Is Your Cat’s Nighttime Drooling Normal or a Sign of Trouble?

Introduction

It’s common for cat owners to notice their feline friends sleeping peacefully with a small wet spot forming on their bed or pillow. As cats spend over half their day sleeping, it’s no surprise drooling can occur during these long snoozing sessions. But is this normal cat behavior or a sign of an underlying health issue?

While the occasional dribble is nothing to worry about, excessive drooling may point to a problem. Understanding the difference between normal and abnormal drooling can help cat parents determine if and when veterinary attention is needed.

Causes of Drooling While Asleep

There are several potential medical causes for drooling in cats while asleep. One of the most common is dental disease such as gingivitis or abscessed teeth, which can cause oral pain and inflammation leading to excessive drool production. According to Pet Health Network, over 85% of cats over 3 years old have some form of dental disease.

Other illnesses that can cause nausea or irritation in the mouth and throat may also result in drooling during sleep. These include conditions like stomatitis, tongue ulcers, tumors in the mouth, and digestive issues like acid reflux or inflammatory bowel disease. Ingesting toxic substances can sometimes cause drooling as well. If your cat seems ill and has started drooling excessively, it’s important to have them examined by a veterinarian to diagnose and treat any underlying medical problems.

Normal Drooling

Some amount of drooling while asleep is normal for cats. As cats relax and enter deeper sleep, the muscles in their mouth and throat also relax, which can lead to increased saliva production and drooling. This is usually just a small amount of drool. According to veterinarians, relaxed drooling while sleeping is not concerning in an otherwise healthy cat (Dundee Animal Hospital, 2022).

Kittens tend to drool more than adult cats. Their salivary glands are still developing, so they may not be able to fully control saliva flow yet. Many kittens outgrow excessive drooling by the time they are a few months old (Pets Stack Exchange, 2015).

In addition, some individual cats are just more prone to drooling than others, even as adults. Certain breeds like the Persian tend to be more frequent droolers. However, if the cat is healthy and acting normally otherwise, relaxed drooling is considered within the range of normal (Miaustore, n.d.).

When to See the Vet

While some drooling while asleep is normal for cats, excessive drooling or drooling combined with other symptoms warrants a visit to the veterinarian. According to Festival Animal Clinic, you should contact your vet if your cat is drooling excessively or uncontrollably. Significant increases in the amount or frequency of drooling could signal an underlying health issue.

You should also monitor your cat for other concerning symptoms that accompany the drooling. These include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, swelling in the mouth, and bad breath. Difficulty eating or swallowing may also indicate a problem. Drooling paired with any of these symptoms necessitates a prompt vet visit to identify the cause and initiate treatment.

Sudden onset of excessive drooling warrants urgent veterinary care, according to WagWalking. This is especially true if the drooling occurs along with gagging, retching, or distress. These signs may point to a blockage, poisoning, or other emergency requiring immediate attention from your vet.

In summary, contact your veterinarian right away if your cat exhibits significant increases in drooling or if the drooling occurs in combination with concerning symptoms. Your vet can examine your cat, order tests if needed, and provide appropriate treatment to resolve any underlying issues.

Dental Health

Dental issues are some of the most common causes of drooling in cats. According to experts at Cats Protection, dental problems like periodontal disease, fractured teeth, and mouth ulcers can all lead to excessive drooling. Periodontal disease, which affects up to 70% of cats over age 3, can be quite painful and make normal chewing difficult, leading your cat to drool. Other signs of dental disease include bad breath, decreased appetite, and pawing at the mouth.

It’s important to take your cat for regular dental checkups to catch any potential issues early, usually starting around age 3-5. Your vet will examine your cat’s teeth and mouth and may recommend dental X-rays. Proper at-home dental care like brushing can also help reduce plaque buildup. But any significant or sudden drooling warrants a prompt vet visit to rule out dental problems or other issues requiring treatment, according to Caldwell Animal Hospital.

