Do Cats Drool When They’re Hungry? The Truth Behind Feline Drooling


Cats do not normally drool very much. However, cat owners may notice increased drooling behavior when their cat is hungry. This is because a cat’s salivary glands can become stimulated in anticipation of eating, which leads to extra drool production. While a small amount of drooling when hungry is normal, excessive drooling can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health issue. This article will explore the reasons behind feline drooling, when it is considered normal, and when drooling may indicate a more serious medical problem requiring veterinary attention.

Normal Drooling in Cats

Cats typically don’t drool much compared to dogs. According to The Spruce Pets, cats have an estimated 2-5 salivary glands compared to dogs that have 20-30, leading to less drool production in general for cats (source). Reasons for normal drooling in cats include:

  • While grooming themselves, a bit of saliva can accumulate and drip from their mouth
  • When purring happily, some cats may drool a little
  • During play when they are very active and excited, cats can drool a small amount
  • Eating something very tasty can cause a temporary increase in saliva flow
  • Drinking water can cause some dripping afterward
  • Sleeping with the mouth open allows saliva to pool and drip out

Overall, a small amount of drooling is normal cat behavior. As long as your cat seems happy and healthy otherwise, a few drips here and there are nothing to worry about.

Increased Drooling When Hungry

Hunger can often trigger extra swallowing and saliva production in cats, leading owners to notice more drooling behavior at feeding time. When a cat’s stomach is empty and anticipating a meal, the salivary glands can become stimulated. As the cat swallows excess saliva in response, drool is more likely to spill out of the mouth (source).

Owners tend to observe increased drooling in the morning before breakfast or leading up to scheduled mealtimes throughout the day. A growling stomach and the smell and sight of food can all contribute to additional drool production. Some cats may whine, meow more loudly or demonstrate other begging behaviors when excessively hungry, which can exacerbate drooling (source).

While hunger-related drooling is common and not necessarily problematic on its own, excessive drooling or drooling combined with lethargy, vomiting or other symptoms may indicate an underlying health issue requiring veterinary attention. Monitoring the timing and context around drooling episodes can help owners determine if simple hunger is the trigger or if something more serious is occurring.

Other Causes of Excessive Drooling

There are several other potential causes of excessive drooling in cats besides hunger:

Dental disease like gingivitis, abscesses, or oral tumors can lead to pain and inflammation in a cat’s mouth, causing increased drool production. According to Pet Health Network, dental issues are a very common reason for feline drooling.

Nausea from motion sickness, infections, parasites, or other illnesses can stimulate the salivary glands and lead to drooling. Cats may drool excessively right before vomiting as the nauseous feeling ramps up.

Stress or anxiety, like during travel, grooming, or visits to the vet, can also increase drooling in cats as a response to fear. The stress hormone cortisol impacts saliva production.

Oral pain or injury, like an abscess or cut, leads to inflammation and irritation that makes cats drool excessively. Harder foods that require more chewing can also trigger sore mouths and drooling in injured cats.

When to See the Vet

While occasional drooling is normal in cats, persistent excessive drooling or drooling combined with concerning symptoms warrants a veterinary visit. According to experts, cats that drool persistently without an explainable cause like excitement or eating should be evaluated by a vet (

Signs that a cat’s drooling requires veterinary assessment include:

  • Excessive drooling that lasts for more than a day
  • Drooling combined with lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or other concerning symptoms
  • Bad breath or red and inflamed gums along with drooling
  • Difficulty eating or signs of mouth pain when drooling
  • Weight loss, poor appetite, or dehydration

Some underlying medical conditions that can cause excessive drooling in cats include (

  • Dental disease like gingivitis, abscesses, or broken teeth
  • Oral cancers or growths
  • Nausea or gastrointestinal issues
  • Toxins, poisons, or foreign objects lodged in the mouth
  • Certain medications
  • Metabolic disorders like kidney disease or diabetes
  • Neurological problems

A veterinarian can diagnose the cause of excessive drooling through a physical exam, dental exam, bloodwork, imaging, and other diagnostic tests as needed. Prompt treatment of any underlying condition is important to resolve excessive drooling and prevent complications.

