will smack it for long.

One thing to remember here is the wound’s location. Sometimes wounds are on the cat’s lips or around their mouth, and in this case, they will continuously lick their lips.

Stuck thing

Cats can often smack their lips a lot when there is an object of some kind caught in and around the mouth. We’re talking about anything from small bone pieces, plants, or sticks here – things that are not meant to be stuck on either side of your feline friend’s nasal passage.

This may cause mild irritation/ discomfort, which makes him want to use his tongue as much as possible so she’ll spend more time licking.

Bite on a face

Cats can also experience lip smacking in response to a bite on their face, mouth, or around the lips themselves. This could be from another cat during the fight as well as something small like spider mites or horse flies biting at your pet’s vulnerable skin.

Often the bites come from a bee, wasp, or hornet sting. In all these cases, you will notice constant smacking and some swelling along with discharge.

Respiratory Infection

Usually, it is a cold, but it can be a fatal problem in a few cases. Various respiratory issues such as sinuses, throat pain, or running nose are caused due to viral infections. Your cat might also feel irritation in their upper airway, and all these problems will make them smack their lips. After discussing it with a vet Fish Mox is a good choice for such infections.

Skin Allergy

If your cat is allergic to anything and it will lick or smack its lips. Usually, you will see this when a cat has an allergic reaction around its mouths because it causes severe irritation and stress. Various allergies such as hay fever, pollen, dust mites, dander, medication, etc., can make cats smacking or licking their lips.

How To Help Your Lip Smacking Cat 

If you see this unusual behavior in your cat, we suggest the following:

Monitor your cat’s behavior and attitude:

Try to determine whether your cat is nervous? Anxious? Fearful? Often cats are trying to communicate with you through lip-smacking. If you feel that your cat is smacking constantly or rapidly, it means it is uncomfortable, and this can be an indication of displacement behavior. In this case, try to remove the things making your cat anxious or causing stress and try to enrich the cat’s surroundings.

Is it a medical problem? 

The best thing that you can do for your lip smacking cat is to take her to a qualified vet. They will determine what is causing this behavior in your cat and ask general questions from you, such as is smacking constant? Is it an old or new habit? Does it happen when your cat is hungry, anxious, or nervous?

If needed, the vet will also examine the cat’s skin, mouth, face, lips, gums, teeth, and a thorough oral examination. Your vet will also examine the cat for any foreign body in its mouth and dental diseases. Then they will suggest a treatment for your cat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is smacking lips a sign of?

Lip licking and lip-smacking in cats indicate several things. The indication can be ptyalism, displacement behavior, compulsive disorders, oral issues, nausea, dental disease, ulcers, wounds, upper respiratory infections, etc.

My Persian Cat smacks her lips after a hairball forming. How can I help her?

In some cases, cat lip smacking is a sign that the cat is about to vomit but unable to do so. So, if the cat suffers from hairballs or smacks her lips after a hairball forming, this means she is unable to vomit or pass the hairballs.

Persian cats, as you mentioned, love to groom and like to keep their fur clean and shiny. So it is possible that your cat is unable to pass hairballs and vomit, and due to that, she is licking or smacking her lips. Try to help her in passing the hairballs easily. Metamucil can be used to get rid of hairball but do consult a vet before giving it to your cat.

Can Cats Smack lips while sleeping?

Yes, and this can be extremely frustrating for some pet parents. Usually, cats smack their lips while sleeping when they are suffering from nausea or pain. If your cat does that while sleeping, remember it is not “behavioral,” and your cat is not aware of it.

In rare cases, this can be due to any physical problems such as IBS or IBD or a blockage. The vet can also recommend an x-ray, in this case, to determine the cause as sometimes cats swallow filthy stuff like hairs, elastics and some of it is stuck in their mouth and makes them smacking their lips.

Cat smacks and licks the lips daily after waking up; why?

Again, this situation indicates that your pet is suffering from nausea. There can be gastroenteritis on the way, thus keep monitoring the pet for vomiting or retching. In a few cases, this can be due to oral pain or tooth problems.

If possible, open the cat’s mouth and try to figure out signs of dental issues or foreign bodies. However, be careful while doing so! If this behavior remains for long, take the cat to the vet.

My cat smacking her lips with white dripping foam; what can be the reason?

Cats usually do this after eating something wrong or toxic or food that tastes sore. Here, we advise you to look inside the cat’s mouth to ensure that nothing is stuck inside. Similarly, also check for cuts, wounds, or lesions in the cat’s mouth. Sores in the mouth can also be the reason.

To give your cat immediate relief, you can slowly rinse its mouth with plain water but if this behavior continues or you are unable to tackle the problem, take your baby to a vet for treatment.

Why is my cat smacking her lips at other cats?

Some cats smack their lips due to obsessive-compulsive disorders, as mentioned above. If your cat is suffering from this disorder, this is the reason that she smacks her lips at other cats’ lips.

Why is my cat smacking sound after eating the food?

Cats with dental issues usually do this. This is because tartar is accumulated on their teeth. Sometimes the cat’s front teeth look normal, but the issue is present in the back teeth, and you can easily saw the tartar build-up at the back teeth.

In worst cases, this can be due to arthritis in the cat’s jaw area, especially if your cat is older. However, it is not that common in young kittens. If you have a senior pet cat, take her to the vet for further treatment as you cannot treat the matter by yourself.


Cats are notorious for their odd behaviors, and one of the more common ones is constant smacking their lips. Though there are many potential reasons that your feline may be doing this (and some are very serious), it’s wise to rule out any medical conditions first that could cause them harm before assuming they’re just being weird. The best way is to take your little friend to a vet clinic for an examination and follow their advice.

If you like, leave us your thoughts on what might be other causes of cat-smacking lips in the comments below!

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