Do Cats Drool When They’re Thirsty? The Truth About Feline Dehydration


It’s normal for cats to drool or salivate a small amount around things like food or when they are relaxed and being petted. However, excessive drooling – especially outside of common situations – could indicate a problem like dehydration. Cats need adequate hydration for all bodily systems to function properly. When dehydrated, cats may exhibit increased drooling and salivation as one of several concerning symptoms that require veterinary attention.

Determining if your cat’s drooling is normal or abnormal is the first step. This guide will cover the causes of cat drooling, when it can be a sign of dehydration, and what to do if you have a drooling and dehydrated cat at home.

Normal Drooling in Cats

It’s normal for cats to drool a bit in certain situations. According to, the most common causes of normal drooling in cats include:

  • Eating or drinking – Cats may drool a bit when anticipating food or after eating/drinking.
  • Dental issues – Problems like gingivitis, abscesses, or damaged teeth can cause minor drooling.
  • Nausea – Motion sickness, eating too fast, or hairballs may trigger some drooling.

Drooling from normal causes is usually intermittent and only involves a small amount of saliva. Excessive drooling or drooling that occurs suddenly warrants a vet visit to identify the underlying cause.

Dehydration in Cats

Dehydration occurs in cats when the loss of body fluids, like water, exceeds the amount taken in. This ultimately causes an imbalance in the body’s fluid levels. According to WebMD, some common causes of dehydration in cats include:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Increased urination from diseases like kidney failure or diabetes
  • Fever
  • Excessive panting
  • Lack of access to water

PetMD notes that dehydration can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, the cat may exhibit some early symptoms like lethargy, dry gums, and reduced skin elasticity. As dehydration progresses to moderate or severe levels, more noticeable symptoms emerge:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Skin tenting – when the skin is pulled up, it takes longer to flatten out
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Panting
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure

Dehydration can quickly become an emergency. Understanding the causes, watching for early signs, and contacting the vet promptly can help avoid complications.

Drooling as a Dehydration Symptom

While cats naturally drool small amounts, excessive drooling can be a sign of dehydration. According to, severe or excessive drooling is one of the earliest symptoms of dehydration in cats. When a cat becomes dehydrated, the salivary glands produce more saliva in an attempt to lubricate the mouth and throat. This overproduction of saliva leads to excessive drooling.

Dehydration occurs when a cat loses more fluids than it takes in. Vomiting, diarrhea, lack of access to water, and illnesses that cause fever can all lead to dehydration. As dehydration worsens, the salivary glands work harder to produce more saliva. This compensatory mechanism causes noticeable drooling. Owners may see long strands of thick saliva hanging from a dehydrated cat’s mouth.

Excessive drooling due to dehydration often occurs concurrently with other symptoms. Lethargy, sunken eyes, poor skin elasticity, and dry gums are also typical signs of dehydration in cats. If a cat starts uncharacteristically drooling in conjunction with these other symptoms, dehydration may be the cause.

Other Dehydration Symptoms

In addition to increased drooling, there are several other symptoms that may indicate your cat is dehydrated. These include:

  • Lethargy or weakness – Dehydrated cats often have less energy and may seem more sleepy or tired than usual.
  • Dry or sticky gums – Healthy cats should have moist gums, so dry or sticky feeling gums can signify dehydration.
  • Loss of appetite – Dehydrated cats frequently lose their appetite and don’t want to eat or drink.
  • Dry nose – The nose is normally moist, so a dry nose can be a dehydration red flag.
  • Skin tenting – Gently pinching the skin and seeing how long it takes to flatten back down tests for dehydration. The skin of a dehydrated cat will be slow to flatten.
  • Sunken eyes – Dehydration causes the eyes to appear more sunken than normal.
  • Rapid breathing – Dehydrated cats often pant or breathe faster than usual.
  • Constipation – Lack of fluids can lead to constipation in cats.
  • Reduced skin elasticity – The skin has less elasticity when dehydrated.

Paying attention to these other potential signs of dehydration in addition to increased drooling can help identify dehydration early on.

When to See the Vet

It’s advisable to schedule a veterinary appointment if your cat is exhibiting excessive drooling along with other concerning symptoms. While minor drooling on its own may not be cause for alarm, it’s important to seek medical care if the drooling is accompanied by lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, sticky or dry gums, or any other signs of dehydration (PetMD).

