Why Do Cats Drool?

drooling_cat

I recently received a question from a reader about why her cat drools when he purrs. She had lived with cats all her life, but had never had a “happy drooler.”

Some cats will, indeed, drool when they’re exceedingly happy and purring up a storm. I’ve lived with a couple of these happy droolers myself. Feebee mostly did it when he was a kitten, but stopped once he got older. Amber drooled throughout her life when she was completely relaxed and purring. Ruby will occasionally drool.

But far more commonly, drooling can be the sign of a behavioral or health problem. Some of the causes of excessive drooling are:

Dental disease

Periodontal disease is the most common cause for drooling. This type of drooling usually happens during eating, and is accompanied by a foul odor. In severe cases, you may even see specks of blood in the drool. These cats are most likely in considerable pain, and will require a thorough veterinary exam and a professional dental cleaning as well as possible extractions. Other dental diseases that can cause excessive drooling are stomatitis and resorptive lesions.

Oral mass

Mouth cancer in cats has the best chance of being treated favorably if it is detected in the very early stages.

Nausea

Cats may be nauseous even if they’re not vomiting. If you see drooling when your cat is sniffing at his food, but then turns away from it, chances are he’s feeling nauseous. Nausea can be caused by a wide range of diseases.

Bitter taste

Your cat may have gotten hold of something that tasted bitter. If the drooling is short-lived, it probably means the taste has dissipated, but if it continues beyond just a few minutes, it may be course for alarm. Some medications in pill form may cause excessive drooling due to their bitter taste – just one of the many reasons why dry pilling cats should be avoided as an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous practice.

Unless you’re sure your cat is one of those happy droolers described at the beginning of this article, it’s always safer to have a veterinarian check her over to rule out any health problems.

If you have a happy drooler, tell us about him or her in a comment!

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons by firepile

86 Comments on Why Do Cats Drool?

  1. Nikki
    May 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm (3 months ago)

    My elderly(13) kitty Zephyr recently became a happy drooler. I first noticed it after I had her teeth cleaned and two really bad ones pulled about 6 months ago and I had chalked it up to feeding her wet food during that time or maybe nerve damage from the teeth pulled. About a month ago I had her at the vet again, this time for urinary tract issues. Now she has to eat wet food full time to keep her better-hydrated. She’s happier all the time than she used to be–you can see it in her face. And now when we settle down for some lap time or at bed time when she sleeps in me and I pet her, she drools. We did an x tray and full senior wellness panel at the vet, so I can’t think of anything else health related besides just, she feels so good at times that she drools. :) I’m okay with that.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm (3 months ago)

      Sure sounds like a happy drooler to me, Nikki!

      Reply
  2. Alex
    March 5, 2015 at 10:38 am (5 months ago)

    My cat (Sonny, 12) is a kneading drooler. She only kneads my down comforter and when she does, she takes a small bit of the cover into her mouth and begins to suckle. After the first few moments she will begin to drool, very occasionally accompanied by purring (she’s never been much of the purring type). She does this behavior at anytime of day, whether she’s getting ready to nap or just waking from one.

    Reply
  3. Rob
    December 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm (8 months ago)

    Our rescue cat Hook has just started to knead and drool small drops as he purrs. We just had him to the vet and he had a clean bill of health. Glad I checked out the site. He was lying on my wife’s housecoat giving her eye squints, while kneading, purring, and drooling. Thanks for the great info and insight. :)

    Reply
  4. Linda Reis
    October 21, 2014 at 12:52 am (9 months ago)

    My Samantha also drools when she is superbly content. She almost always does this and kneading simultaneously. And all of this while purring and laying on her back. She has been doing this since she was a kitten. She was separated from her mother when she was only four weeks old, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with this behavior. But I also pet her with one hand, and mop up the drool with the other. She is such a love, so I don’t even mind the extra moisture. I once read that only 2% of the feline population drools for non-medical reasons.

    Reply
  5. Valerie Lacayo
    October 8, 2014 at 12:02 am (10 months ago)

    I have a male orange tabby that showed up on my front porch one day. He hung around until he was bitten by a rattlesnake. Long story short he lived and managed to become a permanent resident and an indoor kitty, I think getting bit by the snake was part of his master plan to become an indoor kitty. Anyway he is a happy drooler and man does he drool. I call him slobber puss. My husband hates when the cat gets in his lap and starts purring and drooling. I tell my husband that a little cat slobber never hurt anyone, in fact it strengthens the immune system. I love my slobber puss.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 8, 2014 at 5:56 am (10 months ago)

      Slobber puss, I love it, Valerie!

      Reply
  6. Suze
    October 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm (10 months ago)

    Every night when I’m reading a book, my cat Percy lies down on my chest with his face 8 inches from mine, ready for his “head massage”. I scratch all around his head and neck with both hands, while he purrs up a storm, and one small drop of drool comes out. LOL. Now I know why!

    Reply
  7. Vanessa Annesley
    October 7, 2014 at 9:24 pm (10 months ago)

    My cat sometimes drools but she also vomits a lot I’ve had her at the vets & tests showed up that she has a liver problem nothing much canbe done for her which is sad but I try keep her as well as I can any advice would be welcome =^..^=

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 8, 2014 at 5:58 am (10 months ago)

      I’m sorry about your kitty, Vanessa. Keeping her immune system strong is probably one of the most important things you can do to support her. You may also want to discuss supplements such as SAME-E or Milkthistle with your vet, they can provide liver support.

      Reply
  8. Veronica Stillman
    October 7, 2014 at 6:05 pm (10 months ago)

    My cat Jack 5 yrs old drools when sleeping and some days he snores, sometime dont know if its him or my husband. Is this a health issue? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 7, 2014 at 6:36 pm (10 months ago)

      Snoring is normal for some cats, as is drooling in their sleep, but it’s impossible to tell whether it’s a health issue without a veterinary exam. I’d mention it to your vet.

      Reply
  9. Jeanne B.
    October 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm (10 months ago)

    Tyler not only drools, he nurses. I have to wear a sturdy drool-proof shirt when he wants attention, because inevitably, the biscuit-makers get moving, he finds a spot on my shirt to suck on, and drool happens. SIGH He was one of my bottle-fed orphans, so I guess it must be that.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm (10 months ago)

      It’s not unusual for bottle babies to continue to nurse (and drool while doing so). It’s kind of sweet!

      Reply
  10. Smokie
    May 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm (2 years ago)

    I have heard that when a cat drools when happy, this is the same as when they knead the paws on you – they are going back to kittenhood when they were happy, safe, content & drinking mama’s milk. The “happiness” feeling still stimulates the saliva glands and the cats are really drooling from the lovey feeling they are feeling. There’s no more milk to drink, but the glands have still been “activated.”

    Not sure if the above is “official” or not – just heard it from one cat person a few years back.

    Reply

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