Why Do Cats Drool?
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM August 10, 2019
When you hear the question ‘why do cats drool?’ some of us may be wondering yes, why? Others might hiccup a little and say, what, cat’s drool? The differences in reactions to this question are because cats do drool, but not like what we picture our dogs doing. You shouldn’t be wiping drool flicks off of the floor or drying your hand after scratching your kitty under the chin, but some cats will naturally drool a noticeable amount. Of course, there are times when cats will abnormally drool more like a dog. If that’s the case, then it should be checked out by a veterinarian. Let’s discover the normal and abnormal reasons that cats drool and if you should be concerned about it.
Why Do Cats Drool?
If you’ve never noticed your cat drooling, it’s probably a good thing. Most of the causes of excessive drooling are things that should be looked at by a veterinarian. However, there are a few natural reasons that your cat might leave a drop of drool here or there.
- Dental Disease
As much as 80% of cats over three years old have some degree of dental disease. This can be gingivitis, stomatitis, or loose teeth, just to name a few. Whatever the cause of the dental disease, the end result is irritation. When the mouth is irritated, your cat’s body tries to flood it with extra saliva in order to help soothe and heal the discomfort. The amount of saliva can be so copious that your cat simply can’t swallow fast enough to contain it, so some drool comes out. Irritation in the throat can also cause drooling since your cat will be hesitant to swallow and will prefer to let saliva find an alternative exit. Cats with dental disease tend to have foul breath, reluctance to eat (especially kibble), and you may notice blood in their drool.
- Viral and Other Diseases
If there’s one thing that cats are good at, it’s sharing respiratory viruses. Some of the viruses, like calici or herpes, can cause ulcerations in the mouth that lead to drooling. Kitties with these infections will typically also have a runny nose or eyes and possibly exhibit sneezing and coughing.
Kidney disease may be one of the more feared ailments in the cat world. Unfortunately, kidney disease has no cure and ends up being an almost expected condition in elderly kitties. When the kidneys lose their filtering capabilities those toxic waste products that they normally get rid of can buildup in the blood and make your kitty feel nauseous leading to drooling. These toxins can cause oral ulcers as well. You’ll also notice weight loss, increased water consumption and a decreased appetite with kidney disease.
- Heat Stroke
Outdoor kitties can’t sweat, so their only means to cool themselves during the long hot summer days is to pant or find a cool shady spot. Since neither of these methods are terribly efficient, cats can experience heat stroke. Even though your cat is dehydrated, they still may drool as a way to cool or due to increased panting activity. Be sure your outdoor kitty has access to plenty of fresh water and a cool shady spot.
- Oral Cancers
Cancer can be a very real reason for your kitty to be drooling excessively. Oral tumors, mainly squamous cell carcinoma and melanomas, can arise from the gums, lips, or cheeks. These cancers cause drooling due to irritation of the mouth or, depending on where they are, they might make it difficult for your cat to close their mouth. You may notice a distortion to your cat’s face or see a mass when your kitty yawns or opens his mouth. Most cancers of the mouth come with other signs such as weight loss, bad breath, and decreased appetite.
We’ve all witnessed our cat’s natural curiosity. While it might be cute the way that they can’t leave an empty cardboard box alone, that curiosity can get them into trouble, especially if they use their mouth to explore. Burns, stings, and bites to the mouth, lips, and tongue can all cause drooling. Other traumas, such as dog attacks, car accidents, and falls, can cause fractures, dislocations, or bruising that has your kitty leaking drool.
- Toxic Plants
Still on that note of curiosity, some cats will sample the greenery in their environment. Be sure that that the greenery isn’t toxic in order to avoid some potentially very serious complications. Toxic plants like Calla or Peace lilies cause irritation and burning as they are ingested. That burning brings on the drooling and is usually cured by gently flushing your cat’s mouth with water. If you’re unsure what kind of plant your cat may have ingested, be sure to see your veterinarian.
- Foreign Objects
Kittens especially, but also adult cats, can sometimes take play to a whole new level with their biting and chewing on things. The biting and chewing is bad enough (think power cords), but the possibility of getting part of that ‘toy’ lodged in their mouth is another fear. Drooling without any other signs may be due to a foreign object. String or ribbons are the most likely culprits as they can easily get hooked around and between teeth. The drooling is due to pain or irritation caused by the object or from it physically blocking mouth closure.
