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What is Drooling?

Drooling can be described as your cat dropping saliva uncontrollably out of the mouth. Drooling in cats can be unusual and alarming, but could be caused by a number of reasons, some of which can be harmless and some that can be dangerous. Some causes are:

  • Mouth diseases and tooth decay
  • Heat stroke
  • Organ disease
  • Poisonous plant ingestion
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Oral cancer
  • Nausea or excitement

Some of these causes are harmless and easy to treat, but others are not. In order to ensure that your cat is healthy, you should monitor behavior changes and additionally, get to know the signs of some of the more dangerous illnesses. If you have any doubts, take your pet to the veterinarian for an examination and to receive guidelines for what to do.

Why Drooling Occurs in Cats

Unlike dogs, cats are rarely found drooling. Although a little bit is nothing to worry about, if your pet is drooling an excessive amount, you may want to get him checked at the clinic. Here are some reasons why your feline may be drooling:

Mouth Diseases and Tooth Decay

Mouth diseases and tooth decay can be caused by the buildup of tartar in your cat’s mouth, which can rub on the inside of their lip and cause drooling. To see if your cat has tooth decay or a mouth disease, pull back their lips and check the condition of their teeth. If the teeth are brown or look like concrete, or if the gums are red, swollen and bleeding, your cat may have a mouth disease and decaying teeth. Other signs are bad breath, decreased interest in food, and excessive drooling. 

Also, watch to see if your cat is eating in a strange manner (such as tilting the head or dropping food) or not wanting to be touched around the mouth. This behavior may indicate it is time to bring your cat to the veterinarian for a professional cleaning. Have your vet check for more serious diseases such as gingivitis, tumors and mouth ulcers. After the consultation, try brushing your feline’s teeth daily as a preventative measure.

Heat Stroke

If your cat spends a lot of time outside and could potentially get too much sun and not enough water, drooling could be a sign of heat stroke. If you suspect that your cat has heat stroke, call your vet immediately. Cats with flat faces, such as Persians, can be more susceptible to heat stroke, but no cat is completely safe. Cats will show heat stroke by panting, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, high temperatures or collapsing.

Organ Disease

When cats get older, they become more susceptible to organ diseases, for example affecting the kidney and liver, which can have drooling as a symptom. Although it gets more common as your cat ages, kittens can have organ disease as well if they are born with liver or kidney failure. Trauma and infection can also contribute to organ disease. For example, signs that your cat’s kidneys may be failing are if they are urinating often and drinking a lot of water, they are showing weakness, they have a dry coat, they are losing weight and have a decreased appetite, their urine is cloudy or bloody, they are vomiting, and have diarrhea, bad breath, a brown tongue, mouth ulcers and constipation.

Poisonous Plants

There are a number of plants that you may have in or around your home that can make your cat sick. Some of these plants include tulips, azaleas and chrysanthemums. If you have any of these plants, be sure to keep your cat away from them as they can make them drool and make them sick.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections such as nose, sinus or throat infections can also make your cat drool. If your cat is often around other cats, stays in a boarding facility, or was recently adopted from a shelter, they will have a greater chance of getting an upper respiratory infection. These illnesses get passed around from feline to feline by coughing, sneezing, grooming or sharing food and water. 

A cat that is highly stressed can also be more susceptible. Your cat may have an upper respiratory infection if they are congested, sneezing, have a runny nose, they are coughing, have fever, are gagging, develop a loss of appetite, oral ulcers, if they seem depressed or are squinting and rubbing their eyes. Some cats who are flat faced, like Persians, can get upper respiratory infections due to their facial structure.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer, also known as feline oral squamous cell carcinoma, is an aggressive type of cancer that accounts for 80% of oral tumors in cats. As cats get older, they are more in danger of contracting this disease. Usually, cats between the ages of 12 to 14 years can get oral cancer. The symptoms of this harmful disease include excessive drooling (sometimes bloody), odor from the mouth, difficulty chewing on one side of the mouth, and swelling in the face. If your cat has these symptoms, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible, since the best way to fight this cancer is with early detection. The chances of your pet getting oral cancer increase if they live in a household with smoking.

