Drooling is the kind of behavior not often associated with cats. While you wouldn’t blink twice at a salivating dog, a drooling cat simply isn’t something you’re used to seeing very often.
Yes, cats don’t drool as often as dogs, but their drool also looks very different and so isn’t as obvious. Dogs will commonly (and proudly) display stringy, foamy, dripping slobber at the sight of even the tiniest, tasty morsel.
Cats, on the other hand, are the pinnacle of elegance and sophistication even when they drool. A cat will, at worst, have a tiny glistening droplet on their chin or they may leave a barely noticeable damp patch wherever they lay their head.
So, you can see that it’s easy for cat’s drool to go largely unnoticed. If you do notice that your cat is drooling, it helps to know what could be causing the situation.
Why do cats drool?
Drooling in cats, also known as hypersalivation, can be caused by a variety of factors – some harmless and some that may require urgent medical care. Oftentimes a bout of cat drooling will resolve itself when the cause has been identified and removed, but, as always, drastic, and sudden changes in your cat’s behavior should always be seen to by a vet. In this case, very sudden or excessive drooling should be taken seriously.
Causes for drooling in cats usually fall into one of three major categories: emotional, expulsive, and pathological.
Emotional causes for cat drooling
Cats can begin to drool in moments of extreme emotion. This can include times of intense fear and anxiety, as well as that blissful state of comfort and happiness.
Your cat is anxious or scared
You may notice your cat drooling in times of acute stress or fear. This could be when they’re being taken in a car to the vet or perhaps even after an unfriendly encounter with another cat or dog. Things like thunderstorms and fireworks or even relocation to a new house can cause your cat excrement emotional torment which can result in some drooling.
Of course, cats can be inscrutable and quite hard to read, so if you think your cat may be afraid or stressed, look for other signals in your cat’s body language: dilated pupils, flattened ears, compact body posture, puffed out fur, and even panting while drooling.
These fearful situations can result in your cat drooling, but soon after the fear or anxiety has passed, your cat should cease drooling.
Your cat is sooooo relaxed
Some cats get a good drool when they’re enjoying a pleasing cuddle with their human or getting the good head scritches that make their eyes roll back into their heads in delight.
This kind of drooling in cats is usually accompanied by other signals that your cat is happy and relaxed. They may knead and purr and show you their tummy while enjoying this pamper session or lean into the moment with an affirming head bonk.
Some cats are simply happy droolers so if you’re living with one, keep a washcloth or blanket nearby for those blissful moments to ensure you avoid getting slobbered on.
Expulsive reasons for cats drooling
Often your cat may drool to rid themselves of something in their mouth. It’s almost as though they’re trying to wash their own mouth out with their saliva.
Something tastes bad
Cats are curious creatures. It is this insatiable curiosity that often leads them into sticky situations. It also occasionally leads them to eat or lick things (sticky or otherwise) that taste rather bad. In these situations, instant regret and much drooling will ensue in an attempt to expel the foul taste from their mouth.
This drooling also serves a purpose. Often, things that taste bad are bad, so a cat drooling to clean their own mouth out with saliva is a defense mechanism against toxic or harmful substances too. Self-preservation at work.
If your cat has eaten something that they shouldn’t have and you’re concerned that it may be harmful, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and get to the vet as soon as possible. While the drool may rid the taste or remnants from the mouth if your cat has swallowed something harmful only a vet can help.
Something is stuck
Similarly, a cat that has something stuck in its mouth or throat will also begin to drool. Items like blades of grass, leaves, or even small fish bones are usually to blame for this and will cause significant discomfort when swallowing, so your cat may avoid swallowing as much as possible. This, of course, results in some noticeable drool.
Commonly, when this does occur, your cat will also show other signs that something in their throat is bothering them. In addition to avoiding swallowing and drooling, a cat may also paw at their mouth or try to vomit.
Once the foreign object has been removed, normal swallowing should resume. With this, drooling will cease.
Pathological reasons why cats drool
Various diseases and ailments can result in inflammation and pain and can greatly impact your cat’s ability to swallow. Often these causes will require veterinary care and may even require permanent changes to your cat’s lifestyle and care.
Your cat is sick
Cats can sometimes contract upper respiratory tract viruses which also cause ulcers in the mouth. This will invariably cause a cat to begin drooling.
