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Why is my cat drooling?

Pavlov conducted his famous behavioral experiment on dogs rather than cats for a good reason: unlike pups, cats don’t typically salivate in response to the sight or smell of food. For dog owners, occasional slobber comes with the territory. For cat parents, however, sudden excessive drooling can be a cause for concern.

Cats are mysterious creatures, so it comes as no surprise that their drooling has a number of possible physical and psychological causes. If your feline friend is dribbling from the mouth, here is what you need to know.

Tabby and white cat with open mouth and drooling.

Abnormal drooling in cats

If there’s no obviously benign explanation for your cat’s drooling, injury or illness may be to blame. Because heavy drooling isn’t typical for cats, it is important to investigate and address its underlying cause.

Cat drooling can be a sign of illness.

Stomach upsets caused by toxins and disease can lead to excessive slobbering. Sudden drooling may be a sign that your kitty has ingested a dangerous plant, insect, or household chemical. On hot days, feline drooling can be a warning sign of heatstroke, especially in cats with flat faces, like Persians.

Infections that affect your cat’s respiratory system or impede swallowing may also explain a waterfall of drool. Watch out for signs of labored breathing, lethargy, and loss of appetite so that you can give your vet a complete picture of your cat’s symptoms.

Oral pain can cause drooling in cats.

Drool can be a sign that something is wrong with your cat’s mouth, throat, or teeth. Common explanations for feline drooling include:

  • Dental disease
  • Ulcers or oral swelling
  • Mouth injuries
  • Food or objects stuck your cat’s throat

Cats dealing with painful mouth lesions, inflamed gums, or decaying teeth can produce excessive saliva to protect these sore spots from friction. It is also possible that oral pain, swelling, or a foreign object is interfering with your cat’s ability to swallow, or that a jaw injury is making it hard for your kitty to keep saliva contained in their mouth.

Cats drool when they are happy.

A bit of extra slobber from a purring, cuddly cat is not unusual. In fact, it’s a holdover from kittenhood. Cats snuggle their human parents in a manner similar to the way they would knead and nuzzle their mothers during feeding time. Because nursing kittens produce excess saliva to help them latch onto mom, adult cats may experience drooling as a conditioned response to your affection.

If all signs indicate that your kitty is relaxed and content, a small trickle of drool isn’t cause for alarm.

Cats drool when they are nervous.

If a nerve-wracking experience has ever left you with an upset stomach, it probably makes sense that kitties experience anxiety-induced nausea too. Cats who are on the verge of vomiting due to stress, fear, or car sickness will preemptively produce extra saliva to protect their mouths and teeth from the highly acidic contents of their stomachs. A buildup of saliva in combination with open-mouth panting often equates to a drooling kitty. 

If a thunderstorm or trip to the vet has your feline friend drooling, nerves are the likely cause. Monitor your kitty to ensure that the excessive salivating stops once the stressful experience is over. 

Cats are often quite outwardly stoic about pain and illness, so unexplained drooling can be a critical indicator of an underlying health problem. If you’ve noticed that your cat is producing an abnormal amount of saliva, don’t hesitate to schedule an exam. Our feline friends can’t tell us what is bothering them, but a veterinarian can help identify and treat the underlying cause of drooling.