Why is My Cat Drooling?

Cat drooling isn’t uncommon – it can happen when cats are relaxed and sometimes when they are nervous. But as with all things, it’s only okay in moderation. If your cat struggles with excessive drooling or the drool is discolored or smelly, there might be a more significant issue at play.

Let’s take a look at when cat drool is okay, and all the reasons your fur baby might be drooling more than is normal. Finally, we’ll look at when you should take your cat to the vet if you notice them drooling.

Is it normal for cats to drool?

Cats drool when they are relaxed and in some cases nervous. So it’s not uncommon to see them drooling when they’re purring or kneading and we sometimes see them drooling during stressful events. In the first case these are both signs that they’re relaxed and comfortable. It stems back to when they were nursing when kneading helped produce milk. Drooling was a natural response to the promise of food.

When a cat starts drooling while kneading, it’s because of residual feel-good feelings associated with their mother’s milk, feeding, and safety.

However, cats won’t suddenly start drooling while purring and kneading if they haven’t done this before. If your adult cat, who has never drooled before while relaxing, suddenly starts drooling, it could be a symptom of one of the below health issues.

Unlike dogs who often drool excessively, cat drools are smaller and less intense. Think of a small mountain spring instead of a gushing waterfall. So, if your cat suddenly starts drooling, or they are drooling excessively (or both), it could be a sign of an underlying issue.

9 Reasons why your cat may be drooling

Here are some of the most common reasons for excess drooling in cats.

1. Oral or dental disease

An oral or dental disease could be the cause of your cat’s drooling. It’s very common for cats with gum inflammation (gingivitis), gum disease, tartar buildup, and cavities to drool excessively, alongside a few notable symptoms.

Other symptoms to look for in your cat’s teeth and gums include:

  • Chewing food on only one side (eating while tilting their head only to one side) or teeth grinding
  • Blood in their saliva
  • Significant pain while eating
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Only eating soft food and avoiding hard food
  • Malodor in the mouth or of the drool
  • Swelling on the side of the face under the eye (dental abscesses can show a swelling in this location)

Only your vet will be able to determine the exact type of dental disease and prescribe medication for the issue.

2. Nausea

Cat drooling is a very common behavior for nauseous cats. Cat nausea is caused by eating food too fast, eating too much in one go, or having too much acid in the stomach. Nausea can also be a symptom of some diseases like kidney disease, ingestion of something toxic or eating something inappropriate (string, some plants) .

The nausea and drooling should resolve within 24 hours. If the cat drooling continues for more than a day, call your vet and have your pet checked out. If the drooling is accompanied by vomiting, you should seek veterinary care sooner.

3. Upper respiratory infection

Cat drooling that is accompanied by your cat coughing and sneezing could be a sign of an upper respiratory infection in the nose or throat. Alongside sneezing, coughing, and drooling, upper respiratory infections also cause eye discharge, tongue ulcerations and nasal leakage. Your cat might also refuse to eat or drink water.

A veterinarian will know what medication to provide for the type of infection causing your cat’s drooling.

4. There’s something stuck in their throat or stomach

Foreign body blockage, either in the gastrointestinal tract or the stomach, is another cause of drooling in cats. If the object is in the throat and  isn’t removed, it can make breathing difficult and cause drooling because the drool can’t be swallowed appropriately.  If the object is in the gastrointestinal tract and is stuck there, this obstruction may cause vomiting and drooling and may require surgical removal.

If you suspect there is something lodged in your cat’s throat or gastrointestinal tract, visit your vet for a physical exam immediately. The vet might be able to pull the object out of your cat’s mouth, but they might also have to do X-rays if the object can’t be reached from the mouth.

5. Exposure to a toxin

Exposure to a toxin can cause excessive drooling in addition to other issues like vomiting, lethargy and dizziness. While household items like cleaning supplies can be a danger and should always be kept out of reach of cats, some plants are also toxic to cats.

If you suspect your cat was exposed to a toxin, call your vet immediately. The ASPCA also has a poison control hotline with veterinarians available 24/7 to answer questions about possible toxins.

6. Injury

Traumatic injuries like jaw and skull fractures, or mouth burns from chewing on wires, can cause drooling and intense pain. If you notice your cat is drooling and sensitive to the touch, it could be a sign of serious injury.

Call your vet to pinpoint the issue and provide care while minimizing the pain.

7. Your cat is feeling anxious or scared

While happy cats often drool, if the drooling is accompanied by panting and yowling, it’s a sign of severe stress.

To stop stress-induced cat drooling, pinpoint the moment the stress started. Maybe you put your cat in the car for a trip somewhere. Maybe there is a new pet in the house. Whatever the case, give your cat a safe space like a carrier to relax. Use a soothing voice and make sure to introduce the change slowly.

If your cat constantly feels stressed, they may need to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication by your veterinarian.

8. Your cat ate something they don’t like

If your cat is drooling after eating something new, it likely didn’t enjoy the new taste. The fussing and drooling might even be accompanied by soft hacking. This can also be seen with medications that cats don’t like the taste of.

In most cases, they’ll drink some water and stop drooling when the taste in their mouth isn’t as intense.

9. Underlying health condition

Cat drooling can be a sign of an underlying health condition like renal or kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cat diabetes, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. These are serious issues, and they will show up with symptoms such as:

  • Chronic drooling
  • Blood in the mouth
  • Very bad breath
  • Excessive thirst or hunger
  • Sudden and extreme weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbly gait

If any of these symptoms show up alongside the drooling, visit your vet immediately for medical attention.

When should you call a vet?

Most often, drooling in cats is an issue that resolves itself within a day.

However, if your cat drools for more than a day or showcases any serious symptoms like mouth bleeding, intense hacking, weight loss, or extreme loss or increase in appetite, get in touch with your vet immediately.

Also, if your cat is only drooling but you suspect it ate something, go to your vet to ensure it didn’t swallow something that can cause later problems.

The bottom line

Dental problems, oral injury, certain diseases, food or medications with bad taste, and a stressful situation can all make your cat drool. It might also just be happy drooling.

Use this guide to see whether your fur baby is fine or struggling with drooling because of an underlying cause. If they are, book a vet appointment as soon as possible.

Lisa Beagan

Lisa Beagan

Dr. Lisa Beagan is a 1995 graduate of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. After working in an equine practice then a small animal clinic, she opened Mobile Pet Vet in 2003. Dr. Beagan has also completed a veterinary acupuncture certification through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

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