Drooling often goes unnoticed until the owner discovers a tiny wet spot where the cat has been lying. Some cats drool when they feel very relaxed. However, it might concern you if cats suddenly start drooling without a history or known hypersalivation.
Cats drool for various reasons like pain caused by broken teeth, other dental issues, or exposure to toxic substances. The reasons for drooling include psychological stimuli, health problems, and physical triggers. Dental diseases are the most common cause of hypersalivation in cats, occurring in 85% of cats over three years of age.
Cats usually drool sporadically, but only a little. If you see your cat drooling extensively or notice other symptoms, such as lethargy accompanying drooling, a veterinarian should examine your cat.
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When is Drooling Normal in Cats?
A cat’s mouth constantly produces saliva to moisten food and prevent the mouth from drying out.
Saliva also contains antibacterial agents that help heal wounds and keep your cat clean. Even healthy older cats can drool, and even some young kittens drool.
Some cats also drool as a reaction to positive stimulation. This is usually accompanied by purring or rubbing the head against you or nearby objects. But also with turning over to expose their belly.
In other words, some cats drool when they feel comfortable. While brushing, petting, or massaging, your cat’s muscles relax, causing her mouth to open and some saliva to drip down.
It is also normal for cats to drool when they are nervous. Some cats drool when they enter the veterinarian’s office, while others drool when anxious during a car ride.
Drooling under these circumstances is usually temporary.
Why Do Cats Drool?
Cats usually do not drool when offered something tasty, so it is not natural to see saliva dripping from your cat’s mouth.
Since continued drooling in cats is rarely expected, it may indicate a medical problem. If you notice that your cat is drooling suddenly, several possible causes exist.
Dental disease is often the explanation for drooling. In such cases, cats drool to relieve irritation in their mouth or throat.
If swallowing is painful, your cat may be leaking saliva from its mouth. Your cat may also avoid eating due to pain when swallowing or eating.
Common causes of pain in the mouth in cats include:
- Dental diseases such as gingivitis
- Tumors or ulcers in the mouth
- Broken tooth
- A foreign body under the tongue
- Contact with toxic substances
- Contact with a poisonous plant
Other symptoms may also accompany drooling:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of interest in hard food
- Dropping food when eating
Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL), erosions of the dental cervical line, internal or external root resorptions, and neck lesions commonly cause dental disease in cats.
These health issues can be responsible for significant drooling and oral pain.
For adult cats whose teeth are impaired in function due to dental resorptions, FORL occurs in over 50% of them. The lesions may occur very close to where the tooth and the gum line meet.
FORL often shows as a red line along your cat’s gums. However, if a cat has excessive tartar on its teeth, the gum lesion is sometimes less obvious.
FORL is a common, painful gum disease in cats. It can cause mouth sensitivity, foul breath, tooth fractures, drooling, and loss of appetite.
Left untreated, it might cause chronic pain and subsequent weight loss in cats.
Viral respiratory diseases can cause ulcers in the cat’s mouth. This can lead to mouth pain and increased salivation.
Cats living in shelters or multi-cat households are at higher risk for respiratory infections.
Infections need to be treated by a veterinarian. However, you can also take steps to prevent your cat from becoming infected.
This includes keeping your cat indoors, keeping her vaccinations up to date, limiting interaction with other pets, and washing your hands after contact with other animals.
Kidney disease can present as an acute or chronic condition.
Cats with chronic renal failure (CRF) or chronic kidney injury often have visible symptoms.
These include increased thirst, weight loss, dilute urine, increased urination, foul breath, and excessive drooling.
This condition occurs when the kidneys cannot filter waste products from the body. These waste products can accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to uremic ulcers in the stomach, mouth, and esophagus.
Veterinarians often treat kidney disease with:
- Medication administration
- Intravenous fluid administration
- Monitoring blood counts
- Gastroprotective drugs
- Low-protein diet
Swallowing a Foreign Object
If your cat has swallowed something that tastes rotten or toxic, one of its first reactions may be drooling.
Sometimes, swallowing a toxic substance can also cause erosion of the oral cavity, which can also lead to drooling.
A foreign body caught in the tongue, back of the throat, or soft or hard palate can cause mouth pain and drooling.