Nausea or Excitement

Cats don’t usually go in the car, and sometimes the motion can cause nauseousness, which can also cause drooling. Other signs can be anxiety, open-mouthed panting and heavy breathing. Aside from being nauseous, your cat can also start drooling from extreme pleasure or excitement. If you are petting your cat petting and giving them affection, they may begin to drool simply because they are enjoying it.

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What to do if your Cat is Drooling

If your cat’s drooling is sporadic, it can be caused by understandable circumstances, such as car rides or affection. In these cases, a bit of drooling is nothing to worry about. In all cases, you should keep an eye on your cat, and if the drooling becomes unusually often or your cat is drooling in large amounts, you may want to take them to the vet to ensure that it is not something serious.

Dental diseases will be treated by cleaning and scaling, which will be done at the clinic. Your cat will be put under anesthesia while the vet cleans, polishes and possibly removes teeth, depending on the condition. If your cat seems to be suffering from a heat stroke or cancer, bring them to the vet immediately as it can be life threatening in some serious cases. The key to fighting organ disease is to catch it early, so if you suspect that your cat may be experiencing this, bring them to the clinic for blood and urine tests. In some cases, the veterinarian will take x-rays, ultrasounds or biopsies in order to make a diagnosis. For upper respiratory infections, the vet will determine whether your cat will need antibiotics or isolation. If left untouched, URI’s can lead to more serious consequences like blindness, chronic breathing disorders or pneumonia.

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Prevention of Drooling

Many illnesses related to drooling can be prevented by brushing your cat’s teeth once a day, but make sure to use toothpaste that is made for cats. To avoid heat stroke, always have fresh water available as well as nearby shady spots for your cat to cool off. On very hot days, keep your pets inside and limit their exercise if possible. You should never leave your cat in a parked car. Be on the lookout for plants in or around your home that could be poisonous for your feline. To avoid oral cancer, you should avoid smoking in the house or near your feline as it can increase the chances.

To reduce the anxiety and stress brought on by motion sickness, start by helping your cat to get used to car rides by occasionally putting them into the carrier in the backseat of your car without driving anywhere at first. Eventually, you can move out of the driveway and slowly increase the time spent in the car. Draping a breathable cloth over the carrier as you walk out can also keep your cat from panicking. 

Bringing your cat for annual checkups can help prevent many illnesses, including organ disease. Keeping your cat indoors and away from unknown pets, as well as washing your hands before handling another pet, can help prevent upper respiratory infections. Keeping your pet up to date on his vaccines and checkups can help him live a long and healthy life.

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Cost of Drooling

Depending on the cause of the drooling, treating your cat for this condition can vary in cost. If your cat has tooth decay, treatments have an average cost of $800. Heat stroke and poisoning are dangerous and expensive with treatments averaging at $2500. Medical therapy for an upper respiratory infection may cost $500, and curing motion sickness can cost about $200.

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Drooling Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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American shorthair

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Twenty Years

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Unknown severity

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Drooling

My cat is 20 years old and is starting to drool, he eats and drinks water with no problems. He sounds like he has labored breathing. I’m wondering if I should be worried

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. It is concerning that you’re noticing changes in his breathing. Cats tend to hide disease until it becomes more serious so I think if you’re noticing more difficulty with breathing that you should get him to a veterinarian. Your vet can perform some chest x-rays to make sure all looks normal. They may also recommend bloodwork and can perform a full oral exam to assess a cause for the drooling. I hope he feels better soon.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Ambrose

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Calico/Tiger

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Drooling, Coughing

My 6 1/2 month year old kitten has been drooling all day today, I am not sure if it’s because his adult teeth are coming in or not. He doesn’t act different but he has been nipping at my fingers. He is up to date on shots too and only an indoor cat. Should I worry?

