Did you know that cats can drool? That’s right, despite drooling often only being associated with dogs, cats can also release a little slobber from their mouths from time to time. And one time you may see drooling more frequently is when you pet your cat.
If this is the case you may be wondering “Why does my cat drool when I pet him?”, and you wouldn’t be alone! Lots of pet parents want the answers to all their furry friend’s curious behaviors. This enables us to understand and communicate better with our pets to give them happy and fulfilling lives.
In most cases, seeing your cat drool when you pet him is usually a good sign. This is especially true is accompanied by purring – another sign of contentment and happiness. However, some cats drool when they feel uneasy or upset, and in some cases, drooling can indicate a medical condition, such as dental disease.
In this article, I run through all the reasons why my cat drools when I pet him, and why your feline could be doing the same. But to start with, why do cats even drool in the first place?
Why Do Cats Drool?
Cats – just like us, canines, and almost all other animals – all have saliva in our mouths. Saliva plays an important function in keeping our mouths wet and lubricated so it feels comfortable. It also contains enzymes that help break down food and helps us to chew, swallow, and taste.
Saliva also acts as one of the body’s defense mechanisms against germs. It has an antibacterial effect to fight off any bacteria that may enter the mouth. This protects us from diseases, helps protect our teeth, and helps to stop us from getting bad breath!
When cats drool, this saliva flows unintentionally out their mouths and down their little furry faces. Therefore, drooling is caused by one of two things:
- Cats produce too much saliva which accumulates and starts to dribble out
- Cats lose control of the muscles that usually hold their mouths closed and their saliva inside
Therefore, any scenario that makes your cat produce more saliva or causes them to relax their jaw muscles can result in drooling. For example, when content, cats will relax all the muscles in their bodies, including the muscles responsible for holding their jaw closed. As such, they could start to dribble a little down their durry chin.
Seeing food could be another reason why your cat is drooling but acting normal. As saliva helps us to chew and digest food, our bodies naturally produce more saliva when seeing a tasty meal. However, this isn’t a normal physiological response in cats and is much more common in dogs.
Salivating is also a normal response to oral pain, such as teething, and oral injury, or painful dental diseases. However, if your cat is suffering from pain you will likely notice other signs alongside them drooling excessively. Examples of other signs include inflamed or bleeding gums and loss of appetite as it hurts your kitty to eat their dinner.
Why Does My Cat Drool When I Pet Him?
If you’re worried about the answer take a deep sigh of relief – chances are it is just that your kitty is extremely happy, relaxed, and content. But, there is a small chance your cat is unhappy or unwell.
Here is a close look in more detail at the different reasons why cats drool when you pet them and how you can tell whether to worry or not.
1. Your Cat is Feeling Happy & Relaxed
Nine times out of ten, your cat will be drooling when you pet them as they are feeling happy, relaxed, and loved by their favorite person – you!
Think of it this way, cats purr when you pet them, right? Purring during petting is usually an indication that your cat is happy and enjoying its cuddles. This is your cat’s way of saying thank you and showing love and affection. After all, you are likely your cat’s best friend and they love spending quality time with you all curled up in your lap.
Therefore, if your cat is drooling when purring and while your pet them, you can be pretty certain it is because they’re enjoying themselves. Pleasurable stimulation like petting can cause an increase in salivation, making it common for a little dribble to escape.
Additionally, if a cat is feeling super chilled when being petted, they will allow all the muscles in their bodies to relax, including the ones that usually hold their little mouths closed. This also makes drooling more likely. Think of it as being similar to how some people will dribble when they’re asleep and our bodies are totally relaxed.
If unsure whether your cat drools when happy, there are a few other signs of contentment you can look out for. Spot any of these in combination with petting, drooling, and purring and you can be pretty certain you’ve got a very happy cat indeed! These signs include:
- Kneading: Otherwise known as “making biscuits”, cats knead their paws rhythmically when they are feeling loving and happy. They used to knead their mother’s breasts to stimulate milk production when kittens, so kneading is a sure sign of love and affection.
- Body Language: Looking at your cat’s eyes, ears, tail, and body position can also tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. Happy cats will often slow blink their eyes and will wave their tail gently from side to side. Their body position will be relaxed and comfortable. Additionally, cats act weird when you scratch the base of their tail, raising their rear in the air as a show that they’re enjoying themselves and you’re hitting just the right spot!
- Head Butting: Happy cats that are enjoying being petted will often head butt you or nudge your hand with their face. This is their way of telling you that they are loving their petting session and don’t want you to stop!
2. Your Cat is Feeling Anxious & Stressed
There is also a possibility that your cat is drooling when you pet him as he is feeling anxious and stressed. Just as increased salivation is a normal and uncontrollable response to pleasure, it is also a natural response to fear. So, how can we tell the difference?
The best way to tell if your cat is feeling scared or anxious is to assess the situation. Here are some examples of situations where your cat may be stressed:
- Traveling: Are you traveling with your cat and stroking them on the journey? Many cats hate traveling and may feel scared. In fact, this is one of the biggest stressors for cats! Additionally, several cats suffer from motion sickness. Nausea is known to increase salivation further, making drooling even more likely.
- Loud Noises: When your cat started drooling, were you having a house party, or was it bonfire night? These are just two examples, but any loud noises can scare your cat! If you went over to pet and comfort your kitty during a stressful event and noticed them drooling, it’s probable that they aren’t enjoying the scary noises.
- New People/Animals: Having new people or animals in your home can make cats feel stressed out. If you’re petting a cat you’ve never met before and notice they drool, it could be that they’re nervous about you.
The above three examples are just a few possibilities of situations that could be stressing your cat out enough to make them drool. However, it is far from an exhaustive list. Cats love routine and hate change, meaning they can come stressed pretty easily.
