Does Your Cat’s Drooling Mean Happiness?

Introduction

Cat drooling is a relatively common occurrence that most cat owners will observe at some point. Drooling in cats can be caused by various factors, ranging from completely normal ones like relaxation and happiness, to more concerning medical conditions that require veterinary attention. In this article, we will provide an overview of the main reasons cats drool, so cat owners can better understand what’s normal drooling behavior versus when drooling may signal an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed. By the end, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the common causes of drooling in cats.

Normal Causes of Drooling

It’s perfectly normal for cats to drool a bit while eating or drinking. The motion of chewing and lapping up water can cause some excess saliva to escape the mouth. This is no cause for concern and is to be expected, especially if your cat is a particularly enthusiastic or messy eater and drinker.

Cats may also drool a little right before mealtime in anticipation of food. The smell and sight of food can trigger extra saliva production. A small amount of drool before chowing down is normal appetite-driven behavior.

Drooling also frequently occurs when cats wake up from a nap or sleep. Some residual saliva can pool in the mouth during sleep. Upon waking, gravity causes this to spill out. Unless it is excessive, morning drool spots are nothing to worry about.

Lastly, as cited from PetMD, drooling while purring or displaying other signs of contentment is normal cat behavior. Cats do not have salivary glands as large as dogs. But they can still drool a bit when super relaxed, happy, and showing affection. It is a natural sign of cat bliss.

Excessive Drooling

While a small amount of drooling is normal for cats, excessive drooling can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Here are some of the most common medical conditions that can cause a cat to drool excessively:

Dental disease like gingivitis, periodontal disease, or tooth abscesses can cause significant irritation and inflammation in a cat’s mouth, leading to excessive drooling (1). These dental issues are often painful and can make it uncomfortable for a cat to swallow.

Certain neurological conditions like seizures, facial nerve paralysis, or hyperesthesia syndrome can cause involuntary drooling. Nerve damage prevents a cat from controlling its mouth and swallowing properly (2).

Nausea from motion sickness, infections, parasites, pancreatitis, or other gastrointestinal issues can induce excessive drooling and lip licking as the cat feels an urgent need to vomit (3).

Overheating or heat stroke often causes profuse drooling as the cat’s body tries to cool itself down through evaporative cooling. Heavy panting accompanies the drooling (1).

Kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and some cancers can also lead to substantial drooling in cats, especially in later stages (3).

Drooling When Relaxed/Happy

It’s common for cats to drool when they are very relaxed or happy. This is because cats produce extra saliva when they are content. According to PetMD, “Some cats drool when being petted because they are happy and relaxed. They may associate the owner’s affection with the contentment they felt as nursing kittens.”

Purina notes that “As you pet or brush your cat, their kneading and purring can sometimes be accompanied by drooling. These are all signs of a happy kitty and are nothing to worry about.” The drooling is simply a sign that your cat is extremely relaxed and enjoying the attention.

When cats purr, they may also tend to drool. As Dutch explains, “It’s perfectly normal for cats to drool when purring. As we’ve already mentioned, cats drool when they’re happy, but they may also drool to self-soothe.” The rhythmic motion of purring stimulates saliva production.

So if your cat is drooling while you’re petting, brushing, or cuddling them, it generally just means they are super happy and comfortable. It’s a normal part of their relaxation response. As long as your cat seems relaxed and content otherwise, drooling isn’t anything to be concerned about.

Drooling When in Heat

Cats who are going into heat or are in heat may drool more than usual. This is caused by a surge of hormones like estrogen that occur when a female cat is fertile. According to Purrfect Love, female cats tend to drool more when in heat compared to male cats.

When a female cat enters her heat cycle, which usually happens several times a year, her body releases hormones that signal she is ready to mate. These hormones can trigger increased saliva production and drooling. The drooling is thought to be because the hormones loosen the muscles around the jaw, allowing more saliva to escape. The drooling tends to be intermittent during their heat cycle rather than constant.

Owners may notice their female cat drooling more on themselves, furniture, or other objects. The drooling is more pronounced in unspayed female cats going through heat cycles compared to neutered males or spayed females. If your female cat is drooling excessively while in heat, providing extra water and wiping the drool can help keep her comfortable until the heat cycle passes.

While occasional drooling during a heat cycle is normal, if the drooling becomes very heavy or persists for more than a day or two, it’s worth having your vet examine your cat. Excessive drooling paired with other symptoms like lethargy or vomiting can signal an underlying health issue requiring treatment.

Stress-Related Drooling

Drooling can sometimes be a sign that a cat is feeling stressed or anxious. When cats experience fear or stress, their bodies release hormones like adrenaline that increase saliva production. This extra saliva can cause temporary drooling.

Some common situations where cats may drool from stress include:

  • Car rides
  • Visits to the vet
  • Introduction of a new pet or family member
  • Loud noises like fireworks or thunder
  • Conflict with another animal

Stress drooling is usually temporary and resolves once the cat is removed from the anxiety-provoking situation. However, chronic stress can lead to more persistent drooling. If your cat drools frequently, try to identify and minimize any sources of stress or fear.