Medications

Some medications prescribed to cats can cause increased drooling as a side effect. Drugs like antibiotics, antihistamines, steroids, and others can lead to dry mouth or nausea, both of which can trigger excess saliva production and drooling (1). Cats may also drool after being given oral medications due to the unpleasant taste or difficulty swallowing the medicine initially (2). Pet owners should be aware of potential medication side effects and consult with their veterinarian if excessive drooling develops after starting a new drug.

Switching to a different form of the medication, like a transdermal gel instead of a pill, may help resolve the drooling in some cases. It’s also important to properly administer oral medications to cats to maximize swallowing on the first attempt. Pilling techniques like burrito-wrapping the cat in a towel or using pill guns/syringes can help (2). Talk to your vet if medication-induced drooling is problematic for your cat.

Sources:

(1) https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/side-effects-pet-medications

(2) https://catcare.com/blog/helping-the-medicine-go-down/

Oral health issues, allergies, and stress or anxiety are among the common causes of drooling in cats that are still considered normal. Allergies may lead to excessive drooling, so it’s important to rule them out.

Allergies

Cats can develop allergies to foods, medications, plants, or other environmental allergens that can cause drooling. Allergic reactions often lead to nausea or oral irritation and inflammation that stimulates saliva production and drooling. According to Cat Drooling: What it is and Why They Do it, food allergies are one of the potential causes of excessive drooling in cats.

If a cat suddenly starts drooling, it’s a good idea to look for any new foods, treats, plants, medications, or other changes in their environment that could be causing an allergic reaction. Allergies are not necessarily serious, but identifying and removing the allergen is important to stop the drooling and discomfort.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can sometimes cause increased drooling in cats. When cats become stressed or fearful, their bodies release hormones that can stimulate saliva production and lead to drooling (DailyPaws, Festival Animal Clinic).

Potential sources of stress that may cause drooling include:

  • Loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Traveling in a car or carrier
  • Visiting the veterinarian
  • New people or animals in the home
  • Changes to their normal routine or environment

Stress-related drooling is often accompanied by other signs like dilated pupils, hiding, loss of appetite, and agitation. If your cat suddenly starts drooling and seems stressed or anxious, try to identify and remove the source of stress. You can also try calming techniques like pheromone diffusers and calming treats or medications as recommended by your veterinarian.

When to Contact the Vet

While occasional drooling during sleep is normal for cats, excessive drooling or drooling combined with other symptoms can indicate an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention. Here are some warning signs that warrant contacting your vet:

Excessive drooling that lasts for more than a day or two, especially if the saliva is abnormally thick or sticky (Festival Animal Clinic).

Sudden onset of drooling when your cat does not normally drool (The Spruce Pets).

Drooling accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, or other concerning symptoms (Insider).

Difficulty eating or signs of mouth pain like chattering teeth or bad breath, which can indicate dental problems or oral injuries (Festival Animal Clinic).

Drooling along with seizures or muscle tremors, which may signal poisoning or toxin ingestion (Insider).

Increased thirst and urination accompanying the drooling, as this can point to diabetes or kidney disease (The Spruce Pets).

Drooling after being exposed to toxic plants or substances, or evidence your cat ingested something unsafe (Insider).

Conclusion

To recap, drooling during sleep is quite common for cats and is usually not cause for concern. Mild occasional drooling may be due to normal dream states or minor dental issues. However, excessive or sudden onset drooling, drooling accompanied by other symptoms, or drooling in a cat that was not previously a drooler warrants a veterinary visit to identify potential underlying causes. With proper care and attention, drooling while asleep can often be managed. So try not to worry if you notice a small wet spot where your cat was sleeping. Yet also don’t hesitate to call your vet if the drooling seems abnormal for your cat. With some observation and veterinary guidance when needed, you can rest assured knowing why your cat has a wet chin sometimes after a nap.

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