It is good to know the symptoms of stress and anxiety so you can understand how your cat is feeling. Aside from the occasionally drooling, other signs include excessive vocalization and more timid or aggressive behavior. Cats can breathe through their mouth when stressed too. If you spot any of these symptoms, remove the stressor where possible.
Why Is My Cat Drooling Excessively?
Given the above explanations, it is completely normal for my cat to drool when I pet her. Next time you notice a little slobber during a petting session, especially if your cat is drooling when purring, you can relax knowing they’re happy. Even if your kitty is drooling due to stress, this will subside once the stressful situation has ended.
However, if you notice your cat is drooling excessively – and not only when you pet her but all the time – it can indicate injury or illness. In these cases, your cat will often be suffering from oral pain which naturally causes excess saliva production. These conditions may also make it more painful for your kitty to keep her mouth shut, meaning she lets her jaw hang and starts to drool.
Other times, illness can cause cats to feel sick in their stomach. As already mentioned briefly, cats naturally produce more saliva when they feel nauseous. This is because the saliva can help to dilute to vomit so it can be expelled more easily. Besides, when cats feel sick they may swallow less, leading to an accumulation of saliva in the mouth and excessive drooling.
Some of the illnesses linked with drooling as a symptom include the following:
- Dental Disease: Dental disease affects up to 85% of senior cats. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of the disease, where your cat’s gums become inflamed and swollen due to a build-up of plaque. The disease then progresses to damage the teeth, tissues, and ligaments. This produces a lot of oral pain which leads to drooling.
- Upper Respiratory Infection (URIs): URIs are where viruses or bacteria infect a cat’s upper airways, similar to a human cold. Mouth ulcers can be a symptom, which in turn causes oral pain and drooling. It can also lead to congestion and open-mouth breathing, so slobbering becomes more likely.
- Gastrointestinal Infections: Bacteria and viruses can infect the GI tract too, leading to gastrointestinal infections. In these diseases, the stomach and intestines become irritated leading to vomiting and diarrhea. This nauseousness can cause drooling.
- Gastrointestinal Blockage: Your cat may have eaten something that has blocked part of its GI tract. Examples include pieces of ribbon or string from their favorite toys. In these cases, the foreign material also leads to feelings of nausea and drooling.
- Toxicity: Cats easily get their paws on things that they shouldn’t, and eating a toxic substance can cause poisoning. Examples of toxic substances can be found all around our homes, such as some houseplants, onions and garlic, cleaning products, and more! This will cause severe stomach upset, nauseousness, and drooling.
- Oral Injury: Rather than a medical condition, oral injury can also cause drooling. Your cat could have sustained an injury by chewing on a sharp object or getting into a fight with another animal. The open wound may make it painful for your cat to keep her mouth closed.
- Heatstroke: Cats that are suffering from heatstroke may also drool as they pant and breathe through their mouth in an attempt to lower their core body temperature. You should try helping your cat cool down by moving them to a cooler area of the home and encouraging them to drink. If their temperature continues to rise, it can be a medical emergency.
Aside from these diseases, there are also several more severe underlying health conditions that can cause nausea and drooling. A few examples include diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism. These diseases can impact the quality and length of your cat’s life, so an early diagnosis is important.
Moreover, neurological conditions can cause drooling. The movement of all the muscles around your cat’s jaw and mouth are controlled by your cat’s brain. If a neurological condition damages these neural pathways, they won’t be able to control the muscles as usual and their mouth may hang open. Because of this, drooling is common.
When Should I Call The Vet About My Cat Drooling?
As drooling can be a sign of medical conditions, it is super important that you know when you need to call the vet. The earlier illnesses or medical conditions are noticed, the more likely it is that your cat will make a full recovery.
If your cat only drools when you pet him, you shouldn’t need to visit your vet any time soon. In most cases, a cat drools when happy they’re being stroked and so you can take their dribbles as an indication of their love and affection.
However, if your cat drools abnormally and frequently, you may wish to get some medical advice from your vet. In addition, watching out for other symptoms is essential. If any of the below symptoms accompany drooling them contact your veterinarian as soon as possible:
- Foul-smelling breath
- Red, inflamed, and/or bleeding gums
- Loss or a reduction of appetite
- Respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or nasal discharge
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Lethargy or a reduction in physical activity
At your appointment, your vet will complete a thorough physical examination to check your cat’s health. They will often start by performing a physical examination to check for signs of injury, physical symptoms, or lodged foreign material.
Don’t be surprised if your vet wants to conduct more thorough testing as well though. Examples could include x-rays of their GI tract, blood tests, and urine or fecal tests. These will help identify or rule out any more severe underlying medical conditions that your feline may be suffering from.
Remember, if you are worried about your cat even though they are showing none of the above symptoms, you can still take them to the vet regardless. Even if it is just for peace of mind, I love the comfort of knowing my best friend is happy and healthy and that her drooling is nothing to be concerned about. You know yourself and your cat best, so do what is right for you!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Next time you’re sat petting your cat and he starts drooling, you will know the answer. In most cases, cats drool when happy and relaxed. They love your petting and feel super comfortable. In combination with drooling, they’ll usually show their appreciation through purring, kneading, and other positive body language signs.
However, cats may also drool in response to fear and stress. If your cat is in a stressful situation, do your best to comfort them and try to keep the number of stressors to a minimum. They’ll stop dribbling once they feel happy and content, so try not to worry too much.
With that being said, drooling is a symptom of several medical conditions or illnesses. In fact, it is a symptom for anything that causes either nausea or oral pain. In these cases, a trip to the vet is necessary so your little furball can get the treatment they need as soon as possible.