Why Do Cats Drool? Is Something Wrong?

Written by Angie Menjivar
Published: May 31, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/cattosus
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If you’ve noticed a little droplet of saliva just barely hanging on to your kitty’s lip, you’re probably wondering, “Why do cats drool?” And the more important question: “Is something wrong?” Unlike dogs, cats don’t drool very often—but even though it’s uncommon, you may find that your kitty is one of those that you can frequently find expressing her contentment with a little dribble.

This is an involuntary response that is usually the result of complete and utter contentment. Think sunbathing, cuddles, biscuit-making, and an air of love—that would make any kitty so happy, that a little drool could result. There are also occasions when drooling may not be indicative of happiness; rather, it may be a sign that something is wrong. In this article, we explain when drooling is normal, when it isn’t, and some common reasons for excessive salivation.

When Drooling Is Normal

You’ve likely noticed a little drop of drool landing on your favorite shirt as your cat kneads into it. Normally, this can be a good thing. It just means that your cat is super cozy and content with you. It’s much like how humans drool when they are completely relaxed and drifting off into sleep. As you probably know, kneading originates from kittenhood. When your cat was a kitten, she used her paws against her mama‘s belly to stimulate milk flow as she suckled. Just like adults carry some comforting behaviors from childhood into their adulthood, cats do the same.

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When your cat kneads on you, those visceral memories return, and drooling may be a side effect of your cat feeling warm, safe, and loved by you. This is usually an occasion when your cat may also be purring and completely blissed out. Drooling is normal on these occasions. Your cat is just reminiscing and enjoying the bond she has with you. Therefore, if she’s making biscuits, purring, and nuzzling up against you when you notice drooling, that’s a completely normal response to the contentment and fulfillment she feels alongside you.

Another instance that is more uncommon with cats than it is with dogs is if your cat drools when you present a particularly scrumptious food option. If you notice drooling around mealtimes or when you get her favorite treats out from the cupboard, then that’s typically nothing to worry about. Just make sure that you keep a close eye to determine what the triggers are.

Drooling may also be activated in the case of stress or fear. This is a normal response for cats and should only be a temporary situation. For example, if your cat completely hates car rides, as some cats do, drooling may be a part of that stress and fear response. However, if you notice that your cat is regularly fearful and regularly drooling, that may be something you want to talk to your vet about. But if you only notice it during particularly stressful occasions, it’s likely related to the stress and usually nothing to be too concerned about.

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When You Should Be Concerned

Constant drooling is a cause for concern. Generally, this means that your cat has some kind of underlying health issue. If you’ve noticed that despite normal instances of drooling, your cat keeps displaying this behavior, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to inquire further. In fact, you should be regularly visiting your veterinarian at the very least once per year for a routine wellness exam so that you can remain proactive when it comes to your cat’s health.

Reasons Cats Drool

If you’re concerned, you should know the possible reasons your cat may be drooling. Your veterinarian can help you figure out what the underlying condition is that is causing this behavior. When in doubt, always take a safer route and call your vet. That call could be life-saving for your favorite feline.

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Trauma/Injury

Your cat may have suffered an injury to her mouth if you notice excessive drooling. Maybe you weren’t present when this happened, and you didn’t realize that she got hurt. For example, a cat that mischievously ends up chewing through a power cord can experience electrical burns that cause excessive drooling. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, she could have sustained an injury while exploring the outdoor environment. Sometimes, that’s a catfight that you weren’t privy to. Even when the damage isn’t visible from the outside, your cat may have still suffered sufficient trauma to her mouth to cause the excessive drooling.

Nausea

Just like with humans, nausea in cats can cause drooling. If you notice that your cat has recently had a change in appetite, has vomited, or keeps drooling, she may have developed a gastrointestinal issue. These symptoms are also related to other health conditions including kidney disease. If you notice that your cat has been drooling (especially when it’s accompanied by other symptoms), you should go to your vet right away.

Once at your vet, they will perform diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the drooling. This could include some lab work to look at your kitty’s internal functions. With this information, your vet can provide adequate treatment options.

Underlying Illness

Sometimes the only symptom you may notice is the drooling in your cat. When your cat drools a lot, this can be an indication that your cat is experiencing pain. Cats are notorious for hiding their pain, but this would be an obvious symptom that your kitty isn’t okay. One example of an underlying condition that could cause this reaction is stomatitis. Stomatitis is a condition that occurs in cats and causes inflammation of both their lips and their mouth. This is just one example of a health condition that your kitty may be dealing with if she is drooling a lot.

