Cats have many habits owners happily tolerate. We aren’t phased when they leap on our heads in the middle of the night. They can have our favorite chair. A meow will earn them the last morsel of fish from our plate. We don’t mind.
However, there’s one thing cats do that some people find a little disconcerting. Let’s address a common question about a particularly unsavory habit.
Although it’s commonly a sign of happiness, your cat might drool because of an oral condition such as toothache. Cat drooling occurs for one of three broad reasons: as an emotional response, because of disease, or because of an irritant.
We look at each of these areas in detail.
Many owners ask what to do if a cat is drooling more than usual. Drooling can be a symptom of so many things, some normal and some abnormal. If it’s not obvious why it’s happening, the best course of action is always to let a vet determine the cause and best course of action.
If you are wondering what causes a cat to drool excessively, you will find a variety of reasons detailed here.
Why Do Cats Drool?
Cats drool when excess saliva is produced by their salivary glands. Saliva is constantly produced to keep their mouths moist. When they eat, extra saliva is produced to begin the digestive process.
Saliva drools from a cat’s mouth when an excessive amount is produced, often for reasons of extreme happiness or stress. Normal and abnormal causes of drooling are described next.
Normal drooling as an emotional response
1. Drooling when purring
Many cats drool when they are totally relaxed, a state often invoked by petting. This is why it’s common for a cat to salivate when it is contentedly purring on your lap.
You’ll also notice a cat drooling when it is sound asleep. Drooling in these situations is a physiological (normal) response to feeling relaxed and is nothing to worry about.
2. Drooling out of stress or fear
It is quite normal for stress to bring on sudden bouts of drooling which subside as soon as the stress factor is removed. Examples of stress-induced salivation include a car journey, vet visit or loud noise all of which can cause a cat to drool excessively, albeit temporarily.
Here are more details of stress-induced drooling and what you can do :
- Travel – The stress of a car journey often causes a cat to drool excessively. This is often induced by fear of the unfamiliar feeling, being trapped in a carrier, and apprehension of what will happen next. A cat may also feel nauseous and be about to vomit. Sooth your cat by constantly talking to it, drive steadily and don’t have the radio blaring.
- Vet visit – After the journey to the vets, you may notice your cat drooling in the waiting room. This is probably because it is surrounded by unfamiliar smells and sounds, those of other animals included. Drooling out of this type of fear will stop as soon as your cat is safely home.
- Loud noise – many cats are stressed by loud noises. If music is playing at a high volume (especially with a heavy base beat), noisy building work is happening or fireworks are exploding, you may notice your cat drooling as it hides away. Once the noise has ceased your cat should revert to its usual self.
3. Kneading and drooling
Kittens knead and drool as they suckle from their mother. They experience feelings of happiness and contentedness as milk is delivered during this process.
This association of kneading with feeling happy as a kitten stays with them throughout their lives which is why cats drool as they knead and purr on your lap (or any other soft object.)
Normal drooling because of teething
Kittens and young cats drool as they are teething. At 11 weeks of age, kittens start to lose their baby teeth to make way for their permanent teeth. As well as drooling, teething kittens chew things to relieve the pain. Watch your hands during this stage!
Once its baby teeth have fallen out, a cat should have 30 adult teeth. Occasionally it has retained deciduous teeth which can cause symptoms such as excessive drooling.
Abnormal drooling caused by irritants
An external factor may cause cat drooling.
1. Foreign bodies
If your cat is drooling and you’re not sure of the reason, check its mouth for something that shouldn’t be there. It may have something stuck in its teeth or throat. It will usually be shaking its head, pawing at its mouth and flicking its tongue in and out.
- Its own fur from a grooming session
- A frayed piece of string that’s shredded from a toy or scratching post
- A blade of grass
- A fishbone
Any object lodged in a cat’s mouth or throat will make it difficult for it to swallow anything. Removal of the object should relieve its drooling.
Several common plants and flowers are poisonous to cats and some can be extremely harmful. If a cat gets certain pollens on its fur and licks them off, or chews the leaves or stalks of harmful plants, it could react by drooling and drinking lots of water.
Here’s a list of plants and flowers you should avoid keeping in your house and garden (opens in a new window).
Certain liquids found around homes and garages are dangerous to cats, antifreeze being one of them. Store any toxins safely out of reach.
If you suspect your cat is drooling because it has licked or ingested something harmful take it straight to the vets.
3. Bad meal choice!
Most cats are picky when it comes to their food and won’t eat it if it doesn’t smell good or has been hanging around all day.
On the other hand, some accomplished hunters catch and eat creatures in the garden which can disagree with them soon after. Drooling can be a precursor to vomiting up a poor-quality meal.
One of my cats once had a nibble of a dead squirrel. He began to drool later that day and by the next day was at the vet’s undergoing treatment for E-Coli.
A cat might drool if it has been hurt in an accident or injured in a fight. Injuries sustained fighting other cats often become infected and form abscesses.
An abscess in the mouth is very likely to lead to excessive drooling. If this looks to be the case a course of antibiotics may be necessary, so get along to your vet as soon as possible.
Abnormal drooling due to disease or illness
A number of health conditions might cause a cat to drool.
Here are three major causes.
1. Periodontal disease
Cats are prone to tooth decay and gum disease. They are not known for their compliance when it comes to having their teeth cleaned and so they tend to get neglected.
Dental disease is the biggest cause of excessive drooling in cats. The other signs are inflamed, bleeding gums, brown teeth, and very bad breath.
A vet will advise the best course of treatment which may involve extractions.
2. Respiratory tract disease
Certain respiratory diseases can lead to sores in a cat’s mouth which cause excessive drooling. If your cat is sneezing and drooling this is often a sign of an upper respiratory tract infection.
Keeping a cat’s vaccinations up-to-date is the best way to prevent many types of viral infections. Though viruses can’t be treated they can result in bacterial infections that your vet can treat.
Once the condition has cleared up, your cat’s drooling should cease.
3. Oral cancers
Oral cancer is quite rare in cats but if it occurs one of its side-effects is excessive drooling.
Signs of mouth cancer include:
- Growths in the mouth.
- Problems chewing and swallowing.
- Weight loss.
- Bad breath.
- Blood in the mouth.
- Loose teeth.
- Swollen face.
The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better for your cat so go immediately to your vet or a diagnosis. If a cat does have oral cancer, it can be difficult to treat but a vet can prescribe medication to reduce the pain.
Why is my cat drooling? – Conclusion
Most of the time a drooling cat is nothing to worry about – it just means it is happy. However, an unhappy cat drooling could signify a problem so be vigilant and get to the root of the problem.
Not everyone wants to cuddle a drooling cat but don’t worry, it’s unlikely that cat drool is harmful to humans! If in doubt, seek the advice of your vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry!