Why Does My Cat Dribble?

This is quite a common question. The causes are listed here – there are many. This means you’ll more or less have to take her to a vet because diagnosing the medical causes of drooling requires skill and knowledge. Alternative but similar questions are:

  • Why does my cat have a lot of saliva all of a sudden?
  • Why does my cat dribble when I stroke her?
  • Why does my cat drool?
  • Dribbling without purring?

Cat Drooling

I’ll cover all the reasons for drooling or dribbling below. In medical parlance, drooling is hypersalivation.

Non-medical reasons

Healthy cats don’t drool except perhaps under these conditions:

  • When about to be given a nasty medicine or injection (psychological).
  • When purring and relaxed. Is this a kitten reflex response? Cats will purr when stroked. Stroking is like being licked by mother cat. This happens when newborns are suckling. This may stimulate salivation.

These are the medical reasons. Some will be rare:

  1. Electric shock causing burns to the lips and mouth.
  2. Heat stress and heat stroke.
  3. Drug poisoning (wrong drugs administered or an excess of the correct drugs).
  4. Poisoning from substances such as strychnine. There may be accompanying seizures. See a complete list of page about toxicity and cats.
  5. Poisoning from toads. There are poisonous toads in the USA: Colorado River toad (Southwest and Hawaii) and the marine toad (Florida).
  6. Salamander poisoning. This is the California newt (California).
  7. A sting or bite. Insects sting and snakes bite. There are four poisonous snakes in the USA – see cat snake bites.
  8. Poisoned by a toxic plant.
  9. Respiratory infection due to calicivirus leading to mouth ulcers (called stomatitis).
  10. Rabies.
  11. Insecticides for flea control as these are toxic.
  12. Foreign object in the mouth, tongue or throat.
  13. Gum disease (periodontal disease). See Oriental cats and gum disease.
  14. Severe inflammation of mouth and gums due to feline gingivitis stomatitis.
  15. Growth on the gums and mouth (cancer).
  16. Inflammation of the tongue due to underlying infection or injury.
  17. Stomatitis – means inflamed and sore mouth.
  18. Disease of the esophagus (the gullet).
  19. Sore throat or tonsillitis.
  20. Motion sickness due to travelling.
  21. Liver failure. Another sign is jaundice (yellowing of membranes and skin).
  22. Nutrients not processed by liver caused by a “portosystemic shunt”. Effect is similar to liver failure.
  23. Paralysis of facial muscles due to a disorder involving the facial nerves.
  24. Milk fever (eclampsia) in nursing mother cat. This is due to low calcium levels in blood serum.
  25. Aspirin. One aspirin per day for a few days can cause salivation and staggered walking plus vomiting. Feline pain relief.
  26. Intestinal parasites (with nausea).
  27. Inflammatory bowel disease.

The most common cause is probably mouth disease.

It almost goes without saying that if your cat is drooling for no apparent reason, the best course of action is to book a veterinary appointment as soon as possible.

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Why Does My Cat Dribble? — 6 Comments

  1. I’ve heard that cats with many teeth removed dribble but I suppose removal of teeth comes as a result of one of the problems listed. It’s not uncommon. I’ve met drooling cats before but never knew that it could be due to a serious medical condition.

  2. Hi Michael,

    That’s a really helpful and big list of causes. It’s nice to know.

    It looks like many of them require a visit to the vet.

    I might add that spices – especially hot spices – will make a cat drool.

    I’ve seen the anticipation reaction on a few occasions during the course of a pill giving regimen. A cat will start drooling when she knows she is about to get a pill.

    Right now I have a friendly lap cat who drools every time she gets some lap lovin’. I always take it as a compliment. Lap sessions make her so happy and relaxed. She visits my lap several times a day no matter where I am sitting down in the house.

    It makes a lot of sense that they would drool when they purr. I’m sure you’re right about the suckling for mother’s milk reflex bit. Digestion starts in the mouth and in addition to chewing, saliva release plays a big part. That would be a likely explanation for drooling while getting petted.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • Thanks Liz for that extra cause:

      I might add that spices – especially hot spices – will make a cat drool.

      I think that rounds up the list. I hope a list is useful. Just a plain list as it allows people to understand there are many causes and some are serious. The only way forward is a vet visit really.

  3. Sealy always has a wet bottom lip. We don’t know whether its from the brain damage or because he’s toothless. The vet says not to worry as he’s healthy now.

    Liquid Benedryl will make a cat drool in long drips like with a very nasty URI.

  4. Nothing I can add, but Happy Day-After-Boxing-Day to all. 😉

    I was touched. One of our local news channels followed a large, long-haired, ginger/white domestic stray cat from his unfortunate run in with a cactus, through all the medical until they found him a new home. The world has sure changed. Animals have rights. It made me think of this webpage and all the work that is done here. Let’s hope that 2013 can he a banner year for animal rights!

    BTW: I love this type of article. Really great idea.

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