Your cat may also have difficulty closing its mouth.
If a foreign object, such as a fish bone, is stuck in the esophagus, saliva cannot drain. It collects in your cat’s esophagus and runs out of its mouth.
If you notice a thread hanging out of your cat’s mouth, do not try to pull it out.
The thread may have wrapped around vital organs such as the stomach or intestines. If you pull on it, it can cause significant, irreversible damage.
Your cat may paw at its mouth and try to vomit if swallowing is uncomfortable for her.
The inability to swallow appropriately can cause appetite loss and unexected weight loss in cats.
Medications can also cause your cat to secrete too much saliva.
One cat’s reaction to a medication may be completely different than another’s. While one cat may not react at all, another may start drooling.
In most cases, bitter medicines can cause drooling in cats.
If you are administering a particular medication for the first time, inform yourself about possible side effects, such as drooling, and what to do about them.
Cats do not metabolize chemicals and medications well. This is due to their unique liver metabolism called glucuronidation.
Caustic burns from chemicals such as detergents, floor cleaners, or weed killers can cause mouth, tongue, esophagus, and stomach burns.
If swallowed, they can cause poisoning and severe drooling.
If you suspect your cat has recently come into contact with a caustic chemical, rinse its mouth with water.
After rinsing, offer your cat something she likes to drink, such as chicken broth. This will flush out the esophagus and dilute the poison in the mouth.
Plants that contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals can cause severe burning in the mouth if your cat accidentally swallows them.
Plants that are toxic to cats include:
- Peace Lily
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
Insoluble calcium oxalate in plants is unlikely to cause cat poisoning but can cause unpleasant reactions.
If you have one of these plants and suspect your cat may have come in contact with it, you should rinse its mouth with water and let it drink.
Nausea and vomiting can have many causes. These include inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, kidney disease, and liver disease. A veterinarian may recommend laboratory testing to examine your cat’s blood cells, urine, and organ function more closely.
Your veterinarian can determine the necessary diagnostic steps and treatment options based on the results.
Cats drool when they are excited, frightened, or anxious. If your cat suffers from nausea, discomfort from vomiting may cause drooling.
For example, cats are rarely ridden in cars unless they are being taken to the vet.
Such rides can bring back bad memories for your cat and make him anxious and nervous.
Signs of anxiety in cats include breathing with their mouths open and panting.
Some cats drool when calm and relaxed or enjoy being cuddled or petted.
This is common in cats and is a physiological response to feeling content.
Sometimes, cats will drool while sleeping because they are so relaxed. This type of drooling often indicates a comfortable cat.
Injuries to the oral cavity can cause severe drooling.
Injuries to the mouth can happen when a cat chews on an electrical cord and suffers a burn in the mouth.
If your cat has recently been fighting with another cat, any resulting mouth injury may cause drooling.
Keeping your cat indoors will reduce the likelihood of being hit by a car or attacked by a rival cat for his territory.
Trauma to the luxated jaw joint or a jaw fracture can cause excessive drooling because the cat can’t close its mouth.
If you suspect your cat drools because of a mouth injury, a thorough examination of the mouth and radiographs are required to make an accurate medical diagnosis.
Flat-faced cats, such as Persian cats, are at higher risk for heat stroke, which can cause drooling.
Although heat stroke is not as common in cats, too much time in the sun or not drinking enough water can be harmful.
Cats love and enjoy the sun. Therefore, you should always provide fresh, clean water for your cat. Make sure your cat can find a shady spot to cool off in the summer.
On hot days, keep your cat indoors. Never let your cat sit in a parked car.
Limit exercise and playtime when it’s hot so your cat doesn’t overheat.
Although these are relatively rare, neurological issues like paralysis or damage to the cranial nerves responsible for controlling swallowing can cause drooling.
Seizures can also interfere with swallowing in cats, resulting in excessive drooling before, after, or during a seizure.
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Oral squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer in older cats.
Although it is not as common as gingivitis, oral cavity cancer can be aggressive and occur anywhere from the tip of the tongue to the back of the cat’s throat.
This type of oral cancer is common in white cats or cats with low pigmentation.