Categories: Cat Health

Cat licking mouth excessively with occasional gagging

by Monica

“Pirate” is 11-13 years old (we adopted him from the shelter). He has all his vaccinations up to date.

He’s been sleeping more than usual the last few days, and his MEOW is now broken up – like he’s hoarse.

Today, he has been excessively licking his lips, but not thirsty beyond his ordinary water intake. Occasionally he gags, but nothing is coming up. We cannot see any throat obstructions.

Any idea why a cat would be so dry mouthed?


Hi Monica…. Thanks for visiting and asking. I won’t diagnose but recite what the experts say might cause the symptoms that you say your cat has.


Coughing and gagging can be caused by roundworms that “crawl up the windpipe and are swallowed”.

Difficulty in swallowing, gagging, choking and drooling indicate a foreign body in the mouth, tongue or throat.

A foreign body is also indicated when a cat does one or more these: paws at the mouth, rubs the mouth along the floor, drools, gags, licks the lips or holds the mouth open.

You say that you can’t see any foreign objects. You might check again with a good torch. If a cat has difficulty breathing because of an object in the throat, the object would have moved to the larynx. Difficulty breathing naturally creates an possible emergency.

A sore throat, although not a common illness in a cat, can cause fever, coughing, gagging, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Tonsillitis causes similar symptoms to sore throat.


The symptoms as described would on the face of it indicate a foreign object. I would double check and take your cat to a vet to check this out.

It can be tricky to look into a cat’s mouth with precision for obvious reasons – cats don’t like it and don’t allow it except for a brief glimpse.

I don’t think that Pirate has a dry mouth. The lip licking is a symptom of another problem. Sleeping more is due to discomfort. The “broken meow” might also indicates a object near the voice box (larynx).

Hope this helps. These are only pointers. There is no substitute for a good vet as I am sure the regular visitors to PoC will remind me.

Source: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Guide by Dr Carlson and Giffin pages 38, 165, 178, 180-81, 186, 188, 214.

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Cat licking mouth excessively with occasional gagging

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Feb 04, 2011 Cat with same symptoms
by: Anonymous

Monica, Did you find out what the problem was with your cat? I have an 11 year old cat with the same sympotoms you mentioned. I took hime to the vet and they could not find a problem.


Dec 13, 2010 I agree with Barbara
by: Leah (England)

Have you only just adopted him? Did you take him to the vets for a health check when you first had him?

You see the thing is if you’ve had him late in life it could be any number of things and there really in no substitute for professional advice.

If he was mine I wouldn’t leave him a minute longer as this could turn into an emergency in no time at all and apart from that he seems distressed so please don’t let him get any worse.

Dec 13, 2010 A trip to the vet
by: Barbara

It could be a number of things and if you’ve had a good look in his mouth and you can’t see anything then the next step is a trip to the vet and sooner rather than later. It could be a bad or loose tooth, something caught between teeth, something fine like a small bone stuck in the throat or further down, an ulcer on gum or tongue, it could even be lower down in his actual stomache, maybe a hairball is stuck. All these things are what springs to the mind of a simple cat carer, nothing is a substitute for professional advice and your little cat sounds distressed so please take Michaels advice and go to the vet, preferably today.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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