Cat Drooling: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Medically reviewed by Aja Senestraro, DVM
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If your cat is drooling, you might wonder if it’s normal or something to be concerned about. While it can be normal in some cats when relaxed it usually indicates a problem that needs medical attention. This is especially true if you’ve never noticed your cat drooling in the past.

What Causes Drooling?

There are many conditions that might cause drooling in cats. Drooling in cats (also called hypersalivation or ptyalism) is most often a sign of mouth pain.

If it’s painful for a cat to close her mouth or swallow, saliva will end up leaking out of her mouth, resulting in drooling.

Oral or mouth pain can come from many sources but the most common and most serious are oral masses and tumors, and dental disease. Dental disease in cats can be quite painful and can include gum disease, resorptive tooth disease (where teeth lose their enamel coating), tooth root abscesses and broken teeth.

Less common causes of mouth pain can include irritation such as burns from chewing electrical cords, grooming something irritating off their fur, or eating some irritating plants. They can also drool if something is stuck in their mouth. Some viral diseases and severe kidney disease can cause ulcers in the mouth which are painful and cause drooling.

Another less common cause of drooling in cats is nausea. Motion sickness (car sickness) in cats often causes nausea and drooling. Rarely problems with nerve function to the mouth and throat can cause drooling; although rare Rabies can cause drooling.

Exposure to pesticides, in particular one called permethrin found in some flea/tick medications only for dogs, can cause severe drooling if cats are exposed to them. A very bitter taste can also stimulate drooling. You may have seen this reaction if you’ve ever had to give your cat a bitter medication!

Painful conditions of the mouth that may cause drooling in cats include:

  • Tumor or mass (oral cancer)
  • Painful teeth (broken, abscessed, losing enamel)
  • Gum disease
  • Ulcers
  • Irritation from chemicals
  • Something stuck in the mouth

Some less common conditions in cats that may cause drooling:

  • Motion sickness (car sickness)
  • Ingesting something bitter
  • Exposure to toxic pesticides
  • Problems with nerve function
Cat chewing on houseplant

A cat might drool if she nibbles on a toxic or irritating plant or ingests another poisonous substance.

A cat might drool if she nibbles an irritating plant or ingests another poisonous or irritating substance. Far and away the most common reason for drooling in cats is mouth pain.

Some other signs of a painful mouth condition in cats include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Reluctance to eat hard food
  • Food falls from the mouth while eating
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth hanging open
  • Thick, discolored or bloody saliva
  • Poor grooming
  • Cat Drooling And Not Eating

If your cat is drooling and not eating she could have a serious disease. She might be suffering from pain in her mouth and/or may be experiencing severe nausea. Your cat should be checked out any time she is not eating, especially if she is also drooling.

Cat in carrier in car

Some cats drool when they are nauseous, which can happen when riding in a car.

Cat Drooling And Not Grooming

When a cat stops grooming herself, it’s a tell-tale sign that she’s not feeling well. If your cat is drooling and not grooming herself, she may be in pain or very ill, so schedule a veterinary exam right away.

Cat Drooling In Car

Some cats drool when they are nauseous, which can happen when riding in a car.

Nausea can cause hypersalivation and drooling in cats. If your cat only ever drools during car rides, she might be experiencing motion sickness. Ask your vet for advice on how to curb your cat’s motion sickness prior to your next car trip.

Cat Drooling While Purring

Drooling is sometimes seen in healthy cats. For instance, some cats drool while very relaxed and receiving positive stimulation like petting. The drooling is often accompanied by purring. Sometimes cats may drool and purr while kneading a blanket or other soft material.

The reason for this is largely unknown, but it appears to be behavioral and not a medical problem. If your cat has always been a drooler when relaxed and purring, but seems fine at other times, it’s likely not a problem.

Cat Drooling While Sleeping

Similar to the phenomenon of cats drooling while very relaxed and happy, some cats may drool in their sleep. If the drool is minimal, this may be normal for your cat. However, if your cat is having excessive drooling during sleep, especially if you have never noticed this happening before, it’s worth getting it checked out by your vet.

What To Do If Your Cat Drools?

Scratching cat under chin

It can be normal for some cats to drool a little when they are very relaxed and content.

Because drooling is often a sign that the cat is in pain, it’s important to schedule a visit to the veterinarian as soon as you can to check for health issues.

Your vet will check your cat for any weight or muscle loss and do a thorough physical exam, checking all over your cat’s body—especially your cat’s mouth and teeth to try to find the cause of the drooling. The vet might recommend further tests like x-rays, bloodwork, or a sedated oral examination to get to the root of the drooling so it can be treated.

Treatment will depend on what the cause is but could include medications for pain or nausea. It may also include dental care and removal of diseased painful teeth or oral surgery to treat tumors.

It can be normal for some cats to drool a little when they are very relaxed and content.

Never Ignore A Cat Drooling

If your cat that has never drooled before suddenly starts drooling, do not delay seeking veterinary treatment.

Drooling is most often caused by painful conditions. Drooling means your cat may be in pain. Cats do their best to hide their pain and illness. Once drooling is seen, the problem is often quite advanced and painful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would a cat suddenly start drooling?

Injury or disease of the mouth is one of the most common reasons a cat would suddenly start drooling. Tumors, tooth pain, and disease or irritation of the gums cause pain and difficulty swallowing leading to drooling. Other causes for sudden drooling in cats include nausea and exposure to toxic or irritating substances and problems with nerves including Rabies.

Is it normal for cats to drool?

In a very small number of cats, drooling may be normal. Some cats drool slightly when very relaxed and content. Drooling like this is often accompanied by purring. Similarly, some cats may drool a little when sleeping. If the drooling stops outside these isolated episodes, and the cat is otherwise eating normally and acting well, drooling might be considered normal for the cat.

What is drooling a symptom of?

Drooling in cats is most often a symptom of pain (usually mouth pain). Less commonly it can be a symptom of nausea, poisoning, or problems with nerves including Rabies.

How do I get my cat to stop drooling?

Take your cat to a veterinarian to find the cause of the drooling. Once a cause is found your vet will recommend treatments that will address the problem (most often mouth pain) and that will help address the drooling.

Jackie Brown

About Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown is a freelance writer specializing in the pet industry. She writes on all pet and veterinary topics, including general health and care, nutrition, grooming, behavior, training, veterinary and health topics, rescue and animal welfare, lifestyle, and the human-animal bond. Jackie is the former editor of numerous pet magazines and is a regular contributor to pet magazines and websites.

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