By Felicity Glennie-Holmes, the original cat lady
Why does your cat drool? When should you be worried about your cat drooling? Is drooling normal for cats?
Sometimes when your cat drools, it’s completely harmless. Other times, it’s cause for immediate concern. So how can you tell the difference and when should you seek vet assistance? In this article, we’ll cover all the things you need to know about cat drooling.
What kind of drooling is normal?
Cats drool for different reasons, which generally fall into three categories:
- Emotional response: nothing to worry about.
- Irritants that your cat is trying to get rid of: investigate, and potentially seek help from a vet.
- Pathological conditions or poisoning: seek vet assistance as soon as you can.
Sometimes your kitty might drool a bit in response to strong emotional stimuli. For example, it’s common to see some drool if they’re enjoying an extended pat from you, or having a blissful sleep (the same way we sometimes wake up to find a patch of drool on our own pillows!).
This category of drooling can also be filed under “cute (adj.); adorable”. It’s nothing to worry about. I once had a cat who would leave a big wet spot on the pillow or my shirt whenever he snuggled up with me for some love. Nice.
Your cat might also drool if they’ve recently enjoyed some catnip – it can be a common response to a herb that many cats find irresistible.
Other cats drool when they’re scared, for example – in the cat carrier on the way to the vet. This might be accompanied by some open-mouthed panting. It’s a stress response, and it will stop once your pet feels safe again.
Some cats will drool as a way of trying to wash something out of their mouth. This could be sand, dirt, a blade of grass, and so on.
Excessive drooling can also happen when there is a more serious irritation. Has your cat swallowed a bone, or another foreign object of some kind?
Could it be stuck in their mouth or throat? If this is the case, you’ll usually see them pawing at their mouth, or trying to vomit. In these situations, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as you can.
Pathological conditions or poisoning
Continuous drooling isn’t normal for cats. If your cat is drooling all the time, you should seek vet assistance right away. Constant drooling can indicate a more serious medical problem, such as:
- Organ disease
- Plant poisoning
- Trauma or injury
- Dental disease
- Viruses or other infections
- Cancer: squamous cell carcinoma can develop in the mouth, eyes or ears of cats. It’s more common in cats who have light fur and eye color. Symptoms include drooling, difficulty closing the mouth, weight loss and bad breath.
- Organ disease: kidney failure is one of the most common causes of death for cats. It can start suddenly (acute) or be present for a long time (chronic). Symptoms include your cat drinking more water than usual, more urination, bad breath, weight loss and drooling. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet. Kidney failure can be successfully treated.
- Poison: your cat is as susceptible to poisoning as a young child. Make sure you keep cleaning fluids and corrosive liquids out of reach! Laundry detergent, air freshener liquid, chemicals and other cleaners can cause serious health issues for your pet. If you think your cat has been poisoned, gently wash out their mouth with water, and offer something like milk or canned tuna juice to help clean their esophagus. Seek medical advice straight away – contact your local poison control center or your vet immediately.
- Plant poisoning: cats are susceptible to poisoning from certain plants, and drooling is often a symptom. These plants include:
- Lilies, including calla lily, peace lily and the very dangerous Easter, tiger and day lilies
- Elephant ear plants
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
- Umbrella plant
If you suspect your cat might have eaten one of these plants, try to gently wash it’s mouth with water, and then give canned tuna juice or milk to try to clean the esophagus. Lilies, calla and peace lilies usually have a benign effect, but take swift action if your cat has eaten any other kind.
If you suspect Easter lily poisoning; or you notice your cat is vomiting or has stopped eating, contact your vet immediately.
- Trauma: if your cat has received a bad knock to the jaw – for example from a high fall, a dog attack, a kick, or a swipe from a car – they might have a fractured or broken jaw. You might notice they have a hard time closing their mouth properly. Contact your veterinarian immediately, as an x-ray could be needed to diagnose this injury. The best way to avoid injuries like this is to keep your cat indoors at all times.
- Dental disease: if your kitty has stinky breath, get them to the vet without delay! Cats aren’t great fans of having their teeth brushed, and if they’re not regularly eating kibble or crunching raw bones that can help knock the tartar off their teeth, they can easily develop dental disease.
The most common type of dental disease is a lesion known as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion (FORL). It often presents as a red line along your cat’s gums. These lesions cause significant pain and drooling. If left untreated, FORL can cause your cat’s teeth to fracture, terrible bad breath, a loss of appetite, chronic pain and weight loss.
- Viruses and other infections: sometimes a cat that is ill with another disease can start showing symptoms of a secondary illness called feline calicivirus. This is also known as feline herpes, and it works in the same way as cold sores in humans. Usually, the virus is dormant. But when your kitty isn’t well, the virus can emerge and start to cause painful symptoms.
Common symptoms include ulcers on the nose, mouth and tongue, accompanied by heavy drooling. Your cat will be in pain and won’t want to eat. If you see these kinds of sores developing, make sure your cat receives veterinary care as soon as possible. Although the virus can’t be cured, the symptoms can be managed.
The main thing to remember is that cats are clean, sensitive animals. They don’t like to drool! So if you see regular or persistent drooling, the best course of action is a trip to your vet. Your cat will receive the treatment they need, and you will have peace of mind knowing that you acted early.
For more great tips and guides on cats products and care, be sure to visit Cat Snipcademy.