Why Is My Cat Drooling When I Pet Her? The Surprising Reasons Behind This Behavior

Introduction

Cat drooling can occur for a variety of normal and concerning reasons. This article aims to provide cat owners with a comprehensive overview of potential causes for excessive drooling in cats, from normal grooming behavior to more serious medical conditions that may require veterinary attention. We will explore how to identify problematic drooling, when to seek help from a vet, and ways to prevent excessive drooling. The goal is to leave readers with the knowledge to understand the difference between normal and abnormal drooling in cats.

Normal Causes of Cat Drooling

It is completely normal for some cats to drool a bit when being petted or when they are happy and relaxed. Just like purring, drooling can signify contentment in cats. The drool is usually just a bit of excess saliva production brought on by pleasure.

According to PetMD, when a cat is relaxed and enjoying affection from their owner, the stimulation can cause them to produce more saliva. Their bodies react similarly to being petted as they would when nursing as kittens. Some cats tend to associate the happiness they felt as kittens with the petting and affection they receive from their owners.

Drooling during petting is primarily seen in adult cats according to The Miami Herald. Older cats often drool more in general. The drooling is harmless in most cases and can be considered an indicator of a content, happy cat.

Medical Causes of Excessive Drooling

Excessive drooling in cats can sometimes indicate a medical issue. Some common medical causes include:

Oral pain – Cats may drool excessively if they have an injury, inflammation, or infection in their mouth, gums, or teeth causing discomfort. Dental diseases like gingivitis, abscesses, or fractured teeth can lead to pain that makes cats salivate and drool more (Source).

Nausea – Drooling can be a sign of nausea or an upset stomach in cats. Issues like ingesting toxins, medication side effects, infections, organ disease, motion sickness, etc. can cause nausea and excessive drooling. Cats may drool and even vomit if very nauseous (Source).

Oral disease – Conditions like stomatitis, ulcers, cancer lesions, etc. in a cat’s mouth can lead to pain and inflammation that stimulates excessive saliva production. Gum disease is quite common in cats and can cause drooling (Source).

Poisoning – Exposure to toxins like certain plants, chemicals, medications, or other substances can sometimes cause drooling in cats. This may indicate poisoning that requires immediate veterinary treatment (Source

).

How to Tell if Drooling is Problematic

Cat drooling is perfectly normal in certain situations – when your cat is relaxed, content, or purring. However, excessive drooling or drooling accompanied by other symptoms can signal an underlying medical issue.

Pay attention to the amount of drool. Normal cat drool is just a bit of wetness around the mouth. Excessive drooling involves a significant amount of saliva pooling around the mouth and dripping down. This is not normal and may indicate nausea, oral pain, or another medical problem.

Consider the context of the drooling. Drooling when being petted or purring is normal. Drooling when eating or swallowing may indicate an oral injury. Drooling without an obvious cause like contentment or eating may signal an issue.

Watch for other concerning symptoms along with the drooling like vomiting, lethargy, reduced appetite, bad breath, or facial swelling. Any of these paired with excessive drooling warrant a veterinary visit [1].

Dental Problems

Dental problems are a common cause of excessive drooling in cats. Issues like broken teeth, abscesses, and gum disease can be very painful and make cats drool. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, “The saliva may contain blood. Halitosis (bad breath) is also common.”

Broken teeth are a major source of pain for cats. They can break teeth from bites or falls. Fractured teeth expose the sensitive pulp and nerves underneath, leading to significant discomfort. Abscesses form when bacteria get trapped under the gums and cause infection and swelling. Untreated dental abscesses are very painful.

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, happens when plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. It causes inflammation and receding gums, which exposes the tooth roots. Cat’s with severe gum disease often have loose or missing teeth. The infection can spread and cause major health issues. All these dental problems can make chewing unbearable, leading cats to drool instead of swallowing.

Sources:

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dental-disease-in-cats
https://www.cats.org.uk/cats-blog/is-drooling-a-sign-of-dental-problems

Nausea

Nausea is a common cause of drooling in cats. When a cat feels nauseated, they may excessively salivate and drool as an instinctive response. Nausea can be caused by motion sickness, eating something toxic or spoiled, infections, liver or kidney disease, pancreatitis, and other illnesses. The nausea triggers the salivation response which leads to ptyalism or excessive drooling.

