What Is a Blep?

If it wasn't for the internet and social media, terms such as "blep," "sploot," and "mlem" might not exist. Cute animal pictures and videos are just the sort of things that inspire entire genres of new words; after all, those quirky, playful animal antics deserve their own definitions, too. Although "blep" may sound like a noise made by some cartoonish fictional creature, it refers to an animal's tongue sticking out in an unusual, often adorable way.

closeup face of a cat sticks out its tongue
What is a Blep?
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The beauty of the blep

A panting dog probably has his tongue sticking out, but that's not a blep. After all, panting is how a dog cools itself; this is completely normal behavior. On the other hand, if that tongue sticks out of his mouth for seemingly no reason, typically with the rest of the mouth closed, you may be witnessing your first blep.

A blep is often just a tiny amount of visible tongue, creating an Instagram-worthy expression that animal lovers find adorable. When a cat bleps, it's even more share-worthy, since a cat usually doesn't stick its tongue out for seconds or even minutes at a time.

Why cats blep

If your cat sticks her tongue out for a while and seems to forget she's done so or appears to be panting, she isn't being forgetful. She's most likely "tasting" the air for scents she finds interesting. Some cats do this in the presence of other cats, picking up on cat pheromones in the air. If a cat's mouth is otherwise closed, she may be blepping when she's relaxed, especially if on a medication that causes relaxation.

Breeds with somewhat flat faces such as Persians may do so just because they have a shortage of space inside the mouth, letting the tongue hang out when relaxed. Even if you think your cat pays no attention to you, she really does. If your cat can tell you enjoy when she bleps, she may do it more often just to gain your loving attention.

Other animals blep, too

Bleps aren't just for domestic cats and dogs. From rabbits to leopards and cows, virtually any creature able to stick its tongue out is capable of blepping. If captured in snapshot or video form and shared online, even better.

What about the mlem?

Social media seems fascinated with videos of animal tongues in action, even when it comes to seemingly ordinary licking and slurping behavior. The mlem's meaning is the perfect example. A goat slurping water from a pail? That's a mlem. A cat trying to drink from a faucet also qualifies, as does a lizard licking liquid off a beverage can. One animal affectionately licking another's face is also a mlem. Unlike the blep, the mlem is an obviously intentional animal behavior involving a repeated licking or slurping action. The cuter or quirkier, the better, at least for viral video and photo potential.

Sploots are cute, too

Sploot is yet another new word spawned from the cute-animal craze. Splooting is when an animal lies down or stretches with one or both back legs spread out straight behind him. His front legs are usually straight out in front while this takes place. Some dog breeds such as corgis are particularly known to do this, but cats, rabbits, and any four-legged creature capable of stretching in this way can sploot.

Some animals sploot to stretch out their hips; others may be trying to cool off by pressing their bellies to the ground. Young animals are more likely to sploot than older ones because, like many humans, they're quite flexible during the earliest stages of their lives. Pair that splooting pet with a human doing yoga poses and you've got an entire genre of social media imagery.