Cats Rule, Dogs Drool, Right...Like, That’s Normal?
Here’s why that’s happening to your kitty.
Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)
We expect some level of drooling from dogs — especially the jowly ones. In fact, it’s actually kinda cute sometimes, in a gross way. But a cat with ropes of saliva dangling from their face? That doesn’t quite fit with the sophisticated aesthetic cats have worked so hard to develop. And you’re right to be a little concerned: Although drooling has some benign causes, it may also indicate a more serious health issue. Here are seven reasons why your cat may be drooling (most of which warrant a trip to the vet).
Curious cats will often investigate their environment with their mouths. This exploration can lead to tasting different house plants, insects, liquids, and household items. Some common toxic indoor plants, such as elephant ear, fiddleleaf fig, and Diffenbachia, contain oxalates, which are small crystals that cause oral irritation on contact. Licking caustic substances like household cleaners and chemicals can produce painful ulcers on a cat’s gums and tongue. And chewing on electrical cords can cause electrical shock, but drooling due to burns in the mouth may be the only sign that all is not well. Unless you catch your cat chewing cords chronically, here are some other potential causes.
Periodontal Disease or Stomatitis
Your cat’s mouth is teeming with bacteria. When bacteria get under the gum line, they can cause mild to severe gingivitis. As dental disease progresses, those bacteria travel deeper and closer to the tooth root, causing periodontitis, a condition that affects the health and stability of the structures that support and surround the teeth. Some cats, especially those exposed to viral diseases like herpesvirus and calicivirus, can develop stomatitis. Cats with stomatitis experience inflammation and ulceration of the gums, tongue, and cheeks. As you can imagine, kitties with periodontal disease and/or stomatitis experience oral pain that can lead to drooling and difficulty eating.
Esophagitis can develop when material gets stuck in a cat’s esophagus or causes irritation on the way down to the stomach. This esophageal irritation can also occur with acid reflux or after repeated vomiting. Inflammation of the esophagus can make swallowing painful and can cause cats to stop eating to avoid this pain. Even with normal saliva production, cats may opt to let the saliva fall out of their mouths rather than deal with the discomfort of swallowing.
Medicating cats can involve a lot of drama — chasing them around the house, pulling them from under the bed, avoiding claws and teeth. It’s no fun for you or your cat. For some medications, no amount of tuna flavoring will cover the bitter taste completely, and your cat will be more than happy to show their displeasure by foaming, drooling, and trying to spit it out in the most dramatic way possible. Certain eyedrops may cause drooling, too, because tear ducts drain to the back of the throat.
Signs of nausea in both dogs and cats include poor appetite, lip smacking, drooling, and vocalization. Cats can become nauseated from eating something they shouldn’t have, intestinal obstruction, organ dysfunction, hairballs, car rides to the vet...the list goes on. Kitties experiencing motion sickness may start to hypersalivate before losing their lunch.
Salivary Gland Disease
Although more commonly diagnosed in dogs, salivary gland disease can lead to hypersalivation in cats, too. Cats have multiple salivary glands located near the jawline, in the cheeks, and under the tongue. Salivary gland disease can cause swelling, painful swallowing, difficulty eating, retching, gagging, or wheezing. These kitties can hypersalivate either from discomfort or an inability to swallow properly.
Cats may drool when they are in total bliss, like when they “make biscuits” with their paws. Kitties who are really enjoying cuddle time, sunbathing, or catnip euphoria may purr, drool, and relish how sweet it is to be a cat. It could indicate that they’re as happy as can be, but if your cat is drooling and lethargic or indicates discomfort, they may require a trip to the vet.
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Dr. Alycia Washington, DVM, MS
Alycia Washington, DVM, is a small animal emergency veterinarian based in North Carolina. She works as a relief veterinarian and provides services to numerous emergency and specialty hospitals. Dr. Washington is also a children’s book author and freelance writer with a focus on veterinary medicine. She has a special fondness for turtles, honey bees, and penguins — none of which she treats. In her free time, Dr. Washington enjoys travel, good food, and good enough coffee.