Cat Drooling and Lethargic or Not Eating? Our Vet Shares What to Do

Your kitty has been lying around, lost interest in things, and drooling. Or maybe she’s not eating but keeps dribbling saliva. Should you be concerned? 

Drooling can point to medical issues in cats, so it shouldn’t be ignored. In this article, we’ll examine why cats drool, the top reasons that felines drool with lethargy or anorexia, and what to do about it.

Why do cats drool?

While dogs may drool profusely at the drop of a hat, that’s not the case with cats. Some felines will dribble a little saliva when they’re relaxed or content, but heavy slobbering points to underlying medical conditions such as mouth infections, dental disease, and organ disease. 

What are the top reasons cats drool and are lethargic or anorexic?

There are various reasons that cats drool and become lethargic or anorexic. Below, we’ll examine the top causes.

Oral or dental disease

Mouth pain from gum disease or dental problems is a top cause of drooling and loss of appetite. Broken teeth and inflamed tissues can make eating difficult. Signs of oral and dental disease include:

  • Dropping pieces of food
  • Blood-streaked saliva
  • Reddened gums
  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Weight loss

Cats with an oral or dental disease should see a veterinarian for an exam. Depending on the specific condition, they may need dental cleaning, mouth irrigation, and/or antibiotics.

Liver or kidney disease

As cats age, they can develop liver or kidney disease. These organs help to remove toxins from the blood. When they stop working properly, the disease can have devastating effects. Signs of organ disease include:

  • Drooling from nausea
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst or urination

Heatstroke

When cats get overheated and don’t have free access to water, they can suffer from heatstroke. The condition is more prevalent in cats with flat faces such as Persians. Kitties with heat stroke may also exhibit:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Listlessness or lethargy
  • Ataxia or stumbling
  • Vomiting

If you suspect heatstroke, get your cat out of the sun and in a cool environment then call your vet immediately. Depending on the severity of the condition, the doctor may need to administer IV fluids and provide other supportive care.

Intestinal blockage

If your cat swallows a piece of string or another object that gets stuck in the intestines, it can cause an obstruction. When this happens, the circulation gets cut off and triggers organ failure. Signs of blockage include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad breath
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Weakness

An intestinal blockage is an emergency condition that requires immediate veterinary care and usually surgery. If you suspect an obstruction take your kitty to the clinic or emergency care center.

When is drooling considered excessive or abnormal?

For some cats, minimal drooling can be normal. But when saliva pours from your kitty’s mouth, or he slobbers all the time, it’s excessive. It may also be a problem if your cat doesn’t have a history of dribbling drool. Other signs that can accompany abnormal drooling include:

  • Bad breath
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal or eye discharge

What can you do to help your cat at home now?

When you notice your cat is slobbering, you should carefully examine her mouth. Look for reddened gums, foreign bodies, or signs of trauma. Don’t put your fingers inside her mouth to prevent being bit.

If you don’t notice anything in the mouth, observe your cat’s behavior. As long as she’s not gagging or vomiting, you can offer some water. Sometimes, drooling ends in a few hours. If it doesn’t, call your veterinarian to schedule an office visit. Otherwise, you should still report the symptoms to your kitty’s doctor but may not need to take her in.

When to call your veterinarian and what they can do for your cat

Call your veterinarian any time your cat drools excessively for more than a few hours or starts salivating continuously. Additionally, if any of the following signs accompany your kitty’s drooling, you should schedule an exam:

  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Swellings around the mouth and lips
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty eating, drinking, or swallowing
  • Vomiting or gagging
  • Weakness and lethargy

 

At the clinic, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination and may also

  • Run blood tests
  • Do a fecal exam
  • Run a urinalysis
  • Take an x-ray or ultrasound

 

Treatment will depend on the vet’s findings and diagnosis. 

  • For oral or dental diseases, your vet may schedule a dental cleaning and administer antibiotics if there are signs of infection. 
  • Cats with liver or kidney disease may require supportive care including IV fluids. If indicated, your vet may also prescribe antibiotics or long-term medications to manage the disease.
  • If your kitty suffers from heat stroke, your veterinarian will provide supportive care including fluids and oxygen as needed. He’ll also check her blood for signs of organ damage from the elevated body temperatures and observe your cat for a few hours.
  • An intestinal blockage in cats usually requires surgery. Your veterinarian will also provide supportive care including IV fluids, anti-inflammatory medications, and drugs to control pain.

What does recovery look like for cats that drool excessively and are lethargic or not eating?

Your cat’s recovery will vary depending on the reason he’s drooling and lethargic or anorexic. 

  • With oral or dental disease, most cats respond well to dental cleaning, tooth extraction, and antibiotic medications. Recovery after treatment may take 7-14 days or longer. Some cats require ongoing treatment and periodic cleanings.
  • The prognosis for feline liver disease is guarded because symptoms usually don’t appear until the condition is advanced. However, when cats receive early treatment, they may recover in 3-6 weeks or longer. 
  • In the case of kidney disease, cats require long-term observation and treatment. If the disease is caught and treatment started in the early stages, the prognosis is favorable. Cats can enjoy a good quality of life for several years. 
  • Cats that suffer from heatstroke can recover over several days, depending on the severity of the condition. If the elevated body temperature causes organ damage, the prognosis is less favorable. Once a cat experiences heatstroke, it’s more susceptible to the condition in the future.
  • For uncomplicated intestinal blockages, the prognosis and recovery are good. Most cats will recover in a few weeks to a month.

 

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.