How often do we pet our cats, only to have them drool all over our hands or the couch? The answer is too many if you have my older boy, Hoyle. While this behavior may seem cute to some (I am not of this group), there does come a time when their drooling should be of concern.
But first, we will explore the Normal Drool.
The drool that rains down when our cats get the best chin scratches. It is their way of letting us know we have hit the right spot. It could also be their way of showing us some love. It can also occur when they are curled up or perched on their favorite spot and feeling happy and content.
Hoyle likes to stand on me and drool on my neck while I lay in bed. There is nothing I can do to change his drooling behavior, I simply pull the sheet higher up. Keeping a small cloth handy to wipe up after them might be helpful if the drool is an issue.
It is a typical (and cute!) behavior for our cats to knead or “make biscuits”, some will take it further and drool. The current theory is this is a leftover behavior from kittenhood when they would massage their mother for milk. Not all cats will drool at the sight of food, unlike dogs; however, it can still happen.
Stress or fear may cause them to temporarily drool, such as during loud events, car rides, and vet visits. Placing their carrier in an accessible location a few days prior may help to desensitize them; treats can always help this process. Some owners find the use of calming aids to be beneficial in these situations and there are various types available - homeopathic, synthetic pheromones, or pharmaceutical if it is an extreme case.
If your cat is drooling during these moments, it is normal and will pass.
Now, this is when we should be more concerned with why our cat is drooling.
Dental disease. This is fairly common, especially in kibble-fed cats, yet easy to prevent. Regular brushing with a toothbrush or gauze on a finger will help, additionally, adding extra hydration to your cat’s diet may encourage more food particles to pass from the mouth to the stomach. A foreign body. Cats love to chew and eat things they should not - check to see if there is an object lodged in the mouth or throat. If so, urgent care is needed by their veterinarian. Poisoning. Many items in our household can be poisonous to cats, including cleaners and certain plants. Check for evidence that your cat may have been exposed to a poison (such as nibbled leaves of plants, knocked over cleaner bottles, open closets/cupboards) and if in doubt, call an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. Pain. Excessive cat drooling can be a sign of pain caused by trauma or any number of things. Our cat’s behavior is different from that of ours when it comes to pain. You might not even know your cat is in pain because they’re great at hiding it.
Nausea. Outside of car rides or other situations that cause motion sickness, if your cat is showing signs of nausea; drooling and a loss of appetite, diarrhea, listlessness, or vomiting, you should have the vet check it out. Upper respiratory infection. The same way we get them, so do they. This is pretty much like a kitty cold—it’s easy to catch, especially in shelters or similar conditions. If your cat drools and also sneezes, makes a wheezing or rattling noise while breathing, or has a discharge from the nose or eyes, it is time for a vet appointment.
Heatstroke. Just like us, cats can get heatstroke. The signs are very similar and include rapid breathing, vomiting, listlessness, and stumbling around. If your cat is showing any of these sign, combined with drooling, they could be suffering from heatstroke. Call the emergency vet immediately and follow their instructions.
It is always a good idea to keep a mental checklist of your animals day to day behavior. Sometimes what appears to be a cute little action could actually be a red flag.