Why Do Cats Drool When They’re Happy?

June 1, 2012

By Julia Williams

Last week, Langley Cornwell discussed the feline behavior known as kneading, which is often called “making biscuits” or “making bread.” The comments poured in, which led me to conclude that many cats knead, but they all do it in their own unique way. I really enjoyed reading about everyone else’s cats and seeing how a common behavior could be carried out in so many different ways. It got me thinking about another funny feline behavior that some cats engage in: drooling when they are happy.

I confess – I have a drooler in my family. Her name is Annabelle, and when I am brushing her or petting her on my bed, her drool machine is turned on high. I have learned that unless I want a damp bedspread I need to place a towel under Belle during our brushing sessions. So, I always knew she drooled when she was happy, but I didn’t know how much until the day I bent down to give her paw a quick kiss after her brushing. That was one soggy paw! Ewww is right.

The interesting thing is that although Belle is a drooler, she doesn’t do it every time I brush her. Moreover, sometimes she drools only lightly while other times it’s like a waterfall. Of my two boy kitties, Rocky has never drooled a day in his entire life, while Mickey will drool once in a great while. So…why do some cats drool, and others don’t? And why, like my Belle, does the drooling vary from a river to a trickle to nothing at all?

Firstly, if your cat has never drooled and suddenly starts, there may be a problem with their teeth or the inside of their mouth. You should have your vet check your cat’s mouth for ulcers, tooth damage or periodontal disease. If your vet finds that your cat’s mouth is normal and there’s no medical reason for the waterworks – congratulations! You have yourself what is called a “happy drooler.”

It seems that some cats drool in response to positive stimulation, and it’s typically accompanied by loud purring and very often, kitty head bonks. In other words, your cat drools when she is feeling exceptionally relaxed and content. They’re enjoying your brushing, petting or massaging and it makes them feel so blissed out that their muscles relax, which causes their mouth to open and the ‘faucet’ turns on.

Not to worry…a drooling cat is a happy cat. It’s a compliment to you and your bond with your feline friend, really. Your kitty loves the attention and affection so much that she’s relaxed enough to let it all hang loose. Drip. Drip. Purr. Bonk. Rinse and repeat.

No one really knows why some cats drool while others don’t. Some suggest that the droolers must simply be wired differently. That seems plausible, given that some cats love to knead while others don’t. If, like me, you have a cat that drools, there’s no cause for alarm.

In short, drooling is a benign behavior that shouldn’t present any problems – just remember to put a towel underneath your cat when you’re having a good brushing session. And whatever you do…don’t kiss their paw!

Kitten photo by Joseph Sardin
Cat photo by Mary-Lynn

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

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  1. Naomi says:

    I have two happy droolers! But not only do they drool excessively when happy. Their noses run nonstop as well! They have both done it since they were kittens. They are not sick, or have allergies. I’ve googled this and found numerous posts from cat owners that have cats that get the dripping nose when their happy and purring! One of the two also loves to headbutt and bump against you. So when he’s really happy you can expect to get covered in snot and drool! Lol

    1. carolyn says:

      YES..that is my cat..particularly when my partner pats her. Sometimes with me but mostly with him.

  2. Steve says:

    My cat likes to lay above my head, on the couch or in bed, and kneads and drools all over the place. I take it as a gesture of respect and love for me.

  3. Aysia says:

    My bottle fed boy (found at 1 day old) started drooling around 6 months old, I guess he had to get a little mature to start. He’s just over 2 now and drip drip drip every time we snuggle. Generally out of both sides of his mouth and he loves to drag his nose/mouth across my nose and cheek so he washes my face for me! Other than snuggle time he never drools. It’s not a waterfall but it’s a consistent drip for the whole snuggle session haha.

  4. angie says:

    I have a happy drooler called Peypey. What I want to find out is…since she is a farm cat and more times that not, is eating all sort of creepy crawlies…is her drool not dangerous to humans?

  5. Mike G. says:

    I adopted a female orange tabby who cannot be fixed due to a hole in her heart. She is a drooler when loved. They told us there is nothing that can be done and to just make her happy. I will have to try the towel lol..

  6. Philippe M. Duarte says:

    Im almost positive it has to do with the fact that when cats are in that state or relaxation they drool to groom one another i also think it has to do with being separated from their mothers when young and the instinctive need to suckle. im sure at some point the mother cat smack the kittens off her titties because they are grown enough to not need the milk anymore and since we are not cat mothers we cant discipline our them in such ways and once they take it into adulthood i feel like its a hard habit to lose

  7. Indra-Alexis Kapila says:

    My “old man,” Tigie has drooled ever since he was about 1, he’ll be 13 in June. The vet has told me that he’ll drool for me because he is completely comfortable with me, even showing me his belly for daily tummy scratches. My cat is chill AF. That’s just his personality, ever since I found him as a 6 month old kitten. He also drools for my bf, he loves his “daddy.” He is a attention ho, the only time he ever gets displeased is when you stop petting, brushing or scratching him. Sometimes I’ve joked that he’s really 1/2 dog because of his personality. He’s just my awesome lil guy!

