Why Is My Cat Drooling?

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Published: August 31, 2021

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if what your kitty is doing is normal cat behavior. For instance, you may wonder if your cat’s drooling is normal or something to be concerned about. Here are some reasons why cats drool and some signs to look for so you know when your cat’s drooling requires a vet visit.

Is It Normal for Cats to Drool?

Cats drooling when they are happy and relaxed, for example, drooling while being petted, can be normal behavior. Usually, these kitties adopt this behavior early in life, so it would not be typical for an older cat to start drooling suddenly if they hadn’t before. If this happens, you should call your vet to talk about your cat’s sudden drooling.

So how can you tell the difference between normal cat drooling and drooling that’s a sign of a problem?

Why Do Cats Drool?

There are several underlying health conditions that can cause cats to drool. The following are the most common.

Dental Disease

Cats with dental disease, which can consist of gingivitis (gum inflammation), stomatitis (oral inflammation), tartar, and cat cavities (feline oral resorptive lesions or FORL(s)) can drool.

In addition to drooling, a cat with dental disease may:

  • Have a difficult time eating  

  • Chew with their head to the side

  • Drop pieces of food

  • Prefer soft food over hard kibble

  • Have bad breath

  • Have blood-tinged saliva

Your veterinarian can perform an oral exam to evaluate your cat for the presence of dental disease. If dental disease is found, they will also recommend a dental treatment. Unlike humans, cats do not sit still for a dental cleaning or for dental x-rays to be taken, so anesthesia is needed during your cat’s oral exam to do the best treatment possible.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Sometimes, upper respiratory tract viruses can cause oral ulceration(s) and drooling in cats. A lot of these kitties have a history of:

  • Sneezing

  • Nasal discharge

  • Eye discharge

  • Not eating/drinking normally

Your veterinarian will perform a full exam and treat your cat according to the clinical signs present.

Nausea

Cats that are drooling and not eating could be nauseous. Your cat may have a history of vomiting in addition to drooling, but this is not always the case. Cats can become nauseous for several reasons.

A Blockage in the Gastrointestinal Tract

Gastrointestinal (GI) foreign body blockage is one cause of nausea in cats, which can lead to drooling. Your vet would need to do a physical exam to determine if there is a blockage. Vets sometimes will find a string or ribbon stuck under the cat’s tongue, which often extends down further into the cat’s GI tract (stomach, small intestine).

If there is concern that your cat may have a gastric (stomach) or small intestinal foreign body that’s not associated with a string/ribbon, your veterinarian will recommend imaging such as x-rays and/or abdominal ultrasound.

Underlying Health Condition

Diseases such as liver (hepatic) disease, renal (kidney) disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and diabetic ketoacidosis, just to name a few, are other potential causes for nausea and drooling. These disease conditions are diagnosed by testing your cat’s blood and urine.

If your cat has inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or cancer (neoplasia), this can cause physical changes in their stomach and intestine due to thickening of the stomach/intestinal walls, which can cause nausea and drooling. If your veterinarian suspects either of these disease processes, they may recommend abdominal ultrasound, endoscopy, or biopsy of the affected tissue.

Neoplasia (Cancer)

Unfortunately, cats are at risk for developing cancer, just like humans. If a cat has a cancerous mass involving the tongue or back of the throat, they may:

  • Drool

  • Have a difficult time eating/swallowing

  • Have bad breath

  • Bleed from their mouth

  • Not be able to fully close their mouth if they have a large oral mass or if there is a mass on their jawbone

Trauma

Fractures of the jaw or skull and oral ulcerations from burns caused by chewing on electrical cords can also cause drooling in cats. Cats with fracture trauma may require surgical intervention. Those that chew on electrical cords (most commonly seen in kittens) need pain control and possibly other supportive care, including a soft diet.

Bitter Taste

Cats can drool if they taste something bitter, such as oral medications. The drool can be quite dramatic in this case. Try offering water or a treat after medicating your cat to help wash the bad taste out of their mouth.

Neurological Disease

Cats may drool if they have a neurological disease that interferes with their ability to move food around their mouth and swallow. These cats would potentially have other neurological signs, such as:

  • Difficulty picking up food

  • Problems with chewing

  • Difficulty moving their tongue

  • Balance issues

  • Whole-body weakness

If a cat has problems with the nerves in their head (cranial nerves), you would see more localized signs (affecting their face only) versus a health condition that affects their whole body, which could cause signs in multiple areas.

Many disease processes can cause neurological signs in cats. Your veterinarian will perform an exam to identify the problem and can then set up a plan for diagnostics and treatment.  

Why Do Some Cats Drool When You Pet Them? Is That Normal?

Some cats drool when being petted because they are happy and relaxed. They may associate the owner’s affection with the contentment they felt as kittens nursing on their mothers. This can be normal behavior, and your cat may also purr, knead their paws, and/or rub their face/body on you or your furniture.

When Should You Call the Vet About Cat Drooling?

Contact your veterinarian if your cat has drooling that is accompanied by:

  • Bad breath

  • Lack of or decreased appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Weight loss

  • Upper respiratory signs (sneezing/nasal discharge)

  • Lethargy

Your veterinarian can gain a lot of information as to the cause for your cat’s drooling based solely on a physical exam. However, be prepared for your vet to recommend possible blood/urine/fecal testing and possible imaging (x-rays and/or abdominal ultrasound) at your visit.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Juan Carlos Juarez Jaramillo