- Cats drool for a variety of reasons — Sometimes, they’re just really happy. But drooling also occurs due to serious underlying conditions that warrant more attention.
- Rule out serious conditions — While your cat may be drooling for benign reasons, it’s best not to assume and make a visit to the vet to be safe.
- Eliminating underlying causes — Depending on why your cat is drooling, they may stop once you treat the cause.
There are several reasons why your cat may be drooling, and they aren’t all a cause for concern. Once you notice your cat drooling, it’s important to make a vet appointment and narrow down the root cause. Sometimes it can be as simple as a very happy kitty, but sometimes it can be much more serious. Here are the seven biggest reasons cats drool.
1. Dental and oral diseases
Dental issues in cats are very common, particularly as cats get older. Lack of good dental hygiene, age, and certain health conditions can all contribute to the development of dental diseases in your cat’s mouth. Because of this, it’s a good idea to brush your cat’s teeth and use dental additives (like this food additive) to help prevent costly complications later on. Here are some of the dental and oral diseases that can develop and cause drooling.
Just like you, your cat’s gums can become inflamed, red, swollen, and painful. Gingivitis is caused by a build-up of bacteria-infested plaque on the teeth. As gingivitis progresses, bacteria is able to get beneath the gumline and damage the connective tissues that keep your cat’s teeth in place. When left untreated, gingivitis can also cause periodontitis.
Marked by loose teeth and tooth loss, periodontitis is almost always the result of uncontrolled gingivitis, and it happens when the connective tissue that holds your cat’s teeth in place is destroyed by bacteria. Signs of this painful condition include inflamed gums, excessive drooling, and a reluctance or unwillingness to eat — which can lead to even more health problems for your feline friend.
While periodontitis occurs mainly due to gingivitis, tooth resorption is the leading cause of tooth loss in cats. Tooth resorption occurs when the tooth begins to break down from the inside out. By the time cats are showing signs of tooth resorption — including a pink hue around the gumline, reluctance to eat, drooling, and irritation — the tooth is already very damaged. Depending on the severity of the tooth resorption, some or all of the tooth may need to be removed.
Autoimmune dental diseases
Certain conditions are caused by an abnormal immune system response. While the exact cause of some immune-related diseases is unknown, scientists and veterinarians believe that it’s likely due to exposure. Here are a few of the less common, immune-related dental diseases cats can experience.
- Stomatitis. While not common, stomatitis is a serious condition where numerous parts of the mouth experience painful inflammation.
- Feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS). No single cause of FCGS has been identified, but veterinarians believe that a combination of exposure, genetic predisposition, pre-existing conditions, and immune response lead to this condition, which causes widespread inflammation in the mouth.
Dr. Erica Irish
These types of chronic oral ailments can be painful for cats. They might not want to eat or clean themselves. There are currently no medications to cure these conditions, and full mouth extractions can seem extreme but are ultimately the best way to provide relief!
With autoimmune conditions, preventative measures like brushing your cat’s teeth may not be enough. Special medications, like cyclosporine , may be used to reduce your cat’s immune response and alleviate symptoms. Ultimately, tooth extractions for some or all of your cat’s teeth may be necessary.
Cancerous tumors in the mouth can also cause drooling, along with bad breath, blooding, and problems eating. For larger tumors or those on the jawbone, some cats have trouble closing their mouths.
2. Upper respiratory infection
An upper respiratory infection (URI), or cat cold, may be the cause of your cat’s drooling. URIs can be caused by viruses or bacteria, and while drooling isn’t as common of a symptom with cat colds, it can be a sign that your cat is dealing with an infection. Here are the symptoms to watch out for:
- Sneezing and coughing. Both sneezing and coughing occur when your cat’s respiratory tract is irritated either from an infection, allergic reaction, or obstruction.
- Discharge. Watch for discharge from the eyes and nose. Runny eyes—or mucus from the nose—may be clear or have a cloudy, greenish-yellow appearance. Your cat may also squint more.