  8. Rachel says:

    I have had several cats since childhood I had never ever had one who drooled when stroked or petted. In the past drool meant tooth problems. Then a few years ago we got a little black stray kitten called Bobs. He has drooled when petted from day one! I’d never seen this before but instinct told me it was normal when loved! It’s nice to know it’s a compliment and he’s happy!

  9. Cat says:

    I have several cats. Not a single one of them drooled when being pet, but most of them would knead from time to time. Around October I found three kittens in the woods near my neighbor’s house. They didn’t belong to anyone and we took them in. One was given away and the other two were named Pancake and French Toast. Now, Pancake is a HUGE drooler. But only when she’s the only cat in the room. She otherwise wants nothing to do with me. As soon as those cats leave the room though she’s right in my lap, purring, bopping heads, and drooling all over me.

  10. Monica says:

    Hi I got my self a male cat and he going to be four years old in March we had him for 2 years and he likes to suck on you all the time one day I was having a nap and when I woke up my shirt was wet from him sucking I taped him on the nose to get him to stop it works some time’s I need help thank you

  11. Farm Guy says:

    We adopted a new cat to work as a barn cat, or mouser. She was really unhappy in the barn, and started pulling her fur out in places, So I took her home to take her to the vet in a few days. Once in the warm house, and when brushing her fur, she began drooling copious amounts. I know this is another sign of her happiness, but I need to keep paper towels or kleenex nearby, or my clothes will be drenched. I am going to modify her accommodations in the barn before she goes back. Hopefully she will adjust and be happy there.

    1. melissa says:

      drooling can also be a sign of having ingested something poisonous, either chemical or plant related. Perhaps check the premises to be sure there aren’t any plants growing that are toxic to cats!

  12. Sarah says:

    Here’s a Christmas Miracle for you: My cat vanished a month ago. I gave him up for gone; we are very close to the mountains where a particularly brazen sort of coyotes live. Well, the cat came back tonight!! When we picked him up and pet him he began drooling- a lot, from both sides of his mouth!! I guess he was awfully happy to be home!

  13. william says:

    I have a 15 year old tortie who has drooled since she was a kitten. She only does it when getting massaged and she will start whining around 8pm to get her massage. She also loves kneading so I need a double layer blanket to protect my legs.

  14. Yeah my cat sasha,drools while relaxing on me or the bed,I really appreciate the information I’ve had dogs all my life and this experience is all new to me thanks

  15. Patricia Pena says:

    My cat came to me one evening a year ago when I was feeling especially “down.” Despite the fact the boarding house where I was living didn’t allow pets, I took him in and fed him. I discovered he’d been neutered and chipped, so someone once cared enough about him to get that done; however, after placing several ads for “a found cat that drools alot,” and getting no inquiries, I kept him. I thank the Lord for sending him to me. “Tom Drooley” and I were meant to be together!

  16. Missy says:

    My cat Pepper is a drooler. I took him to the vet about it when I got him 13 years ago. I was told it’s normal and he was fine. He is 14 now and still very healthy. My newest cat 6 month old Bast is a drooler too.

  17. Moragh Winnert says:

    Thanks for the article, I have 2 cats Brujita & Diablillo Brujita drools whenever I pet her (her purr is like an asthmatic breathing) Diablillo only drools when he is kneeding my toweling type dressing gown. Both were strays which arrived with me when they where about 2 years old

  18. Mildred Shipman says:

    We have 2 solid black 1 year olds we raised when eyes hadn’t even opened. Rescued from a shed. The male purrs and drools so much on me, I have to keep baby bibs around my bed and loungechair. The female is always kneading our soft blankets on the sofa but she doesn’t drool. I’m glad they are just extremely happy because we know they are very healthy. My husband and I just love them!

  19. chris hill says:

    Thank you,i thought my cat had a problem,i also have my button with three legs who is so active which always makes me happy we did have the op,he’s only 2 now but full of life and very loving
    Thanks again

  20. Brenda says:

    Both behaviors are displayed by one of my kitties. His purr can also drown out the tv. How come so loud? He’s really big.