Severe dehydration can quickly become life-threatening for cats if left untreated. According to vets, it’s better to err on the side of caution and have your cat seen if you notice anything out of the ordinary that persists for more than 24 hours (Boston Veterinary). The sooner dehydration is addressed, the better the prognosis. An experienced veterinarian will be able to properly assess your cat’s condition, provide fluid therapy if needed, and advise on home care to prevent future dehydration episodes.

Preventing Dehydration

There are several tips cat owners can follow to help prevent dehydration in their feline companions:

Provide plenty of fresh, clean water daily – Cats should always have access to fresh water. Refresh water bowls frequently and place bowls in multiple locations around the home. Consider getting a cat water fountain to encourage drinking.

Offer wet food – Feeding wet or canned cat food can help increase fluid intake. Aim for at least one wet food meal per day if feeding a mix of wet and dry.

Try flavor enhancers – Adding tuna juice, low-sodium chicken broth, or catnip to the water bowl can make water more enticing. Just a small amount of flavoring can stimulate drinking.

Give ice treats – Offering frozen broth cubes or tuna popsicles made with cat-safe ingredients provides hydration as they melt.

Feed hydrating fruits/veggies – Water-rich fruits like cantaloupe and strawberries or veggies like cucumber can provide moisture. Check safety before offering.

Monitor intake – Take note of daily water intake and litter box habits to ensure your cat is drinking adequate amounts.

Limit dry food – Feed high-moisture wet food more often rather than only dry kibble, which contains little moisture.

Provide multiple water stations – Have bowls set up around the house so water is always available and easy to access.

Use a fountain – Constantly circulating water encourages drinking. Consider a fountain if your cat doesn’t drink still water.

Treating Dehydration

Dehydration in cats is a medical emergency that requires prompt veterinary treatment. Here is an overview of how vets typically treat dehydration:

The most common dehydration treatment is fluid therapy, which involves administering fluids intravenously or under the skin (subcutaneously). This quickly restores fluids and electrolytes to bring the cat back into balance (Cornell Feline Health Center).

Vets will calculate the appropriate amount of fluids based on the cat’s dehydration level, which they can estimate through physical exam findings, bloodwork, and consideration of any ongoing fluid losses. Severely dehydrated cats may receive up to 100 ml per kg body weight of fluids in the first hour (WagWalking).

In addition to fluids, vets will seek to address the underlying cause of dehydration. This may involve medications, additional diagnostics, and supportive care like warming techniques for hypothermic cats.

Most cats show improvement within the first few hours of fluid therapy. Vets will continue to monitor the cat’s hydration status and administer additional fluids as needed until the cat is rehydrated.

With prompt, vet-supervised treatment, the prognosis for dehydration is generally good. However, untreated severe dehydration can be fatal, so immediate medical care is critical.

Caring for a Dehydrated Cat

If your cat is showing signs of dehydration, there are several things you can do at home to help treat it:

Provide easy access to fresh, clean water. Frequently change and refill water bowls. You can also try adding tuna juice, chicken broth or Pedialyte to the water to encourage drinking. [1]

Switch to wet cat food or add water to their regular food to increase fluid intake. Cats with kidney issues may need a special renal diet recommended by your vet. [2]

Make a tuna or chicken broth “soup” for your cat by heating up the broth and mixing in some of their wet food. This can help increase palatability and hydration.

Give dehydrated cats small but frequent feedings and make sure food is easily accessible.

Provide high protein, nutrient rich foods like kitten food to help recovery.

Monitor their litter box for frequency of urination to ensure they are properly rehydrating.

Ensure your cat is resting comfortably in a stress-free environment to aid recovery.

When to Worry

If your cat is showing signs of severe dehydration such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, weak pulse, or collapse, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention immediately. Severe dehydration can lead to electrolyte imbalances, kidney failure, seizures and even death if left untreated. At the first signs of concerning symptoms, take your cat to the veterinarian or emergency animal hospital right away. Waiting too long can have devastating consequences.

Some specific signs that warrant an urgent vet visit include:

  • Inability to stand or walk
  • Depression, disorientation or stupor
  • Little to no urine production
  • Dry sticky gums that don’t revert back when pressed
  • Sunken eyes that do not return to normal when hydrated
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours
  • Labored breathing or pale gums
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

Waiting too long with these symptoms can lead to shock, organ damage or death. At the first signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or other concerning symptoms, take your cat to the vet immediately. With prompt treatment, most cats can make a full recovery from dehydration.

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