The dangling shoestrings and couch-staining drool are standard “canine package” features, most common in towering dog breeds (i.e., Mastiffs) or after rough-housing in the yard. But when your lazy, 11-pound kitty unleashes a mini saliva waterfall, too, it’s nothing short of outlandish. Fluffy’s wet spots typically follow a roaring-purr snuggle session, but why do cats drool – especially when they are happy?
Cats drool because they feel soothed, relaxed, or content. Because the drooling often follows purring or kneading, experts theorize that this traces back to kittenhood while nursing, kneading mom’s chest to stimulate tasty milk production. Drooling can also signal dental diseases, trauma, or nausea.
Mildly soaked shirts aside, cat drool is more an innocent compliment than anything else. That half-zonked-out kitty might not even realize she’s dripping from the mouth as she forcefully kneads your chest, sinking her claws in unknowingly. To learn about why cats drool, read on!
Why Do Cats Drool?
There’s plenty of crossover between cat and dog instincts, but drooling is another story. Unlike dogs, cats rarely drool after capturing that taunting laser, as you’re preparing a meaty sandwich in the kitchen, or when you make a surprise visit home during your lunch hour.
If your cat is drooling, these are the most likely reasons:
Feeling Soothed, Relaxed, or Content
That snuggle session’s drooling likely traces back to hardwired kittenhood instincts. Hungry kittens learn early on that tasty, refreshing milk comes from their mother’s teats. When a kitten “makes biscuits” (kneads) on her mother’s abdomen, it stimulates nearby milk glands to release the milk that the kitten can then suckle from the nipples — just like breastfeeding.
By six-weeks-old, most kittens begin transitioning to pate, canned kitten food and never return once fully-weaned. But even senior cats still link the kneading sensation to cozying up to their mothers before that ultra-sweet belly-filling snack. The kneading signals the same comfort, happiness, and security that kittens feel alongside their mothers, but cats never entirely disconnect the psychological kneading-nursing link.
Cats knead before settling down for a nap with their favorite humans to express happiness and love while getting comfy. When your cat begins drooling while purring and kneading on you, it stems from a content, relaxed, or otherwise soothing feeling that she’d sense before nursing.
Congratulations; you have a happy drooler!
Intense Fear, Anxiety, or Nervousness
Most drooling instances happen as your kitty curls up in your lap, snuggles beside you on your pillow, or fluffs that cozy burrowing blanket before a power nap on the sofa. But the opposite — intense fear, anxiety, or nervousness — can also result in this same wet, psychological response.
Drooling, panting, excessive grooming, and odd vocalizations can all stem from any of these common anxiety-inducing triggers:
- Long car rides
- A vet visit or check-up
- Loud sounds (fireworks, bass-thumping music, etc.)
- A poorly-introduced cat, dog, or baby
- Routine changes (warning: cats are bizarrely routine-oriented)
Your cat might be an ordinarily aloof critter while also being incredibly aware of her surroundings. If the mini-shoestrings start dangling after you whip out the cat carrier, which historically leads to a vet check-up, your cat’s drooling is almost certainly a stress response.
Fluffy might not suffer sleepless nights over money worries, but even the most rough-and-tumble kitties can be sensitive to stress. The video below details signs that all cat owners should know:
Oral, Dental, or Other Diseases
Before you assume that your cat’s drooling is a messy “I love you” note, you’ll want to verify that the drooling isn’t actually a medical symptom. In the table below, you’ll discover common drooling causes, signs to look for, and whether a vet visit should grace the top of your to-do list.