  21. Jenna says:

    I have had cats all my life and it always makes me smile with their different little quarks. I recently adopted a little 4 month old kitten from the shelter and her personality is so entertaining among her less than graceful mannerisms she is a drooler. Sometimes it heavier than other but the moment she patched on me and her little purr motor starts going she’s dripping drool everywhere. At first I was concerned but the vet told me it was completely normal and to be happy because she is comfortable in her new home.

  22. Erin says:

    I have 3 cats, all feral strays I adopted, and all 3 of them drool. (2 of them were from the same litter– a family friend found them at his job and asked if I’d take them. Of course!)

    I’ve had other cats in the family when I grew up and I’ve only experienced drooling with these 3, but it’s only ever happened while cuddling/petting. I could tell it was a “happy drooler” situation, but uh…. my bedspread is kinda very wet rn, so I decided to google. And I’m glad I did because I had no idea cats drooled while nauseous or because of an infection/injury in the mouth, though obviously it makes sense now that I’ve read that. I’ll definitely pay attention in the future for non-happy drool scenarios, but even if it’s kinda gross I’ll always appreciate when my babies drool during cuddle time. Even outside of that, sometimes all they have to do is look at me when I walk back into the room and start purring, and I feel relieved that I can make them feel happy and loved. And I feel loved in return!

  23. Hannah says:

    I have a drooler! His name is Osiris and one time his drooling (or in this case, the lack there of) saved his life. We noticed he had stopped drooling and took him to the vet because he always drools when you pet him. ALWAYS! It turned out he had feline hepatic lypadosis and we caught it early enough to be treated at home! Its a little weird to some people but he’s been in my life for 13 years and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  24. Maggie says:

    We adopted a Russian Blue from the shelter a year ago and until today I had never had a cat drool on me. At first, I almost thought it might have been a secretion from the glands in his cheek. I know they mark things using their cheeks… I was petting and nuzzling him and there were just drops of liquid running down my arm from his face. He is a very sweet cat and loves attention so the Internet search had been quite insightful to how certain cats react to affection.

  25. I took in a creamsycile cat his name is popsicle.took him to my vet and had him a overhaul so brought him home and I always wondered if he was happy well thanks to you I know he is cause he drools every time I pet him and love on him thank you so much for the info

  26. Serena says:

    I adopted my drooler along with her sister who doesn’t drool. Both girls have been with me a few years and I thought Elphaba (my happy drooler) would grow out of it since they were only a few months old when I got them, but nope every single time she crawls in my lap for a pet she purrs and drools a river.

  27. Paige says:

    I also have a black cat that I’ve had since she was a kitten and she drools and purrs a lot when you pet her. Everyone in the house loves her!

  28. Robin says:

    I have a black cat that I have had since she was six weeks old. I think she looks at me like her mom. She purrs and drools. Soooo sweet. She is my baby!!!!

  29. Rose says:

    This was a very sweet and helpful message. I have had several droolers in my life and it does not bother me- they have been healthy and happy and if they drool because they love me I am complimented. I just wish my friends who are also recipients of their love saw it the same way 🙂

  30. E I Kerr says:

    My old boy drools every time I pat and strock him he also purring to. I love my drools furball so much so he can drools as much as he likes.

  31. Tim says:

    My cat drools ocassionally while giving my face a longer-than-usual “bath.” Doing research on why indicated that drooling is never good – could be life threatening. I feel pretty certain that Tavian’s drools result simply from an overabundance of seliva due to extended face-bath time, but if the droolng begain to occur beyond this scenario, based on my research, I would take him to the vet. I encourage others to do the sane.

    1. Drooling at inappropriate times, not while being loved on, etc., can indicate something stuck in the cat’s throat. Sometimes the cat will also “hack”. One of my cat’s head bumped to get my attention, and when he had it, he pushed his head against me, purred loudly and drooled. Height of affection!

  32. Melanie says:

    I rescued my cat when he was just shy of 6 months old. He sleeps on my pillow and makes bread in my hair. He has always drooled at night when kneading and even nurses on my blanket. He is 4 now

  33. Kaylie Barrett says:

    I have 3 little fur balls and only my female chocolate point Siamese drools and she does so only when she’s being petting and stops as soon as she’s done getting loved up she’s almost a year now and has done it since she got brought into our home 🙂 I love my happy water faucet 🙂

  34. Tracy maughan says:

    My old cat was a stray I’ve now had her a year.we took to each other instantly.my daughter rescued her and I took her in.madge has always dripped from the nose as soon as we come into contact with each other.she starts to pur sometimes so loud I have to turn the TV up. then she licks my hand then my face then she drips from her nose she then touches nose to nose before settling down as close to me as she can get.I always assumed that she loved me and was showing me how much.I may be totally wrong but I like the idea that she loves me.so yes in short I have a very loving happy drooler..

