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

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94 Comments on Why Do Cats Drool?

  1. Elaine and Leela
    March 3, 2017 at 12:40 am (4 weeks ago)

    I just came across your site, was reading the article about “happy drooling”, and MY PRINCESS!! Although I’ve had MANY critters over the years and had barn cats for the 12yrs we had horses, a small barn, and several ferals who adopted our horses. Except for Susan/”nose Nibbler”-HE was quite the experience and a vet friend (I’d become a cert Vet Tech at age 18-a year after co-founding a wildlife org. Yes, I have quite the critter-history ), swore he had some or all bobcat. He was HUGE and when he first appeared as a young kitten, his testicles hadn’t dropped.
    Anyways, this is many years later, I’m now older, kids grown and spread across the globe, and disabled and housebound. I had one previous house-kitty I may come back and talk about-she was special. A little over 2 years ago, she passed away in a fire…and I spent a week in the hospital because I had to be dragged out by my feet by the Fire Dept when I wouldn’t leave without her.
    About 7 weeks after the fire-and days after returning home from my second hospital stay since the fire-I had a minor heart attack; some girls in charge of delivering my groceries called. Everyone knew how close I had been to Sita and the girls wanted to help me rescue another kitty when I was ready. Well, someone had left a tiny Orange furball outside their store the night before. They didn’t have time to feed her and didn’t want to take her to our notorious local kill shelter. When I agreed to take her and “just feed her”-I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. She was one very sick baby and the vet didn’t think she’d make it. I didn’t want to lose another baby…I stayed up for days at a time, carrying her in a pouch I made to hold her against my chest. I rocked her in the rocking chair for hours, force fed her every drop I could get into her, we put her on additional fluids and I maintained the IV here at home. Little by little, week by week, she improved. We certainly had our scares…but she made it!! NOW? My Leela has GOT to be THE most living, child-like Kitty there is. Since she was a kitten, whenever she does something wrong, she comes running up to me, hugs my neck & gives me kisses. Little brat. She KNOWS she’s not going to even get talked to sternly once she cranes that little neck up for kisses.
    She has a couple of other oddities. She not only drools when she’s happy and lovey-she POOTS!! At first we thought she had food sensitivities, stomach problems…nope, nothing wrong. She’s just a very happy, loving…STINKY kitty. And that’s putting it mildly. The things I have to do so I can breath at night…
    Her other unusual thing is she whispers-ONLY at night or when I tell her “ssshhh”. She’ll sit or lay here and carry on an entire conversation whispering. She even did it at the vet!! In fact, when I took her into get her spayed-and every check-up she gets, I’m told if for any reason I can’t keep her anymore to please let them know first. That’s a first. She kisses, hugs and whispers to them too. She’s skittish about strangers coming into the house-but I think that’s because of a plumber that scared the dickens out of her one day. He said he was just trying to play with her-but he was very large…and drunk. And she hasn’t been the same since with strangers in her house.
    Anyways, she’s now my baby, my little love. ❤️ I take her out on the porch and the front yard in her “pretty dress” during the summer. (It’s a dress/harness ) I’ve actually got pictures of her trying to put the dress on herself-sitting back on her butt/back legs like a rodent, holding the dress between her front paws, trying to put it over her head. Like I said, some of these behaviors are more like a small CHILD!!
    That’s OK, she’s spoiled rotten and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Speaking of stinky…she’s patting my desktop screen…why? It went off. She was sitting there watching the pregnant giraffe…one of her favorite things right now. I wouldn’t mind it but when she’s unable to put her toys through the screen (she’s trying to share her mousey & Teddy with the giraffe…); she starts piling them on my face, then pats my face and whispers “mew” until I awaken and pretend we’re playing with April (giraffe).
    Naah, she’s not spoiled..uh oh…gotta go, she just brought me her cup..(she wants her nightly bonito flakes-she takes them out of the cup a bit at a time)

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 3, 2017 at 6:14 am (4 weeks ago)

      What a special little girl! Thank you for sharing your Leela with us, Elaine.

