Has your feline friend been uncharacteristically drooly lately but otherwise seems fine? Excessive drooling can certainly be alarming for any cat parent. But while it may seem contradictory, drooling paired with normal behavior is often not a major cause for concern.
In many cases, some minor drooling resolves on its own or is a symptom of a problem that’s more annoying than dangerous. However, it’s still important to understand the possible reasons your cat may have wetter whiskers than usual so you can determine if and when veterinary attention is needed.
Common Causes of Drooling in Cats Acting Normally
There are a range of potential culprits behind short-term increased drool production in cats that don’t have other symptoms. Here are some of the most likely explanations when drooling is occurring along with normal feline activity and appetite:
Cats can drool excessively when they feel nauseated just like humans do. Tip: If you notice your cat smacking their lips, swallowing frequently, or eating less than normal along with the drooling, nausea is a probable cause.
Motion sickness from car rides, viral infections, eating spoiled food, and certain medications can all trigger nausea. It’s the body’s way of preparing to expel anything that might be harmful from the stomach. The nausea itself isn’t dangerous, but the drooling is an obvious sign your cat isn’t feeling their best.
Stress or Anxiety
Drooling crops up in some cats as a response to stress. Situations associated with vet visits, travel, loud noises, or the addition of a new pet or person in the home can all be potential stressors. The drooling is caused by a release of stomach acids triggered by the “fight or flight” response.
Pay attention to body language indicating anxiety like flattened ears, a lowered tail, and enlarged pupils. If stress seems like the likely drool trigger, removing or reducing the source of stress is the best remedy whenever possible.
When cats become overheated, excess drooling is one way their bodies try to cool down. Their bodies produce saliva to evaporate and promote heat loss just like humans sweat. This is more likely to happen on hot, humid days or if your cat spends time in non-climate controlled spaces like a garage or patio.
Mild Discomfort or Pain
Your cat may respond to mild tooth pain, muscle soreness, joint aches, or other low-level pain with some extra drool production. When cats are confronted with these types of irritations or discomforts, drooling and licking at the painful area can be self-soothing behaviors.
Teething in Kittens
Kittens tend to drool more as they lose their baby teeth around 3-6 months old. The discomfort and swelling from teething leads to extra saliva similar to human babies. As long as your kitten is still nursing and eating properly with no other concerning symptoms, teething drool isn’t too worrying.
Minor Mouth Irritation
Sometimes a superficial cut, canker sore, or scratch inside a cat’s mouth leads to drooling even when no other health changes are present. If the irritation is very minor, the extra saliva production it triggers will go away once the mouth heals. Examine your cat’s lips, gums, tongue and teeth for any abnormalities.
When to Seek Veterinary Care for a Drooling Cat
While the scenarios above likely don’t require major intervention, excessive drooling always warrants continued monitoring. Contact your vet promptly if you notice any of the following:
- Drooling lasts more than 1-2 days without improvement
- Drooling seems to be getting worse or happens frequently
- Issues like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, or swelling of the face/neck occur along with drooling
- Your cat is difficult to rouse or seems confused
- There are lesions, cuts, or redness in the mouth
- Offensive mouth odor is present
These types of accompanying symptoms point to something more significant than a minor mouth irritation or mild nausea. Prompt veterinary attention gives your cat the best chance for effective treatment.
Tip: It’s a good idea to try to collect a sample of your cat’s vomit or diarrhea in a sealed container if they have these issues. This allows your vet to test it for infections, parasites, toxins, or other abnormalities.
What Causes Excessive Drooling That Requires Veterinary Care?
Here are some of the more concerning health conditions that may be behind abnormal drooling if your cat has other symptoms or the drooling doesn’t go away after a day or two:
Oral Infections or Abscesses
Bacterial or fungal infections in a cat’s mouth are not unusual, especially if there are damaged teeth or gums. Abscesses in the mouth due to fights or other trauma can also lead to an infected pocket of pus. Your vet can prescribe antibiotic therapy and help you keep the mouth clean while it heals.
These oral health issues happen when plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth spreads infection to the gums and tooth roots. The gums become painfully inflamed. Advanced dental disease causes tooth loss, infections, and drooling. Professional dental cleanings and ongoing home care are needed to treat it.
Oral Tumors or Cancer
While not extremely common, both malignant and benign oral tumors do occur in cats. They may ulcerate and become sore, prompting drooling. Depending on the type, location, and stage of any cancer found, treatment options include surgery, radiation, chemo, and pain management.
Some cats have anatomical abnormalities or nerve issues that make swallowing difficult and messy. Diseases affecting the esophagus can also impair swallowing function. Drooling and possible coughing or choking with eating points to a swallowing disorder.
