Why Do Cats Drool When Petted?

Woman sitting on bed stroking her cat
Brand New Images/Stone/Getty Images

Question: Why does my cat drool when petted?

Sally writes about her six-year-old neutered male Tuxedo cat, 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. “Tuxie’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 does this, but I have known other cats who do this. Why does this happen? Did his mum forget 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 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. 


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 Tuxie 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.


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.

Franny's Comments: 

Carrying this back to Tuxie's adoption during kittenhood, he was very young, when Sally first noticed this behavior:  He was a very young kitten when Sally adopted him, and it was likely that he hadn't gotten enough nursing time in with his mother cat. It occurs to me that kittens salivate when they are nursing, and they salivate in anticipation of it. Wouldn't it then be normal for Tuxedo to salivate when he is being held and petted by his surrogate mother, as the experience sends his memory back to those blissful days with his feline mother?


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.

Edited on by Franny Syufy