      Reply
  2. Julian
    February 1, 2017 at 7:55 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi good evening,

    A little story about Ginger..

    My mother in law had been feeding an abandoned cat for 2 years, all the while he was sleeping outside where he could find in some freezing conditions in the North of England.

    After a visit in November I saw him for the first time, a great big long haired, mostly matted ginger cat. I sat outside for an hour or so and layed on the floor whilst attempting to stroke him. Extremely wary and timid, moreso me!

    What happened within the first 10 minutes broke my heart. Realising I wasn’t a threat he began drooling and rolled over allowing me to stroke his belly. I called for my wife and she brought out some scissors and I began to cut away two huge matted balls (no where near his skin) I worked out the rest of the knots with thumb and forefingerfinger as best I could buy not completely. He seemed to know that I was trying to help him.

    Never having the want or need to have a cat as an adult, we couldn’t bare to leave him. We drove him the 4 hours home the following day. Straight to the vets, he’d clearly been owned once upon a time as his bits were no longer there. He wasn’t chipped so he officially became ours.

    Rough couple of weeks initially, high temperature, constantly running nose, under weight and fleas. Not to exaggerate but the live flu jabs he was given almost killed him. Resulted in me feeding him water and purifyed white fish through a syringe. He barely moved for the week.

    Long story short Ginger is now Aslan with a HUGE MAINE and looks the part. He’s super happy, cat flap installed and left on free range to come and go as he pleases. But after only 2 months he now chooses to sleep in doors rather than on a stack of chairs in the shed.

    I’ve worked out most of the knots with a ‘Ferminator’ and gentle scissor work. He’s happy to lie there and when he’s had enough just wanders off with no agro. The little smasher.

    Nights are spent in between my wife and I mostly on this back, putting, kneading and drooling contently.

    We love him dearly and so happy he took a chance on us.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 2, 2017 at 6:18 am (2 months ago)

      What a wonderful story, Julian!

      Reply
  3. Maggie D
    April 10, 2016 at 9:57 am (12 months ago)

    My very old kitty, Elvira, is definitely a happy drooler. If she gets held, coddled, pet, scratched and/or cuddled for more than a minute, she drools everywhere. I call her the St Bernard of cats, lol.

    Reply
  4. Kim
    September 3, 2015 at 8:20 am (2 years ago)

    My bengal, Bindi, has been a drooler since I first brought her home. She wanted to “snuggle” into my neck at night, knead and drool down my neck. Luckily I trained her to use a “snuggle blankie”. She will wake up at night and cry for me to get the snuggle blankie out for her to snuggle on me. It’s super sweet. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 3, 2015 at 9:02 am (2 years ago)

      That’s adorable, Kim!

      Reply
    • Megan
      January 4, 2016 at 8:55 am (1 year ago)

      Omg!!! My cat does the EXACT same thing! Except I don’t really know how to train my little Winston how to use a blanket instead of making my neck and hair all wet and nasty! He’s so cute and I wanna snuggle him but I always end up wet! In fact right now as I type this he is laying in my hair DROOLING as always! Thankfully it isn’t anything from this article and it just means he’s literally so relaxed that the bottom part of his jaw went limp letting drool out! XD

      Reply
  5. Nikki
    May 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

      Sure sounds like a happy drooler to me, Nikki!

      Reply
  6. Alex
    March 5, 2015 at 10:38 am (2 years 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
  7. Rob
    December 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm (2 years 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
  8. Linda Reis
    October 21, 2014 at 12:52 am (2 years 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
  9. Valerie Lacayo
    October 8, 2014 at 12:02 am (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

      Slobber puss, I love it, Valerie!

      Reply
  10. Suze
    October 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm (2 years 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
  11. Vanessa Annesley
    October 7, 2014 at 9:24 pm (2 years 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 (2 years 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
  12. Veronica Stillman
    October 7, 2014 at 6:05 pm (2 years 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 (2 years 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
  13. Jeanne B.
    October 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm (2 years 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 (2 years ago)

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

      Reply
  14. Smokie
    May 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm (4 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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