Should Drooling Alarm You? How to Tell if Your Cat’s Excessive Drooling is Cause for Concern

What is normal cat drooling?

Cats normally drool a little when grooming themselves or in anticipation of food. According to The Spruce Pets, “It’s perfectly normal for cats to salivate and even drool slightly when anticipating a meal or treat.” A small amount of drool when purring or appearing happy and content is also normal cat behavior. The Spruce Pets explains that “When cats are extremely content…they may drool a bit due to total relaxation of the jaw.” Light drooling during sleep or while kneading is not unusual either.

Overall, a small amount of drooling is common, especially when a cat is feeling relaxed, content, or excited by food. As long as your cat is acting normally otherwise, light drooling is not a cause for concern.

When is drooling a concern?

Excessive drooling can indicate a medical issue in cats. Typically, cats only drool occasionally when grooming themselves or in anticipation of eating. Drooling outside of these normal circumstances, especially if the drool is thick or sticky, can signal an underlying health problem.

Cats that are drooling excessively when not eating or grooming often have something going on in their mouth that is causing them discomfort. Common causes include dental disease like gingivitis, stomatitis, or tooth decay, oral injuries or abscesses, or nausea from ingesting something toxic. Other more serious medical conditions like kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, or neurological issues can also lead to increased drooling and salivation.

If your cat seems to be drooling more than normal, pay attention to when it happens and if they are showing any other signs of illness. Excessive drooling paired with lethargy, appetite changes, or bad breath warrants a trip to the veterinarian for an examination. Catching oral health issues early allows for quicker treatment and prevention of further complications down the road.[1][2]

Dental issues

Bad teeth or gum disease are common causes of excessive drooling in cats. Dental issues like gingivitis, tooth decay, or tooth abscesses can be very painful and lead to increased saliva production. As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes, “cats experiencing mouth pain will often salivate or even drool excessively.”

Tooth and gum abscesses are particularly likely to cause drooling, as pus builds up in the mouth. According to VCA Hospitals, “The saliva may contain blood. Halitosis (bad breath) is also common.” Cats may drool continuously from the pain and infection. Abscessed teeth may need to be extracted by a veterinarian.

Overall, dental disease affects around 70% of cats over age 3, per the ASPCA. So persistent drooling in an adult cat should raise concerns about potential tooth or gum issues. It’s important to schedule a veterinary dental exam if dental problems are suspected. With treatment, dental issues and painful mouth infections can be resolved, stopping the excessive drooling.

Nausea

Nausea is a common cause of drooling in cats. Motion sickness, such as during car rides, can cause a cat to feel queasy and drool excessively [1]. Toxicity from ingesting poisonous substances is another potential cause of nausea and drooling [2]. Cats may also drool from nausea if they have hairballs or upset stomachs that lead to vomiting or the urge to vomit. In cases of persistent nausea and vomiting, it’s important to see a veterinarian to determine and treat the underlying cause.

Oral injuries

Cats can experience oral injuries from a variety of causes that may lead to drooling, including:

Cuts, scrapes or foreign objects stuck in the mouth or throat – Sharp objects like bones, sticks, or marine animals like jellyfish or stingrays can cut or scrape the inside of a cat’s mouth. Drooling is a protective response as the cat tries to flush out the irritant. Cats may also drool excessively if a foreign object becomes lodged in their mouth or throat, as drooling is a protective reflex. According to The Spruce Pets, foreign objects can partially obstruct saliva from being swallowed, leading to drooling.

Jaw injuries or trauma to the mouth – Injuries from falls, automobile accidents, or animal attacks can fracture a cat’s jaw or severely damage tissues in the mouth. This type of trauma disrupts normal saliva production and swallowing, resulting in drooling. Extensive damage may also limit the cat’s ability to keep its tongue contained within the mouth. According to WagWalking, cats with jaw fractures often have an abnormal bite and difficulty eating, accompanied by significant drooling.

Other medical conditions

Certain health conditions can also lead to excessive drooling in cats. Some problems to watch out for include:

  • Tumors in the mouth or throat – Cats can develop benign or malignant oral tumors that cause drooling. Tumors can make it painful to swallow.
  • Kidney disease – Kidney failure and other renal issues can cause ulceration in a cat’s mouth, leading to ptyalism. Kidney disease also causes nausea.
  • Neurological problems – Issues affecting the brain such as seizures, inflammation, or trauma can stimulate the salivary glands. Drooling may accompany other neurological signs.

If your cat is drooling excessively along with other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, or loss of appetite, see your vet. Diagnostic tests like bloodwork, urinalysis, and imaging can check for underlying conditions.[1]

Heat stress

With summer temps on the rise, overheating is a common cause of cat drooling. As cats don’t sweat like humans, panting and drooling help them regulate body temperature. Per RSPCA Pet Insurance, signs of heat exhaustion in cats include “Drooling, salivating.” And according to Purina, “Signs of heat exhaustion in cats include…drooling.” When a cat is overheated, the saliva production kicks into overdrive as the body tries to cool itself down. Excessive drooling due to heat stress requires prompt action to prevent heat stroke. Lower the temperature, offer cool water, and contact your vet if drooling persists.

Stress/anxiety

Some cats may drool when they are feeling stressed or anxious. This temporary drooling can occur during stressful events like car rides to the vet or groomer, loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms, or introductions to new people or animals. The drooling is caused by a release of hormones in response to stress.

According to Daily Paws, cats may drool excessively when stressed as a displacement behavior. Since they cannot outwardly express their anxiety, it manifests as ptyalism or excessive drooling. The drool is often thick and foamy.

If your cat only drools during stressful situations and is otherwise acting normally, it is likely just a temporary reaction to anxiety. Make sure to identify and avoid triggers that cause your cat stress. Vet visits and car rides may need to be approached slowly and with calming aids like Feliway spray. Providing reassuring petting and treats can also help alleviate short-term stress drooling.

When to see the vet

If excessive drooling persists, take your cat to the vet. According to Festival Animal Clinic, excessive drooling may point to an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention. Look for other concerning symptoms like gagging, vomiting, weight loss, or diarrhea. Drooling paired with lethargy, reduced appetite, or behavioral changes also warrants a vet visit. If your cat’s drooling worsens or lasts more than a day or two, don’t wait – consult your veterinarian right away. They can examine your cat, determine if there’s an underlying condition, and provide any necessary treatment.

Tips for dealing with cat drool

If your cat is drooling excessively, there are some simple tips you can follow at home to help manage the drool and keep your cat comfortable until you can determine the underlying cause:

Wipe excess drool gently with a soft cloth or towel. Be gentle around your cat’s mouth, and don’t try to forcefully wipe away drool. Just dab gently to absorb some of the excess.

Keep fresh water available at all times. Provide several bowls around your home. Increased thirst may cause drooling, so easy access to water is important. Make sure bowls are clean and frequently refilled with cool, fresh water.

Monitor your cat’s appetite and litter box habits. Excessive drooling can sometimes cause a decrease in eating. Watch to see if your cat is still eating their normal amount. Also check litter boxes for normal urine volume. Increased drooling may be tied to nausea, which can cause changes in bathroom habits.

Check your cat’s mouth. Look for any cuts, injuries or objects lodged in the mouth which may be causing pain and drooling. If you see anything abnormal, contact your vet.

Wipe your cat’s face after meals. Gently dab and clean your cat’s face after they eat to remove any excess food or drool around their mouth.

Provide mental stimulation and reduce stress. Try playing with toys or brushing your cat since stress and anxiety can potentially cause drooling. Keep their routine consistent and environment calm.

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