Cats can experience motion sickness just like people when traveling by car. The motion disturbs their vestibular system and triggers nausea and drooling. Making sure your cat has an empty stomach before travel and securing them in a carrier can help minimize motion sickness.

Eating something toxic like a poisonous plant, or rotten or spoiled food can also cause nausea and drooling soon after ingestion. Toxic items, chemicals or foods may irritate the stomach lining or contain bacteria leading to vomiting and drooling.

It’s important to identify and treat the source of nausea in cats to prevent ongoing drooling episodes. Medications like Cerenia can help control nausea while diagnostics are performed to determine the underlying cause.

Oral Injuries

Oral injuries like cuts, scrapes or ulcers in a cat’s mouth are another common cause of excessive drooling. These injuries are often caused by sharp objects in the environment, illness, or trauma. Some examples include:

  • Dental diseases like stomatitis or resorptive lesions which can cause painful ulcers in the mouth
  • Foreign objects like sticks or thorns getting lodged in the mouth and piercing the tissue
  • Certain viral infections like calicivirus that can lead to mouth ulcers
  • Oral tumors which may ulcerate and become painful
  • Trauma from a bite wound or other accident causing a cut or scrape in the mouth

Oral injuries are very painful for cats and make eating difficult. The excessive saliva production helps to flush out irritants and soothe inflamed tissue. If your cat has signs of an oral injury like bleeding from the mouth, reluctance to eat or pawing at the face, it’s important to get prompt veterinary attention. Treatment usually involves flushing and cleaning the wound, pain relief medication, antibiotics if needed, and addressing any underlying illness. For more details see this article.

Allergies

One common cause of excessive drooling in cats is allergies, either to something in their food or to an environmental irritant. According to the Festival Animal Clinic, cats may drool more than usual if they have an allergic reaction. The allergen triggers inflammation in the mouth or throat, which leads to increased saliva production.

Common allergy triggers for cats include ingredients in their food like beef, dairy, or fish. Environmental allergens like pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, or even perfumes and cleaning products can also cause drooling and discomfort. The inflammation makes swallowing difficult, so the cat is unable to swallow all of its saliva.

Cat owners may notice other allergy symptoms as well, like itchy skin, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea. If a food allergy is suspected, a veterinarian can help identify the problematic ingredient and recommend an elimination diet trial. For environmental allergies, keeping the cat away from the irritant is recommended. Medications can also help manage allergy symptoms and reduce excessive drooling.

When to See the Vet

While occasional drooling is normal, you should take your cat to the veterinarian if the drooling becomes excessive or persistent. Signs that warrant a vet visit include:

  • Excessive drooling that lasts more than a day or two
  • Thick ropey saliva
  • Drooling accompanied by signs of nausea or oral discomfort
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy or other signs of illness
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or gums

Persistent drooling can be a sign of serious underlying issues like dental disease, oral injuries, nausea, or allergies. It’s important to have your vet examine your cat to determine the cause. Conditions like stomatitis or abscessed teeth can be very painful. Waiting too long to seek treatment can allow these issues to worsen and impact your cat’s quality of life. Early intervention can help relieve discomfort and prevent complications.

In addition to an oral exam, diagnostic tests like bloodwork, x-rays, or an ultrasound may be recommended. Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include dental cleaning and extractions, antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, or allergy management. With proper treatment of the underlying condition, your vet can help resolve excessive drooling and restore your cat’s health and comfort.

Preventing Excessive Drooling

There are a few steps cat owners can take to help prevent excessive drooling in their cats:

Provide chew toys – Giving your cat chew toys can help clean their teeth and massage their gums, preventing dental issues that lead to drooling. Rotate different textures of chew toys to keep your cat interested.

Brush teeth regularly – Brushing your cat’s teeth daily or a few times per week can remove plaque and tartar buildup. Use a soft brush and cat-safe toothpaste. This promotes good oral health and reduces dental disease.

Avoid irritants – Keep your home free of irritants like essential oils, cigarette smoke, chemical cleaners, etc that may trigger allergies or nausea leading to drooling. Monitor your cat’s environment.

With proactive dental care and limiting irritants, cat owners can reduce excessive drooling. But schedule regular vet checkups to catch any underlying medical conditions early.

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