Ingesting toxic substances like antifreeze, human medication, or household chemicals can cause excessive drooling early on. Other serious symptoms like vomiting, seizures, and uncoordinated movement would also quickly follow. Immediate decontamination and treatment is crucial.
As mentioned before, cats drool more when they’re too hot as an attempt to cool down. However, once a cat’s body temperature becomes critically high from heat stroke, heavy drooling is one of the first warning signs. At that stage, even drooling can’t prevent organ damage and death without emergency cooling and hydration.
While mild irritation may cause only minor drooling, more severe pain from conditions like abscessed teeth, mouth ulcers, or intense gum inflammation results in excessive drooling. The same is true for pain elsewhere like pancreatitis, fractures, or arthritis. Strong analgesics are often needed to control significant pain levels.
Tip: Unless a specific oral health problem is suspected, sudden onset drooling with lethargy often indicates nausea or toxicity rather than primary mouth pain.
What to Expect at the Vet Appointment
If your cat’s drooling persists or worsens, taking them to the veterinarian promptly allows for the best outcome. Here are some steps your vet is likely to take:
- Detailed history – Let your vet know when the drooling started, if it’s constant or intermittent, and discuss any potential incidents that preceded it. Mention if your cat is eating and acting normally otherwise. Provide info to help identify possible nausea, oral injury, or toxin exposure.
- Physical exam – Your vet will check your cat’s vitals and hydration status, palpate the abdomen, and feel for any painful areas. They’ll pay close attention to examining the mouth, teeth, gums, tongue, lips, and throat for problems.
- Diagnostic tests – Tests like bloodwork, urinalysis, imaging, or sedated oral exam may be warranted based on initial findings. Biopsies are done if cancer is a concern. The vomit or stool you bring may be analyzed.
- Treatment plan – This will depend on the specific cause found but may include fluid therapy, anti-nausea or pain medications, antibiotics, tooth extraction, or cancer treatments. At-home care instructions will be provided.
Tip: It’s helpful to write down your vet’s instructions so you can refer back to them. Don’t be afraid to call later with any questions!
What Can I Do at Home for a Drooling Cat?
While you’re waiting for the vet appointment or in mild cases of transient drooling, there are some steps you can take at home to help keep your cat comfortable:
- Gently wipe your cat’s face and chin periodically with a warm, wet cloth to remove excess drool and prevent skin irritation.
- Consider feeding wet food or adding more water to food to decrease drool production and keep your cat hydrated.
- Make sure fresh water is always available and easy for your cat to access. Dehydration makes drooling worse.
- Limit car travel if it seems to trigger motion sickness and drooling. Speak calmly and avoid stressing your cat unnecessarily.
- Brush your cat’s teeth daily if they’ll tolerate it. Use veterinary oral rinses if prescribed.
- Apply ice packs wrapped in cloth to swollen or painful mouth areas for up to 10 minutes at a time.
- Prevent overheating by providing cool, shaded rest areas and brushing out heavy coats.
- Restrict activity like playtime after oral surgery/dental work until healing progresses.
- Give prescribed medications exactly as your veterinarian advises.
Tip: Offering your cat’s favorite tuna-flavored wet food warmed to body temperature can make eating more comfortable if mouth pain is present.
When is Drooling Normal in Cats?
While excessive drooling needs attention, it’s important to remember some drooling can be totally normal for cats in certain situations:
- Flehmen response – Cats open their mouths and curl back their lips to direct odors toward a special olfactory sense organ when investigating interesting smells.
- During grooming – Grooming is a calming behavior for cats that releases endorphins. A small amount of drool is typical since they’re mouth-focused.
- While purring – Some cats will drool a bit when they’re happily purring during petting, brushing, or kneading. It’s a sign of contentment.
- When relaxed – It’s common to notice a drop of drool when your cat is very relaxed like during a nap. Their mouth hangs open more loosely when sleeping deeply.
- Watching prey – Cats may instinctively drool more when intently watching birds and other potential “prey” through the window even if hunting isn’t possible.
So if you notice just an occasional dangling drop of spit, there’s no cause for worry. It’s normal feline behavior. But if the drooling becomes frequent, constant, or excessive, it could mean it’s time to call your veterinarian.
Drooling Cats Can Still Be Happy, Healthy Cats!
While dealing with cat drool is far from fun, try not to panic if your cat starts exhibiting short-term oral leaking. In most cases, it resolves on its own or with simple treatment. Pay close attention for other symptoms and talk to your vet if you have any concerns. With proper care and some patience, your furry friend can weather a drooly period and get back to feeling – and looking – good!