Cat Sleeping with Drool – Is It Normal?

Introduction

It is common for cats to have some mild drooling while asleep. A small amount of saliva dripping from a cat’s mouth during sleep is generally normal. This is often caused by the relaxation of facial muscles during sleep. Some drooling during sleep may also be a sign that a cat is having happy dreams about food or other pleasures.

However, excessive drooling during sleep or drooling at other times can be a sign of an underlying health issue. Determining normal vs excessive drooling depends on the individual cat and the circumstances. Factors like the cat’s age, medical history, and amount of drool can help indicate if intervention is needed. Excessive drooling would be defined as a significant increase in the amount or frequency of drooling compared to the cat’s usual behavior.

Reasons for Cat Drooling During Sleep

There are a few common reasons why cats may drool while asleep:

Relaxation of Muscles: When cats are in deep sleep, the muscles in their face and throat relax. This can cause saliva to pool in the mouth and drip out.1

Gravity: In certain sleeping positions, gravity can cause excess saliva to simply run out of the mouth.2

Age: Older cats sometimes develop weak swallowing muscles or excessive saliva production which can lead to drooling during sleep.2

Medical Conditions: Certain health issues like dental disease, nausea, oral inflammation or neurological problems can cause drooling as well. These underlying medical causes need to be evaluated by a vet.

Is My Cat’s Drooling Normal?

A small amount of drooling while sleeping is usually normal for cats. As cats relax and enter deeper sleep, their mouths become more relaxed as well, which can lead to a bit of drool.

According to Pet Health Network, drooling while sleeping is considered normal if:

  • It’s a small amount – just enough to lightly dampen the fur under the mouth or chin
  • It only occurs during sleep or relaxation
  • Your cat seems otherwise healthy and is eating/drinking normally

Drooling could be abnormal if:

  • There is excessive drooling – streams of drool or very wet fur
  • It happens while awake and active, not just sleeping
  • It is accompanied by other symptoms like appetite loss, lethargy, weight loss, bad breath, swallowing difficulty, etc.
  • It occurs suddenly in a cat who has never drooled before

Frequent or excessive drooling warrants a vet visit to identify potential underlying causes. But occasional minor drooling during sleep is usually nothing to worry about in an otherwise healthy cat.

When to See the Vet

Excessive drooling or drooling along with other symptoms warrants a veterinary visit. According to The Spruce Pets, any sudden increase in drooling, especially if accompanied by lethargy, appetite loss, or other signs of illness means you should take your cat to the vet promptly.

Potential medical causes for excessive drooling include:

  • Oral pain or injury
  • Dental disease
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Oral tumors or masses
  • Foreign object lodged in mouth or throat
  • Nausea or acid reflux
  • Kidney disease
  • Toxin or poison ingestion
  • Infection
  • Neurological issues

The vet will perform a physical exam and take the cat’s history. Diagnostic tests like bloodwork, urinalysis, imaging, and biopsies may be needed to pinpoint the underlying cause of the drooling. Proper treatment can then be prescribed once the vet makes an accurate diagnosis.

Dental/Mouth Causes

One of the most common causes of cat drooling during sleep is dental disease. According to Pet Health Network, as many as 85% of cats over 3 years old have tooth or gum disease. Periodontal disease, in particular, can cause significant pain and inflammation in the mouth. This leads to excessive drooling and saliva production while asleep.

Oral masses or lesions on the gums, tongue, palate or lips can also lead to discomfort and drooling. Tumors, abscesses, and ulcers in the mouth may make it painful for a cat to swallow saliva. The excess saliva spills out while relaxed and sleeping.

Injuries to the mouth from falls, bites or sharp objects can damage the gums, cheeks or tongue. Cuts, punctures and broken teeth create openings that allow saliva to seep out. Like dental disease, injuries lead to inflammation and pain, increasing drooling.

Other Medical Causes

In addition to dental issues, there are various medical conditions that can cause a cat to drool excessively while sleeping or awake. Some common ones include:

Nausea – Cats may drool and lick their lips when feeling nauseous or experiencing vomiting. This is the body’s natural response. Motion sickness in cars can trigger nausea and drooling.

