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Do cats have lips?

Do cats have lips?

Posted by Patricia on 29th Jan 2023

A friend recently asked me if cats have lips. "Do they have what?" I inquired, a bit confused as I've always thought of myself as pretty knowledgeable about felines. But this question about lips threw me. 

After some research, I learned that cats indeed have lips, but not necessarily the kissable kind. 

Scientifically, a cat's lips are called muzzles. If you can lift your feline's upper lip and still have fingers remaining, you'll notice a thin black line that runs around the mouth. You've found their lips. 

According to the Hepper blog, cited below, cats need lips to suckle mom while getting all kinds of good nutrients from the start. 

Felines also use their lips to mark their territory, and that's explained on the Hepper blog, "Cat lips have scent glands, and they spread this scent by rubbing their lips up against things." 

"A cat also has a philtrum on their upper lip that leads straight to their nose," says the Hepper blog. (The philtrum is the junction between the two halves of the upper lip or nose.) 

This area draws moisture from a cat's lips to his nose, keeping his nose wet. Like the Hepper blog says, "A wet nose improves their sense of smell, which is why you can't ever sneak open the bag of favorite treats without your cat knowing about it instantly." 

Now you know cats have lips or muzzles, as some call them. And unlike human lips, kitty lips have little barbs under their top lip. Those barbs help hold prey in place, a feature not needed for indoor cats - or humans. Some great photos of these barbs can be seen at This Bug's Life, cited below. 

Despite their usefulness, a cat's lips can develop problems. According to Pet Place, cited below, "the most common causes of swelling in these areas include bacterial infections or allergic reactions to food items such as fish or chicken bones." 

If it's an infection, you'll see pus discharge from the mouth, and one or more added signs, such as a fever, weight loss, or general malaise. If your cat's lips appear swollen, don't put off a trip to the veterinarian, as it could also be a symptom of allergies, dental problems, acne, and even some forms of cancer. 

Smacking of the lips is another sign that something may be amiss. It can be caused by physical or emotional factors, from a jab by a foreign object to a bite from a spider. Or your cat could be expressing anxiety about a new family pet. Your vet will be the best source to keep your kitty's lips in good shape. 

Quote to remember: "If a cat spoke, it would say things like 'Hey, I don't see the problem here.'" ― Roy Blount Jr.

Sources: Hepper blog "Do Cats Have Lips?" 

Janet Carr This Bugs Life "Did you know about cat lip barbs?"

PetPlace "What It Means When Your Cat Is Smacking Their Lips"