If you’ve noticed your cat drooling, it might be because she’s sick or stressed—or, on the other hand, because she’s actually as relaxed as can be. Here’s what to know about cat drooling and how to tell if your pet needs medical care.

By Karen Weir-Jimerson
August 24, 2020
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To quote Sassy in the 1993 movie Homeward Bound, “cats rule, dogs drool.” It’s true that unlike dogs—who salivate for a variety of reasons including desire for food (aka the Pavlovian response), fear, or illness—cats don’t drool very often. But it does happen, and it’s an involuntary response, just like it is for dogs. 

A cats’ drool doesn’t look like dog drool (i.e. long wisps of saliva); instead, you may see a single droplet of saliva dotting the area below your cat’s mouth, as cats are decidedly less messy droolers than dogs. But why do cats drool in the first place?

There are several reasons why a cat may have this reaction. Some of these reasons are serious enough to require immediate vet care, but others are relatively harmless and the drooling will disappear when the situation causing the behavior ceases. Here’s a breakdown:

Reasons Your Cat May Be Drooling

1. Your Cat is Sick.

If your cat is drooling, it could be for physical reasons, says Ethan Nunnally, DVM, of Large & Small Animal Medicine & Surgery, Animal Health Center of Albia, Iowa. “Cats drool when they are in pain,” he says. “Your cat might have stomatitis, an inflammation of the mouth and lips.” Inflammations may indicate your cat has a mouth infection. “Gum disease and abscessed teeth may cause cats to drool,” he says. A chat with your veterinarian is in order. 

2. Your Cat Has Something Lodged in Her Throat or Esophagus. 

If your cat has access to houseplants or goes outside, she may have consumed a plant leaf, a blade of grass, or some other object that got lodged in her mouth or esophagus. A foreign body in these areas will make it hard for your cat to swallow, and she may drool in response. If you think this has happened, talk to your veterinarian. 

3. Your Cat Has Eaten Something that Tastes Bad. 

Your cat may also drool if he has eaten something unpleasant tasting. Generally if cats have ingested poison, they throw up. But if they’ve eaten something that simply tastes bad, they may drool as a way to get rid of the taste (in the same way you might drool if you taste something bad). Nunnally suggests that if your cat is drooling uncharacteristically, you should talk to your vet. 

4. Your Cat is Anxious. 

If you have placed your cat in a carrier and transported her in a car to a vet appointment, she may drool because she is freaked out about, well, so many parts of that scenario. “If your cat gets super worked up over something, he may drool,” Nunnally says. Cats don’t like change generally, and something out of the ordinary such as a car ride may amp up their anxiety levels, as well as their salivary glands. If this happens, wait out the anxiety-inducing situation, and your cat will stop drooling. 

5. Your Cat is Afraid. 

Fear alone can cause a cat to drool. If your cat feels threatened, she may drool excessively. If possible, get her to a safe space away from the stressor, and when your cat feels safe again, she will stop drooling.

6. Your Cat is Happy and Relaxed. 

According to Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant in San Francisco and author of Naughty No More: Change Unwanted Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement, some cats drool when they are content. “They may also be kneading as well,” she notes. “In some cats, drooling is part of happy behavior.” Think of it as a reaction to the bliss of being around you, but if you don’t like the drool, Krieger suggests placing a towel or washcloth under your cat while you are petting her so you aren’t drooled on. “Don’t try to change the behavior or be upset by it,” she says. “Some cats are just droolers.”