|Condition||Cause||Symptoms||Vet Visit Required?|
|Heatstroke||Flat-faced cats who struggle to breathe in heat; dehydration||Unusually high body temperature, panting, sweaty feet, restlessness, lethargy||Yes, immediately|
|Nausea||Kidney disease; parasites; GI tract diseases; poison ingestion; object trapped in mouth||Licking lips, constant swallowing, abdominal contractions (before vomiting)||Yes, especially if you suspect poisoning or an object lodged in the throat|
|Trauma||Electrical cord burns in the mouth; broken teeth or jaw||Lack of appetite, visible wounds or discoloration, swelling and bleeding||Yes, your cat may have life-threatening injuries too|
|Dental disease||Mouth ulcers or lesions; gum disease; gingivitis||Trouble eating, missing teeth, swollen gums, bad breath, discolored teeth||Depends on severity, call vet for advice|
Above all else, reflect on what happened before the drooling (and other odd symptoms) began. Think back and inspect the house to discover the possible cause; was Fluffy …
- Gnawing on your azalea leaves or the TV power cord?
- Chasing a mouse around in the backyard?
- Returning from a days-long rendezvous in the woods guarded by aggressive tomcats?
- Yanking threads from the carpet or stitches from a mouse toy?
- Eating ultra-crunchy kibble?
- Picking raw chicken scraps from the trash can?
The more detail you can provide your vet, the better. Write down Fluffy’s symptoms (and what seems to trigger them) before you forget!
What To Do About Cat Drool
Even if Fluffy’s drooling habit is a joyous kittenhood reenactment with you in the starring role (as her strangely hairless mother), it can still be a mildly gag-inducing behavior. Instead of nudging your cat awake or cutting the nap short, here are three possible “cures” to cat drooling:
Call the Vet
If your cat is a newfound drooler or is acting otherwise strange, don’t chalk it up to seasonal changes, allergies, or routine adjustments immediately. Call the vet to get a second opinion or try to squeeze in a same-day appointment. The vet will probably check your cat’s teeth and mouth first before performing a full-body exam. Or recommend a urine test and blood panel to rule out infections, kidney disorders, or poisoning.
Cat Drool Clean-Up Tips
If you have a happy-go-lucky drooler on your hands, you’ll become a saliva clean-up fiend in no time! When the drool forms set-in stains on your couch, bed, or blanket, here’s how clean it:
- Mix 3% hydrogen peroxide (½ cup) with ammonia (1 tbsp.).
- Blot the solution on the stain without saturating the cushion.
- Let it sit for a half-hour.
- Use a dry paper towel to blot the liquid.
- Dab cool water onto the stained area, and then absorb it with a thick towel.
Test the solution on a hidden fabric section first before dousing your couch with it. Also, keep your cat and other pets away from the area as the chemicals sit and dissolve the stain.
Lay a Drool Rag Down While Cuddling
Those co-cuddle sessions are your favorite way to end the night. Instead of washing your blankets (or scrubbing them clean) every few days, lay a special drool-proof blanket in your kitty’s favorite cuddle destination. These fleece blankets will stop the drool from soaking into your mattress or couch without forcing Fluffy to sleep on the bare couch un-burrowed.
That tiny drool puddle will likely become a crusty blanket patch by morning, but at least now you know why (and hopefully, it’s a feel-good affectionate sign). Now, if you’re unsure about whether this leaky drool is a new (albeit gross) behavior or something that always flew under the radar, look for more obvious signs that something’s wrong, like:
- Lethargy, fatigue, or depressed mood
- Lack of appetite or trouble eating
- Mouth burns (particularly blisters wedge into the corners)
- Hiding or aggression
When the drooling doesn’t come with purring, kneading, and cuddling, call your kitty’s veterinarian to ask for advice.
- American Kennel Club: Is Your Dog’s Drool Cool? When It’s Natural and When It’s Cause for Concern
- PetMD: Heat Stroke in Cats
- VCA Hospitals: Vomiting in Cats
- Wag! Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures in Cats
- VCA Hospitals: Common Cat Dental Problems
- AAHA: Is My Cat’s Kneading Normal?
- PetMD: The Ultimate Guide to Cat Anxiety
- Scottsdale Cat Clinic: Understanding Your Cat’s Blood Work
- ASPCA: Azalea