- Lack of appetite. A cat’s sense of smell is vital to their appetite, so when that is compromised, your cat may not be interested in eating and may be more lethargic.
- Enlarged lymph nodes. Some URIs may cause enlarged lymph nodes, particularly the ones located at the base of the jawbone and neck.
3. Neurological disorders
Certain neurological conditions, such as Horner’s syndrome and vestibular syndrome, may cause your cat to drool. Other symptoms, such as disorientation, involuntary head tilting, or odd, exaggerated gaits, can also be present.
4. Underlying conditions
Some diseases and conditions can cause nausea and drooling for your cat. They may not be as obvious as gingivitis or a URI, but nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on inside your cat’s body. Here are a few conditions that might be impacting your cat.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Just like with people, inflammatory bowel disease occurs when cats experience chronic inflammation in their digestive tract, which leads to a thickening of their stomach or intestinal walls.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
An emergency for diabetic kitties, DKA occurs when diabetic cats develop another condition that puts more stress on their cat body, which may already be dealing with insulin regulation or life-threatening illnesses caused by unchecked or undiagnosed diabetes mellitus. Common conditions that increase the risk of DKA include pancreatitis, fatty liver, cancer, and kidney disease.
Hepatic and renal disease
Liver (hepatic) and kidney (renal) disease can also cause numerous symptoms, including drooling. For either of these conditions, other symptoms can include weight loss, a lack of appetite, vomiting, and increased thirst.
5. Medication and poison
As cats age, medications may become a part of the normal routine. Whether it’s for any of the conditions listed above or something else, it may be necessary to give your cat oral medications that have a bitter taste, and these can cause drooling.
Another issue, and significantly more urgent, may also be poison. Many household cleaners and chemicals are toxic to cats. Be sure to keep cleaning products and other toxic substances out of your cat’s reach. Even the smell of certain chemicals can make a cat drool.
🚨If you suspect that your cat has been poisoned and they are drooling or unresponsive, call 855-764-7661 and plan to get to your nearest emergency vet.
Sometimes, cats drool due to behavior or the situation — such as happiness or stress — and it has nothing to do with their health. Even if your cat is perfectly healthy and drooling, it’s still good to know why it’s happening, and if necessary, how to alleviate the problem causing it.
Anxiety and stress
When cats get anxious, sometimes they drool. Some other signs may also be present, such as dilated pupils, avoiding eye contact, or crouching. There are multiple causes of anxiety and while some are obvious, such as loud noises, there are some that aren’t so obvious.
- Illness. Anxiety induced by sickness isn’t unique to people. Cats also experience anxiety when they aren’t feeling well.
- Socialization. Cats need positive social and environmental exposure as kittens to help them be well adjusted later in life. Without this, cats may be more fearful of people, other pets, or loud sounds.
- Trauma. A traumatic event, like fireworks, can be stressful on any pet and many people. But, less obvious activities, like a car ride, can also be a traumatic experience for many cats.
You can help your cat have a stress free experience with calming supplements and by making sure their environment is as calming as possible. Do this by limiting loud music, providing enrichment, and promoting a good relationship between your cat and other pets in the household.
Some cats drool when they are very happy, too. When cats are pleasure drooling, they may be snuggling with their favorite person or pet, exposing their stomach, or making biscuits. Additionally, your cat may be purring if they are happy. It’s important to note that veterinarians aren’t sure how cats purr or all the reasons they do. Purring can also indicate hunger or stress, so pet owners should pay close attention to other signals their cat gives off.
Lastly, cats may also drool due to a foreign object. Whether it’s food, treats, or an object that your cat shouldn’t have eaten, your cat may be drooling because something is lodged in their mouth or throat. It’s important to check and make sure that your cat isn’t choking and if so, dislodge any obstruction you can see. If at all possible, have someone drive you and your cat to the vet while you work to help your cat.
👉 String, thread, and similar items can make an appealing toy for cats, but it can also lead to choking and blockages. Do NOT pull on these items — your cat requires immediate medical attention!
