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Ask Amy: Cat Drooling

Why Do Cats Drool When Petted?

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Question: Why does my cat drool when petted?

Sally writes about her six-year-old neutered male cat Tuxedo, who was adopted at six weeks of age, lives with his littermate and another cat, and was last seen by the veterinarian about a year and a half ago. “He’s a very healthy, happy, well adjusted house cat, but I’ve noticed this interesting (not bad) behavior since he was a young catling. I have asked several people about it and they don't have an answer. 

Whenever I pet him and he starts purring, he drools all over the place. He can't seem to swallow and purr at the same time. Neither of the other cats do this, but I have known other cats who do this. Why does this happen? Did his mum forgot to teach him how to purr and swallow or are his facial muscles so relaxed that they are unable to work? Why is this unique to some cats and not to others? I just try and put a towel under him when we are petting on him.”

Amy’s Answer

Wouldn't it be boring if all our cats were the same? Veterinarians and behavior specialists look at the cat’s physical and emotional health, as well as traits of instinct to help figure out what’s going on with behavior puzzles. Think of this as the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers. 

H=Health

Cats can at times develop mouth ulcers, tooth damage or periodontal disease that prompts drooling. However, that would usually take place during meals or at times other than petting sessions. Since Tuxedo hasn't been seen in over a year, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have the veterinarian take a look to rule out health issues.

I=Instinct

Drooling isn't a particularly instinctive behavior in cats. The tendency to drool, though, may be more common in related individuals. The sight or smell of certain foods can prompt salivation, just as a tempting meal might make your mouth water.

S=Stress

When a cat feels stressed, excessive grooming may be a way he helps calm himself. That could require increased salivation, but I'm not aware of a direct link between drooling and stress.

S=Symptom Solvers

I really don’t know why some cats drool and blow bubbles while others don’t. They must simply be wired differently. The mechanism to turn on the water works has to do with the same pleasure triggers that prompt petted cats to knead/tread in satisfaction.

Cats’ impulse to knead hearkens back to the sensation they felt when nursing, and eating would trigger salivation. So it’s not a huge jump to attribute salivating and drooling to these same pleasurable sensations. Drooling when petted is one more way cats show us love.
 

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