Drooling can also be a sign of nausea in cats. Motion sickness during car travel can cause some cats to drool excessively. Anxiety and nausea often go hand-in-hand as stress can upset a cat’s stomach. If car sickness is an issue, your vet may recommend anti-nausea medication prior to travel.

While occasional stress drooling is normal, excessive or chronic drooling merits a vet visit to identify any underlying illness. But in mild cases, simply providing a calm environment and positive reinforcement can help minimize anxiety-related drooling.

How to Reduce Cat Drooling

There are several tips and tricks pet owners can try at home to help minimize excessive cat drooling:

  • Wipe your cat’s face gently with a soft cloth or tissue to remove excess drool throughout the day. This can provide some relief and keep their fur clean.
  • Offer your cat ice cubes or frozen treats, which can temporarily reduce saliva production as they lick them.
  • Feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals, which may curb excessive drooling between feedings when they get very hungry.
  • Switch to wet food or add water to dry food to make it easier for your cat to swallow their meals if difficulty eating dry food induces drooling.
  • Purchase a cat water fountain, which may entice your cat to drink more and keep their mouth moist.
  • Brush your cat’s teeth regularly to remove bacteria and tartar that can inflame gums and lead to excessive drooling.
  • Use oral rinses approved by your veterinarian to support dental health if brushing proves difficult.
  • Avoid stressful situations that may trigger nervous drooling, and use calming aids like pheromone diffusers if stress cannot be avoided.

While home remedies can provide some relief, consult your veterinarian if excessive drooling persists to identify and address any underlying health issues.

When to See the Vet

While occasional drooling is normal for cats, excessive or sudden increased drooling may indicate an underlying medical issue requiring veterinary attention. Here are some signs that drooling has become excessive or problematic, warranting a trip to the vet:

Drooling accompanied by signs of nausea or vomiting – This could signal gastrointestinal issues like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, or other stomach problems. Vomiting and diarrhea often go hand-in-hand with excessive drooling.

Increased drooling that comes on suddenly – A noticeable and rapid increase in drool production, especially if the cat seems distressed, could indicate a condition like poisoning, oral injury or trauma, or a foreign object lodged in the mouth.

Thick, ropey saliva – Unusually viscous saliva that forms long strands is considered abnormal and may point to disease or infection.

Bad breath or red and inflamed gums – This can indicate dental disease, abscesses, or oral inflammation causing pain and excess drooling.

Loss of appetite – If excessive drooling leads to a disinterest in food or difficulty eating, it requires prompt veterinary attention.

Lethargy or personality changes – Any signs of lethargy, weakness, or diminished activity levels in a cat that is drooling excessively warrant medical care.

Drooling accompanied by respiratory symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing could indicate a more critical issue like poisoning, oral tumors, or a foreign object obstruction.

In short, while occasional drooling is normal, any sudden increase in drooling frequency or volume, especially when paired with other symptoms, requires veterinary assessment to pinpoint the underlying cause and proper treatment.

FAQs about Cat Drooling

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cat drooling:

Why does my cat drool when I pet him?

Some cats drool when being petted because they are happy and relaxed. They may associate the owner’s affection with the contentment they felt as kittens while nursing. This is normal cat behavior.

Is drooling a sign my cat is sick?

A small amount of drooling is normal for cats. But excessive drooling or drooling accompanied by other symptoms like lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, or swallowing difficulties could signify an underlying health issue. Consult your vet if your cat has abnormal drooling.

What causes excessive drooling in cats?

Excessive drooling in cats can be caused by oral health problems like gum disease, tooth abscess, or foreign objects lodged in the mouth. Other possible causes are nausea, heat stroke, stress, poisoning, and neurological disorders like seizures. Seek veterinary care for persistent heavy drooling.

How can I reduce my cat’s drooling?

To reduce normal cat drooling, wipe your cat’s mouth after playtime or petting. Provide fresh water frequently so your cat doesn’t need to drool to self-hydrate. Deal with any underlying health issues causing excessive drooling. Reduce stress and make sure your cat’s environment is calm.

Is drooling common in heat cycles?

Yes, it’s normal for female cats to drool more when in heat. The shift in hormones causes behavioral changes and increased grooming, which leads to more saliva production. This excessive drooling usually resolves after the heat cycle ends.

Conclusion

In summary, occasional drooling in cats can be normal, especially if related to being content or being in heat. However, excessive drooling or drooling combined with lethargy, vomiting, or other symptoms may indicate an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention. While some drooling is inevitable with certain breeds like the Persian, there are steps cat owners can take to minimize excessive drooling. These include keeping the cat’s face clean, ensuring proper dental health, managing stress levels, and considering medications or surgery for chronic droolers. The occasional drool puddle is no cause for alarm, but abnormal drooling habits in cats should prompt a visit to the vet.

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