When to be concerned about why your cat is drooling
While the symptoms of other illnesses are a telltale sign that your cat needs to see a vet, you may notice your cat drooling without obvious symptoms. Here are a few subtle changes to watch for when you notice your cat drooling.
Change in eating habits
With dental conditions in particular, a change in eating habits can be a sign of a problem. If your cat is eating less or favoring one side of their mouth over another, it can indicate some issues. Other health problems may cause your cat to eat less overall as well, so take note of any dietary changes your cat may be experiencing.
Particularly with dental and oral disease, your cat’s breath may change. While your pets won’t exactly have wintergreen fresh breath, bad breath can be a sign that your cat is dealing with dental disease or other issues.
Change in behavior
Watch your cat for changes in behavior. Look for signs of pain or anxiety, or changes in bathroom or eating habits. These changes can signify other conditions that your cat may be experiencing where drooling is merely a symptom.
Taking your cat to the vet
When it comes to taking your cat to the vet, there are some things you can do to make it easier and a better visit for your vet, your cat, and you.
Before leaving home, gather up some essentials that you and your cat will need. While it isn’t a good idea to medicate your cat without knowing why they are drooling, you can make them comfortable for the car ride by covering their carrier with a towel or blanket while also ensuring airflow. Here are some other things to bring with you to the vet.
- Records. Bring any records you have with you to the vet. This includes your cat’s rabies vaccinations and any previous medical treatments they have received.
- Medications. If your cat has vet prescribed medications or supplements, or they take something over the counter, either bring the package or a list. This includes vitamins as well as calming supplements. Also, it’s a good idea to bring in your dog’s topical medications as well.
- Food and treats. Bring a list or take pictures of what your cat consumes. This includes wet food, dry food, and any treats as well as water additives. For homes with dogs, it’s a good idea to know your dog’s food as well in case your cat has been eating dog food.
- Harness and leash. If your cat is harness trained, bring their harness and leash. While you should have your cat in a carrier in the car, on the way into your vet’s office, and in the office, your vet may want to check the harness to ensure that it’s fitted properly to your cat.
What to expect at the vet
Once you’re at the vet, there are certain things that pet parents can expect.
Paperwork — Fill out any paperwork provided by the receptionist. And, it’s important to be honest. If you don’t brush your cat’s teeth, your vet needs to know that for an accurate and faster diagnosis.
Weighing your pet — The vet, or a veterinary technician, will weigh your pet. If you have medical records from their previous vet, this can be helpful to know if your cat has lost weight recently.
Establishing symptoms — Your vet will ask you questions about when your cat drools and what other symptoms may be present when they do.
Examining your pet — Once your vet has more information, they’ll examine your cat and look for signs of the cause. This might include looking at their mouth, or feeling along their body for any abnormalities.
Ordering tests — Depending on what your vet suspects, they may order further tests like x-rays, blood work, or saliva samples.
Frequently asked questions
What are common causes of excessive drooling in cats?
Oral issues, such as periodontal disease, tooth decay, or mouth injuries, are usually the cause of excessive drooling. It can also be a response to stress, nausea or underlying health conditions like liver disease or respiratory infection. Lastly, certain toxins, like certain plants and chemicals, can cause excessive drooling if ingested by cats.
Are there certain breeds of cats that are more prone to drooling?
No specific breed of cats is more prone to drooling. Any breed can start drooling excessively due to a range of reasons including dental problems, nausea, or certain neurological conditions.
Should I take my cat to the vet if they drool excessively?
Yes, always take your cat to the vet if they start drooling excessively. Excessive drooling can be a sign of several serious health issues including dental disease, respiratory infection, or poisoning.
What treatments are typically recommended for cats that drool excessively?
Treatments for cats that drool usually depend on the underlying cause. This can range from dental cleaning and extractions for oral health issues, to medications for infections or other health conditions. Sometimes, all it takes is a change in diet or environment to reduce stress and allergy triggers.