Sept. 19, 2018

Ambrose's Owner

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Ziggy

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Cat

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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Drooling

My cat got outside and was gone for days. Since he's come back in the house hes excessively drooling I got a vet appointment scheduled for Monday but that's 5 days away so I'm worried that he could have rabies and I have children and other animals in the household what should I do? He's not showing any signs of aggression he's just drooling a lot keeps moving his jaw

Aug. 16, 2018

Ziggy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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If Ziggy is vaccinated for Rabies, it is unlikely that he has Rabies. If he isn't vaccinated, it is a possibility and having him seen sooner than Monday would be a very good idea. He may have had an injury to his mouth that needs attention.

Aug. 16, 2018

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isis and anubis

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party siamese

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Drooling
Chattering Jaw

both of my cats are feeling and have a chattering jaw. it started about a week after i brought home a new kitten. also one of them is asking cuddly and loving and that's abnormal behavior for her.

June 15, 2018

isis and anubis' Owner

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A chattering jaw and drooling is commonly associated with dental issues but occurring in two young cats at the same time is unlikely; without examining Isis and Anubis I cannot say whether the cause is dental or due to another issue caused by the introduction of a kitten. You should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to be on the safe side so that the underlying cause is determined. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 16, 2018

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Maisy

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Calico

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3 Years

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Drooling

My cat is a 3 year old female. She has been drooling the last couple of days. She has not been vaccinated but she never goes outside without her leash. The vet told me it wa fine as she was considered an indoor cat. What are the chances that she contracted rabies?

June 9, 2018

Maisy's Owner

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Rabies is a highly unlikely unless Maisy has been bitten by an infected animal or an open wound was licked by an infected animal. There are many other more likely causes of drooling including dental disorders, oral injuries, small foreign objects, oral irritation (from licking something), poisoning, salivary gland disorders among other causes; rinse out Maisy’s mouth and . Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 10, 2018

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Momma kitty

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domestic short hair

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Drooling

I have a feral cat that I have been feeding for the last 3 years. I have never been able to touch her. Lately, every time I feed her she has drool hanging out of her mouth. I always leave dry food out but I feed wet food 2 times a day...this is when she drools, prior to feeding. If it is gum disease, is there anything I can put in her food? Catching her is not an option.

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JayJay

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Blue Russian

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10 Years

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Critical severity

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Gagging And Drooling

I have a 10 year old Blue Russian. Hes an indoor cat. Always has been. Hes been getting out of the house since we moved to a new house. And hes been playing with some orher out door cats from around the neighborhood. And hes sick. Hes is gagging really bad and is drooling too. Im am so worried about him.... what can I do? I have no money either.

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Cheddar

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domestic medium hair

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9 Months

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Drooling

My cat Cheddar is about 9 months to a year or so old (our vet was only able to estimate) and we have had him for three months now, always been an inside cat. He drooled a good amount today when I came home from school, which he has never done before, so I'm concerned. He is a rambunctious kitty and has been chewing on cardboard boxes and scratchers. Could he have gotten a cut on his mouth possibly? He seems to be eating and drinking fine and is not lethargic.

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Lexi

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house cat

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8 Years

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Droulling

Came home to my female kitty Lexi laying on the grown not moving with droull and she had pee herself. She is breathing hard. She has been hanging out by the heater vent like she always does. We just turned the heater on. We also have a visiting female kitty. They do not get along and I think maybe she is stressed out. The more I get her the better she seems to get right now. Something is very wrong though

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Samson

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American Shorthair

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14 Years

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Mild severity

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Drooling, Lethargy, Pianful

My cat was outside for a couple of hours. I saw a stray cat on the deck and it ran away but my cat wasn't around. When he came to the door he was acting a little strange then I realized he had gotten in a fight. He has two small puncture wounds on the right side of his shoulder. I cleaned them and gave him some pain meds and an antibiotic. He is drooling, but he has had all of his teeth removed. Could the drooling be caused by pain?

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