A gray kitten on a couch, licking with his tongue out.
A gray kitten on a couch, licking with his tongue out. Photography by 5second/Thinkstock.

Cat Drooling — Should You See the Vet?


In the enduring debate of which pet species reigns supreme, you often hear the classic canine putdown “Dogs drool and cats rule!” It makes sense because cats don’t drool — or do they? If you’ve ever wondered if cat drooling should signal a trip to the vet, we’re here to set the record straight.

Cats Drool — But Not Normally

A brown kitten licking with his tongue out.
Cat drooling is usually a sign that something is wrong with your cat. Photography by Seregraff/Thinkstock.

Many dogs drool a lot, and most of us think nothing of it, but most cats usually don’t drool unless their mouths are hurting. “The typical cat does not drool for no reason,” says Tracey Jensen, D.V.M., Dipl. ABVP, medical director at Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Wellington, Colorado. “If they’re drooling, something’s wrong and they need to be seen by the veterinarian to get to the bottom of it.”

Cat Drooling is Typically Associated With Pain

If swallowing hurts, a cat will just allow the saliva to leak out of her mouth instead. Lots of things can cause mouth pain in cats, including dental disease (gingivitis) or a broken tooth, exposure to toxic chemicals or plants, tumors inside the mouth, a string or other foreign body trapped under the tongue and ulcers in the mouth, which are sometimes caused by kidney disease. “Other clinical signs that may accompany drooling include halitosis (bad breath), decreased appetite, weight loss, reluctance to eat hard food or dropping food while eating,” says Cindy Charlier, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, of VDENT Veterinary Dental Education Networking & Training. “If a cat is drooling and the saliva is thick, discolored or blood tinged, or is accompanied by a mouth odor, then a medical reason for drooling should be considered.”

If Your Cat is Drooling, it’s Time to See the Vet

Since cat drooling is frequently linked to pain, schedule a visit to the vet as soon as possible. First, the vet will check to see if your cat has lost any weight. If your cat’s mouth is hurting, she might not be eating normally. Next, the vet will perform a thorough physical exam, checking the mouth and the entire body. “Sometimes, depending on the degree of discomfort, the exam can only go so far because there is so much discomfort,” explains Dr. Jensen, who is also past president of the American Animal Hospital Association (2015 to 2016).  “In these cases, to really get a good look in their mouth we need to sedate them or give them pain medication.” If necessary, your vet might also want to take some X-rays of the mouth to see what might be lurking beneath the gum line.

So, Cat Drool is Abnormal — In Most Cases

In a very small percentage of cats, drooling can be normal. “In my 23 years of practice, I’ve only seen a handful of cats that drool and it’s more of a behavioral thing — they’re drooling as they purr,” Dr. Jensen says. “That’s usually in young cats, and they do it often and repeatedly. If this is a cat who has never drooled before, however, it would be extremely unlikely that this would be a behavioral response. It’s more likely there is some reason that cat does not want to swallow.” If your vet examines your cat and can’t find anything wrong, it very well could be that she is one of those strange cats for whom drooling is not the symptom of a problem.

Thumbnail: Photography by 5second/Thinkstock.

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10 thoughts on “Cat Drooling — Should You See the Vet?”

  1. There is an inheritable condition, my long and short hair Torty rescues (LGrey/orange, SBlack/orange) both have it. The long chicken gulps when purring and doesn’t technically drool. The short just lets to fly or rubs against you, the head butts are disgusting.

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  3. Myself and two of my friends have drooling fur balls that have been that way since day one. They get excited start purring and then the drool starts and before you know it they are shaking their heads and now it’s flying every which way. No health issues here just three excitable black cats.

    1. My guy is black, too. Think there is a connection?? He shakes and sprays drool like a St. Bernard, on a smaller scale, of course. ????

      1. I met a cat the other day who drools and who is a tiny old black female. Is there a connection? My black cat did not drool.

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  5. My car is a year and 5 months old, he has been drooling with me since I got him at 7 weeks old. He will drool when he is lying on my chest and I am talking to him and caressing him and I find this normal with him because I’m his mom and he knows I love him so he gets real happy. What I’m not sure about is now that he is older when he breaths strong close to my face he kind Of sprays me with his nose, just tiny spray a of just water and he is perfectly fine eats well and all, but is this normal?

  6. I have been owned by several cats who turned on the drool when getting attention, or when they got catnip. And it wasn’t just when they were kittens… some were lifelong droolers: hug the cat, get wet! Especially one velcro siamese cross who wanted to be attached to someone almost 24/7: seventeen years of love and drooling.

  7. A little bit too alarmist this article. From my experience (we’re guardians of 4 fur balls), cats drool from excitement/contentment during petting & purring. 2 of our 4 cats do this on queue when petted but not any other time. OTOH, one illness not mentioned in the article is “stomatitis” which 1 of our cats came down with when she was a kitten. It produces a smelly sticky drool without petting or otherwise. Those require trips to the vet, but if your cat leaks a little saliva while you scratch her chin and she’s purring loudly, then that’s just a happy cat. Of course, regular weight monitoring helps keep track of any early warning signs.

  8. In the article you do not make it explicit that you’re talking about a cat drooling pretty much continuously. It’s something that emerges from a careful reading of the whole article.

    In my experience, cats drool in one situation. Anticipation of food. More precisely, anticipation of treats. If I open the treat bag, two or three drops of drool fall to the ground. Guaranteed on two out of three cats I’ve tested it on.

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