If your cat isn’t a fan of car rides, you’ve probably seen him drool. The apprehension or motion sickness from the ride can lead to nauseous drooling. You may also notice your cat drooling right before they’re going to vomit.
- Relaxation and Comfort
Finally something good that makes your cat drool! Any of you that have woken up with a damp pillow or a telltale wet cheek know what it means to drool when you’re extremely relaxed. Your cat is no different. That deep relaxation isn’t always reserved for sleeping. You may notice a little drool when your cat is curled up or sprawled out happily on your lap or in the midst of some thorough petting.
Is Drooling Normal For Cats?
As you’ve just read, there are many reasons why your cat may drool. The majority of the time, a cat’s drooling is a very natural and normal behavior. Normal drooling comes in response to something, such as petting, relaxation, or even food. Constant, heavy drooling is not normal and its cause should be looked into. Abnormal drooling is usually accompanied by other signs, such as bad breath, lethargy, or weight loss.
When Should I Be Concerned With My Cat Drooling?
As we said before, drooling in cats can be something that is completely normal. However, a sudden change in your cat’s drooling behavior is something to look into. If your cat can’t seem to turn it off or it’s happening without stimulation (like petting) another cause needs to be found. Abnormal drooling can be concerning especially if it’s in conjunction with other signs. Drool that is blood tinged or foul smelling can indicate an infection, dental disease, trauma, or oral cancer. Foreign objects that have been stuck for a while can also produce blood or smell. Other symptoms like lethargy, weight loss, decreased appetite, or increased water consumption should be checked out as well.
What To Do If My Cat Won’t Stop Drooling
If you notice your cat is drooling uncontrollably without stimulation from relaxation, petting, or food, you should start to hunt down the cause. First you’ll want to check your cat’s mouth, if she’ll let you, for foreign objects, trauma, dental disease, etc. Don’t get bit! Get someone to help you or take her to the vet. If you find something concerning in her mouth, can’t do the exam, or suspect your cat ingested something nasty, get her to your vet. They can help pinpoint the cause of your cat’s drooling so that you can work on getting her dried up.
How Can I Prevent My Cat From Drooling?
The best way to prevent unwanted drooling in your cat is by visiting your veterinarian regularly. Your vet will help you take care of your kitty’s mouth to prevent dental disease and give you guidance on prevention of other illnesses, like viral infections and kidney disease. Make sure your cat’s space is clear of any toxic substances and that their toys are chew proof. You can try to reduce motion sickness and anxiety by getting your cat used to the car with frequent, short trips or by covering the carrier in a breathable blanket to block out the scariness. Keeping your kitty indoors or in a secure enclosure when outside will help prevent many traumas. Always have lots of fresh water available to keep your cat cool and hydrated. Those are the ways to prevent abnormal drooling in our cats, but normal drooling really can’t be prevented unless you want to stop loving on your cat - who wants that?!
Why Does My Cat Drool When I Pet Him or Her?
Normal drooling in our feline friends typically occurs in response to deep relaxation or sometimes to the temptation of a tasty treat. The drooling response to deep relaxation is simply due to lack of inhibition. When your cat is relaxed, muscle tension is low, even in the jaw and face. This allows drool to escape the mouth rather than be swallowed.
Drooling also can be due to a memory response. When your kitty is being petted in just the right way, the contentment takes them back to their kitten-hood when they were snuggled up next to their siblings nursing. Kittens often knead their mother’s belly in order to stimulate milk release, which leads to a full tummy and a warm fuzzy feeling. Petting your cat stimulates that kneading response, which in turn links their brain to the memory of nursing and the release of saliva that accompanies any meal. Purring is also part of that memory loop as it is linked to contentment.
Drooling in cats is something that not all cat parents may be aware of. It’s completely normal in most cases of contentment or just prior to an enticing meal. However, there are many causes of abnormal drooling that can be alarming and most often require some veterinary intervention. Your best bet is to get acquainted with some of the causes of abnormal drooling and get comfortable with having a damp lap when you’re snuggling with your feline friend.