Oral/Dental Disease

By age three, most cats have developed some form of periodontal disease. Cats can be pretty persnickety when it comes to their mouths, which means they may not allow for a lot of brushing or dental checks when under your care. Because of this, oral disease may develop, and you won’t know until it’s too late. Once it’s too late, your cat is already experiencing extreme pain. Again, this pain can cause extra saliva secretion, which you will notice as drooling. Whether it’s a gum disease, an infection, or a tooth injury, your cat may be suffering from some kind of oral or dental issue.

This is definitely a time to get to the vet. Your vet will be able to take a look at your cat’s mouth and perform a complete examination. They’ll be able to determine if it is an oral or dental issue and at that point, you can move forward with either a professional dental cleaning, possible extractions, or any other required procedures. Dental work is conducted when your cat is under general anesthesia. Your cat may feel a little groggy after the procedure, but she’ll be in much better shape. Your veterinarian may also prescribe antibiotics at this point to ensure that your kitty fully recovers.

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Foreign Body

A foreign body refers to any item that may be stuck inside your cat’s mouth. If your cat has something stuck, drooling is a natural response. Sometimes kitties love to chew on their toys (or plastic bags and strings), which means that they may have accidentally gotten something stuck. If you notice a foreign body, be careful, especially if it’s a string. If the string is half-swallowed, pulling on it can cause more damage. It’s best that you rush to the vet or nearest animal hospital for professional assistance.

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Poisoning

This is a scary thought, but it is a possibility that your cat may have licked or ingested something poisonous. This would cause excessive salivation. Whether it’s a poisonous plant or a chemical, if you think that poisoning is a possibility, take your cat to the vet immediately.

Medication

Cats may have a drooling response to certain medications. For example, atropine, a painkiller, is so bitter that cats may respond by salivating and drooling. This excessive drooling may even be accompanied by foaming at the mouth. Not all cats have this reaction to medication but if you notice that your cat is responding this way, check with your vet.

Summary

There are two very different types of scenarios that can either let you know your cat is happy as a clam or that she needs medical intervention. If she’s purring, kneading, and cuddling with you when you spot a bit of drool, all is well. On any other occasion that you notice drooling without a cause like yummy food smells or a fear response, it’s best to get her checked by your vet. To make sure that you never hesitate to call your vet due to fear of the vet bill, get her set up with a comprehensive pet insurance policy. It’s worth it.

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About the Author

Angie is a writer with over 10 years of experience developing content for product and brand reviews, focusing much of her time on animals of all types. A cat owner herself, she enjoys writing articles on beloved pets that both inform and entertain her audience.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Should I be worried if my cat is drooling?

That depends on the circumstances. Nobody knows your cat better than you. If your cat is content, enticed by the aroma of particularly pungent food, or she’s a bit anxious, drooling can be a natural response that is nothing to worry about. However, if your cat is presenting other symptoms along with drooling like vomiting, hiding, diarrhea, or panting, then take your cat to the vet right away. If you can’t figure out the cause for the drooling and it’s constant, you need to seek proper medical care for your kitty. Follow your gut feelings when you notice your cats drooling. If you feel like they need to see the vet, don’t hesitate to take them.

Are cats happy when they drool?

Sometimes! Your cats may feel so blissful that they end up drooling. Usually, this is when they’re either with you or their other cat mates, completely relaxed, making biscuits, and purring. If you see that your cat is enjoying a cuddly afternoon with a super calm attitude, she is likely extremely happy and just enjoying the moment.

What should I do if my cat starts drooling?

Assess possible reasons why your cat may be drooling. Is she relaxed, happy, and purring as well? She may just be completely absorbed and in the moment, feeling safe and loved. However, if you notice that she seems in any way distressed, contact your veterinarian so that you can figure out what the underlying cause of drooling may be.

Why do cats drool when they are affectionate?

Because they’re so caught up in the moment! They love the attention and affection they’re receiving and they’re so relaxed that they have this physiologic response. If you’ve ever been so relaxed that you start drooling, you know the feeling. Not all cats display this behavior when they’re completely content so even if your cat doesn’t drool when you are cuddling, you can still trust that she loves the affection you give her.

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