Tips to Reduce Drooling

There are several tips cat owners can try at home to reduce excessive drooling in cats:

Provide frequent small meals throughout the day rather than one or two large meals. This helps prevent overproduction of saliva due to intense hunger. Offering dry kibble more often can also reduce drool production compared to wet canned food. Be sure to monitor your cat’s weight and adjust calories if needed when feeding smaller frequent meals.

Give your cat’s face and chin area a gentle wipe down daily, especially after eating, to keep the area clean and free of food residue that can cause irritation or inflammation leading to drooling. Use a soft cloth or tissue dampened with warm water.

Pay attention to any underlying health issues your cat may have like dental disease, oral injuries or infections, nausea, or other conditions that could contribute to increased drooling. Getting veterinary care to properly diagnose and treat any underlying problems can help reduce excessive drooling.

Treating causes like dental disease with professional cleanings and tooth extractions or switching to specially formulated foods for oral health may be warranted in chronic droolers. Always consult your veterinarian to determine the right approach for your cat.

Diet and Drooling

Some aspects of a cat’s diet may increase drooling. For example, cats often drool more when eating wet food compared to dry kibble. The aroma and moisture of canned food tends to stimulate more saliva production. In contrast, dry kibble requires less drooling and is easier for cats to eat quickly.

The location where cats eat can also impact drooling. Bowls placed on the floor may cause some cats to drool excessively as they eat. Gravity causes saliva and liquid from the food to pool in their mouth. Elevated food bowls at chest level allow for better swallowing and less mess.

According to Dundee Animal Hospital, excited drooling often occurs when cats smell their favorite wet or dry food. The anticipation of eating stimulates saliva production. However, frequent drooling while eating may indicate dental disease or other health issues.

Stress and Drooling

Stress is a common cause of excessive drooling in cats. When cats experience stress or anxiety, their bodies release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can increase saliva production, resulting in drooling. Stress-related drooling is the cat’s natural response to dealing with a situation they find threatening or uncomfortable.

Common environmental stressors that may cause a cat to drool include:

  • Moving to a new home or change in routine
  • Traveling in a carrier or car
  • Exposure to loud noises like thunder or fireworks

When brought into a new environment, cats may drool excessively as they acclimate and take time to feel comfortable. The unfamiliarity causes anxiety that physically manifests as drooling. Travelling can also be incredibly stressful for cats, triggering motion sickness, anxiety, and excessive drooling.

Loud noises are a frequent cause of drooling in cats. The noise causes a fear response, releasing hormones that stimulate saliva production. Some cats may even drool in anticipation of a loud noise, like hearing fireworks being lit off nearby. If possible, provide cats with a quiet, safe space during events with loud noises to help reduce stress and anxious drooling.

When Drooling is Normal

Occasional drooling is completely normal for cats. According to experts, some drooling is expected when cats are engaged in certain behaviors like eating, drinking, or purring (source). Eating wet food, lapping milk, or licking their lips clean can leave a cat with excess saliva and cause temporary drooling. Similarly, when cats are content and purring deeply, they may drool a bit in relaxation. This is not a concern, as long as the cat has no other symptoms and the drooling is occasional.

Light drooling during sleep is also considered normal cat behavior. According to veterinarians, a small amount of drool or dampness around a napping cat’s mouth is no cause for alarm. As cats dream and relax into deeper sleep cycles, their salivary glands may overproduce a bit of saliva that leaks out (source). Again, this is not a worry as long as the cat seems otherwise healthy and happy.

In short, cats may drool sometimes when eating, drinking, purring, or sleeping. Pet owners should only be concerned if excessive drooling occurs along with other symptoms, or if drooling becomes chronic.


In summary, it’s common for cats to drool a bit more when they are hungry as part of their normal response to hunger and food anticipation. However, excessive or chronic drooling can be a sign of an underlying health issue and warrants a veterinary exam. Some tips to reduce drooling include feeding smaller, more frequent meals, reducing stress, providing puzzle feeders or food dispensers, choosing the right diet, and ensuring your cat has access to clean water at all times.

While a little extra drool around meal time is nothing to worry about, pay attention to any drastic increase in drool volume or drooling that occurs independent of eating. Excessive drooling paired with other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy or appetite changes could signal an illness or condition requiring veterinary attention. By being attentive to your cat’s eating and drinking habits, you can monitor any abnormal drooling and determine if and when a vet visit becomes necessary.

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