Oral pain – Diseases like stomatitis or mouth ulcers cause significant pain and irritation in the mouth, leading to excessive drooling. Oral tumors or injuries can too.

Infections – Bacterial, viral or fungal infections in the mouth, throat or sinuses can all potentially lead to inflammation, discomfort and drooling.

Kidney disease – Kidney dysfunction or failure often causes ulceration in the mouth. The ulcers are painful and make cats drool.

Neurological disorders – Conditions like seizures, dementia or facial nerve paralysis can interfere with a cat’s ability to swallow properly. This allows saliva to spill from the mouth.

Diagnosis by Vet

If a cat’s excessive drooling warrants a trip to the vet, the vet will perform a thorough physical exam and ask about the cat’s medical history. They will look for potential causes inside the mouth as well as assessing the cat’s overall health. The vet will check the teeth, gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, and throat for any abnormalities like lesions, swelling, foreign objects, or dental disease (Source).

The vet may also order lab tests like a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis to check for issues like kidney disease, diabetes, or electrolyte imbalances. Imaging tests like dental x-rays or an ultrasound may also be used to get a closer look at the mouth, throat, or abdominal organs if disease is suspected (Source).

Based on the exam and test results, the vet can determine if there is an underlying illness causing the drooling and recommend appropriate treatment.

Treatment Options

The treatment for cat drooling will depend on the underlying cause. Some options include:

If dental disease or mouth pain is causing the drooling, the vet may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications. Dental cleaning or tooth extraction may be recommended to treat gum disease or abscessed teeth. According to this source, addressing dental issues can stop cat drooling.

For metabolic diseases like kidney failure, the vet will recommend medications and dietary changes to manage the condition. Fluids and nutrients may need to be given under the skin. Treating the underlying illness can reduce or stop the drooling.

If an object or tumor is obstructing the throat, the vet may surgically remove it. Surgery can also correct issues like cleft palate that interfere with swallowing. This may eliminate excessive drooling.

In cases of poisoning, the vet will induce vomiting and give medication to counteract the toxin. Supportive care like IV fluids will manage symptoms until the toxin is out of the cat’s system.

Home Care Tips

If your cat has mild drooling while sleeping or after eating, you can provide some home care to keep them comfortable until it resolves:

  • Wipe your cat’s face gently with a warm, wet cloth to keep their fur clean. Be gentle around their mouth.
  • Ensure your cat has easy access to fresh, clean water at all times. Try placing multiple water bowls around your home.
  • Monitor your cat closely for increased drooling or changes in behavior that may indicate an underlying issue. Look for signs like reduced appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or difficulty eating.

While mild drooling can often be managed at home, it’s important to contact your veterinarian if the drooling persists or worsens. Significant drooling could signify an oral health problem or other medical issue needing prompt veterinary attention.

When to Worry

Excessive drooling in cats that is beyond normal occasional drooling while relaxed or sleeping can signify an underlying health issue. Be on the lookout for any symptoms that increase in frequency or severity, especially if accompanied by other symptoms. According to Pet Health Network, excessive drooling that interferes with your cat’s ability to eat or drink or causes dehydration is a sign of a more serious medical problem.

Additionally, if your cat seems confused, lethargic, or has any other unexplained behavioral changes while drooling excessively, it’s important to seek veterinary care. You should also monitor your cat closely for any breathing difficulties, as excessive drool can become a choking hazard or cause aspiration pneumonia. Any accompanying symptoms like weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea also warrant an urgent veterinary visit to diagnose the underlying cause. If your cat’s excessive drooling is new or worrisome, don’t delay in contacting your veterinarian.

While an occasional drool puddle after a nap is nothing to fret about, abnormal or excessive drooling should be treated as an emergency. Immediate veterinary assessment is crucial to determine if medication, antibiotics, or other intervention is needed to manage secondary conditions and keep your cat comfortable.

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