Your Cat Is Drooling but Still Eating and Acting Normal: Is There a Reason to Worry?

We expect dogs to drool, but can find it concerning in cats. In truth, some cats dribble a little saliva when they’re content and relaxed. If your kitty suddenly starts slobbering but is acting normal and still eating, should you be worried?

Let’s look at the top reasons cats drool but act normal and keep eating and what you can do about it. We’ll explain when you should be concerned about your kitty’s salivation, which signs suggest there’s something wrong with your furbaby, and when it’s time to call the vet.

Never ignore a drooling cat

Yes, a small amount of drooling can be normal for some cats. But if your furry friend suddenly slobbers heavily or drools all the time, don’t ignore it. Excessive or continual salivation may indicate your kitty has an underlying medical condition that calls for veterinary attention.

Top reasons that cats drool but still eat and act normal

 However, more copious saliva usually suggests there’s a problem. 

Normal drooling in cats

Drool in small quantities can be a normal emotional response for some cats. This type of salivation is short-lived and usually ends when the stimulus ends.

  • Contentment – Your cat is extremely relaxed or content. You may see drooling when you pet your cat or when she’s sleeping. Purring usually accompanies the dribble.
  • Stress/Anxiety – Stressful situations like a car ride or a visit with the vet can trigger some cats to drool. Anxious kitties often vocalize or cry, breathe through their mouths, or act more aggressively than usual.
  • Carsickness – For some cats, rides in the car trigger motion sickness. These cats will start to dribble because they’re nauseous.
  • Medication reaction – If your cat is on certain painkillers or antibiotics, it may experience drooling as a side effect. 
  • Yummy food – Some cats will occasionally drool when there’s a particularly appetizing meal or food. The extra saliva helps them break down the delicious fare.
  • Teething kitten – Just like human babies, kittens may drool a little bit when they’re getting new teeth.

Abnormal drooling in cats

Continual or excessive drooling is not normal for cats, and it usually points to an underlying medical condition. 

Dental disease

Dental disease can cause pain and inflammation that triggers drooling. If your kitty has gingivitis, heavy plaque, or decaying teeth, they may also have bad breath or make unusual mouth motions. As the disease progresses, your cat may eat less or drop food due to mouth pain.

If you notice any of these symptoms with drooling, set up an appointment with your vet. The doctor can examine your kitty and design a treatment plan for her condition.

Mouth injury

Cats usually don’t show pain. However, when felines sustain a painful oral injury, they may drool. If your cat has oral pain, she may rub or press her teeth against you or other objects and prefer to eat wet foods.

If you see a steady stream of drool, your cat may have an oral injury. Take her to the vet for a checkup. It can be difficult to see some types of mouth trauma without anesthesia or an x-ray/ultrasound.

Toxicity

There are several plants and household substances that are toxic to cats. And kitties are curious creatures that use their mouths to explore their environment. These substances may trigger sudden drooling with or without other symptoms. 

If you suspect your cat ingested something that may be poisonous, contact the Pet Poison Helpline or your vet immediately. 

Respiratory infection

Upper respiratory infections in cats are similar to human colds. They’re common and can cause ulcers that make your kitty drool. Felines with upper respiratory infections may also have a runny nose, eye discharge, and a cough. 

When you notice signs of a kitty cold, contact your veterinarian. With appropriate treatment, she can recover quickly. 

Dehydration or heatstroke

When cats get overheated and don’t have fresh water available, they may drool and pant to cool off. Additionally, felines may groom excessively or sleep stretched out on their backs to help release excess body heat. 

If you suspect your cat has heatstroke, move him to a cool place and offer some fresh water. You want to lower his body temperature to normal levels as soon as possible. Then call your veterinarian. Severe cases may require emergency treatment. 

Does it mean my cat’s ok if he eats and acts normal?

Generally, cats that dribble saliva in small quantities are OK if they’re acting and eating normally. This type of drooling can occur in some cats as an expression of emotions. 

  • Contentment – Some kitties drool when they’re snuggling or being pet
  • Relaxation – Cats may drool during sleep or when they’re super relaxed
  • Anxiety/Stress – Stress can trigger minor salivation in some cats. If your kitty is visiting the vet, frightened by fireworks, or experiences another stressful situation, she might dribble.   

Other times that felines may drool when they’re ok include kitten teething and anticipation of a savory meal. In each of these cases, the drool should be short-lived and minimal.

However, if your kitty is constantly slobbering or sheds tons of drool, it’s not normal.

When is drooling a cause for concern?

Signs that your cat’s drooling is a cause for concern include:

  • Drooling for more than a few hours straight
  • Copious amounts of drool
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty chewing or dropping food
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased thirst/drinking
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal or ocular discharge

When you notice any of these signs in addition to drooling, call your veterinarian or take your kitty to the clinic.

Signs that your cat’s drooling is ok

When a cat drools as a normal response to a stimulus, you may also notice:

  • Purring
  • Kneading
  • Dribbling or minor amounts of drool

Some stimuli that may trigger normal drooling include petting/affection, tasty food, and catnip.

What signs say something is wrong and your cat needs help?
Cat need help

Some signs of abnormal drooling indicate that your cat needs immediate care. If you notice these symptoms, get your cat to the emergency clinic immediately.

  • String hanging out of the mouth
  • Evidence that your cat ate something toxic
  • Excessive, thick saliva
  • Pawing at the face
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Ataxia or stumbling
  • Rapid or difficult breathing

How to help your cat at home when he’s drooling excessively

If your cat starts drooling excessively, inspect her mouth to see if there are signs of a foreign body or trauma. Be careful not to put any fingers inside your kitty’s mouth to prevent being bitten. 

If there are no mouth lesions or other observable signs, you can offer your cat a little water. Observe her for the next few hours. If the drooling stops on its own, she’ll probably be fine. However, if drooling continues, you should schedule an appointment with your vet. Even if the drooling subsides, report the symptoms to your vet.

When should you call the vet?

You should call your vet if your cat drools excessively for more than a few hours or slobbers all the time. Other symptoms that should prompt a veterinary consultation include:

  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Swelling of the mouth or lips
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to eat, drink, or swallow
  • Weakness and lethargy

When you bring your kitty in for an exam, the vet may also run tests to rule out underlying conditions:

  • Blood count and chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal exam
  • X-ray or ultrasound

Depending on the doctor’s findings, he may

  • Recommend a dental cleaning or dental work and administer antibiotics if there are signs of an infection
  • Give IV fluids, supportive care, antibiotics, and other medications as indicated to treat kidney or liver disease
  • Treat heat stroke with IV fluids, oxygen, and other supportive care 
  • Conduct surgery to remove an intestinal blockage. Care may include IV fluids, anti-inflammatory medications, and pain-controlling drugs.

Author

  • Dr. Liz Guise, Veterinarian

    Dr. Elizabeth Guise (DVM) graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. She worked as a veterinarian in private practice for over two years before going to work with the USDA as a veterinary medical officer for 14 years.