Other symptoms of such an infection include sneezing, runny nose, eye goo, and a change in eating and drinking habits. If you spot signs that indicate such an infection, it’s best to head over to the vet to get it seen to and get your floof the treatment they need.
Treating the infection will bring an end to the drooling.
A cat that is experiencing dental disease is highly likely to begin drooling more. Things like inflamed gums (gingivitis), oral inflammation (stomatitis), tartar, cavities, and even unerupted teeth can cause your cat to drool.
Cat drooling, in this case, will present with other symptoms which include difficulty eating, favoring one side when chewing or tilting the head to chew, dropping food, bad breath, blood-tinged saliva, and avoidance of hard food.
Your vet may need to do a thorough dental exam which may require an anesthetic (cats rarely enjoy having their jaws forced open). X-rays may also be required.
Dental problems can be mostly be avoided by ensuring your cat has a dental checkup frequently – much like you would visit the dentist regularly for your own dental well-being.
Cats are, unfortunately, as prone to cancer as their humans, and occasionally can develop oral cancers. Cats with oral tumors usually display signs of pain like food avoidance and pawing at the mouth. Other signs of oral tumors include excessive drooling and the presence of blood in the saliva.
The most common tumors in cats are squamous cell carcinomas which, because of their location, make excision and removal difficult. As such, this type of cancer has a very poor outcome. Other types of oral cancer may be treated using chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Signs that may indicate cancer include excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, very bad breath, bleeding from the mouth, and an inability to fully close the mouth where a mass is causing an obstruction.
Regular veterinary checkups can go a long way in detecting some tumors early.
Nausea and stomach upset in both humans and cats can cause increased production of saliva.
It can be hard to tell if your cat is feeling nauseated as the only signs they give are drooling and food avoidance. Generally, nausea will pass fairly quickly, or resolve itself after a bout of vomiting.
There can be many reasons why your cat is experiencing nausea. Commonly, motion sickness from a trip in the car is often the case. Another cause of nausea in cats is a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract. This will require a thorough physical examination by a vet to determine if there is a blockage and may even require x-rays or an abdominal ultrasound.
Underlying health conditions
There are a number of quite serious underlying health conditions which could cause your cat to drool. These diseases are usually discovered through blood and urine samples and will require the care of a veterinarian to treat.
Illnesses such as liver disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and diabetic ketoacidosis are just some of these health conditions which can present with drooling.
If your cat is diagnosed with one of these conditions, it will need ongoing care and treatment for the rest of its life and often require a specialized diet to manage the condition.
Trauma to the mouth can include painful things like broken teeth or bones in the mouth, foreign bodies stuck in the mouth (i.e., sticks, hooks, etc), and even insect bites and stings.
Other types of trauma can also include any kind of oral surgery. For example, a tooth extraction will result in pain and inflammation in the mouth, causing your cat to drool. Once the trauma has healed the drooling should stop.
Damage to cranial and facial nerves or paralysis of muscles that control swallowing can cause your cat to drool.
Other neurological conditions that can cause drooling include seizures which may cause difficulty swallowing prior to, during, or after a seizure. Once the seizure has passed the drooling should stop.
When to worry?
If you’re at all unsure as to why your cat is drooling, it’s always better to have your precious fur kid checked out by a vet.
If you spot any of the following, then a visit to the vet is urgent:
- Constant drooling
- Sudden drooling
- Blood in the saliva
- Presence of other symptoms like vomiting, lack of appetite, and pawing at the mouth
- Drastic changes in behavior
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
- Sneezing, runny nose
Read More: 7 Critical Signs Your Pet Needs Immediate Veterinary Attention
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Drooling in cats is very normal and very common, but because it’s usually quite subtle and understated (especially when compared to some dogs – we’re looking at you, boxers) it often goes unnoticed.
Cats drool for a variety of reasons ranging from emotional causes to severe illnesses. While it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly why your cat may be drooling, the general rule of thumb is to always consult a vet if you’re unsure.
Generally, when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your cat, any sudden and extreme changes in their behavior should be taken seriously and given urgent attention. So, if your cat has never been one to drool but is now suddenly salivating generously everywhere, that’s your sign to hightail them to the nearest vet.
Treating the cause will usually eliminate the drooling altogether. But some cats have always been and will always be happy little droolers when they get some good loving from their favorite human. This is usually not any reason for concern.