  35. Jasmin Allen says:

    I have a happy drooler shes 3yrs old named Ororo (Ororo Munroe aka Storm from X-Men) and from day 1 she has drooled when shes happy, her happiness is most important so when she sits up on my shoulders (yes just like a pet budgie or something would lol) the odd drool (odd as in heaps of it lol) dripping down my face and neck is fine by me lol call me gross its not hard to wipe off – I love my pets 😛

  36. Deanne says:

    My cat Tazzy, knead and drools at the same time. I first notice this when he was a kitten and I let him sleep on my bed. I always wake up on my back. One morning, I woke up and he was standing on me kneading my chest and drooling in my face. He’s 8 now and needless to say , he doesn’t sleep on my bed any more, but he still knead and drools, especially in my hair if he gets the opportunity. This is accompanied by loud purring.

  37. Maiasatara says:

    I haven’t even finished the article yet but had to comment about the names of your cats – your two boys are a Rocky and a Mickey and your girl has an A name that IS NOT Adrian? You should have gone the distance. (My family had a Rocky then a Rocky II.) Of my current two cats: Maisy is a 10yo female who drools the most when getting a “brushie” (even gulping when she’s really happy) and a bit less for petting and snuggling. A 4yo male who cuddles more but doesn’t drool at all. I rescued the girl on the street as a TINY baby and adopted the boy when he was 2. I think the drooling is a mommy/kitty/love thing. I’m more than happy to find a towel if necessary!

    1. Julia Williams says:

      About the names — that’s funny, I didn’t even realize there was a Mickey in the Rocky movies!

    2. JoAnn Fleishman says:

      I agree. I have a 2 year old male tabby who likes to drool and with purrs so loud he sounds like a locomotive and drips like a waterfall. He’s done this since we adopted him. He’s just very affectionate

  38. N says:

    My Princess has been a Drooler for quite some time, and always with head buts and loud purring though she’s always been a loud purrer XD glad to know we can enjoy many a head and butt scratching session with having to worry about vet bills.

  39. Meagan says:

    My cat Sparta drools all the time when he’s happy but he especially loves to drool when he’s standing over my face and then he head bonks me and rubs more drool on my face e_e

  40. I have a calico female that was a save me kitty. She was trapped inside the engine compartment she had severe burns on all four paws. She is fully healed,healthy and very pregnant. She is a medium drooler. She does it when you call her name, when you feed her, when she is being petted,and when she watches animal planet (yes, she watches tv). Anyway, we just learned that she drooled. Never really noticed until recently but vet said she’s in the clear.

  41. Anonymous says:

    I have two cats and neither of them had ever drooled before. My grey tabby had urinary blockage and was in the hospital for four days and my black tabby was sad and was looking for him around the house the whole time he was gone. Well when I finally brought my grey tabby home, let him out of the carrier, and got settled in; I looked around only to find my black tabby standing nearby with drool and bubbles running out of his mouth nonstop. The fact that he missed him that much and was so excited about his return was so cute and sad at the same time. Love my babies

  42. Lisa says:

    My cat Zoe is about 10, and she has had to live with my parents for a few years because I couldn’t have a cat. Recently, she has started drooling, but ONLY when I pet her! My parents say they have never seen her drool! So I guess she really loves and misses me. I just have to figure out how to introduce her to my two kittens!!! She hissed at one and has never met the other. I am super scared, I don’t know how to introduce cats and make them get along.

  43. Nikola says:

    I had a semi-feral cat I took care of who drooled when he was happy. Usually when catnip was involved so he would rub his slobber face against the catnip and end up with green slimed cheeks. My moses drools when he climbs up in bed with me at night. Usually he kneads and nuzzles in my hair while he does it. And it’s prolific. Super gross. He’s done this since he was a kitten. These are the only two, out many cats I’ve had, that did this.

  44. Meg says:

    My sweet Blanche has been a drooler since I got her as a kitten, and it never seemed much of a concern to me, but after constantly defending the behavior to my mom (who knows nothing about cats and thinks every behavior is cause for worry), I am happy to find that my initial instinct was correct. She ONLY drools during intense cuddle sessions, does so every. single. time. and ALWAYS has. Good to know that this just means she’s happy, and I’ve really never minded the river that comes with it.

  45. Heather says:

    My Stella drools heavily when I come home sometimes. We have an intense cuddle session and she drools all over the place, purring loudly, head rubs, and her tail begins to puff out a bit. Kinda the sweetest! Helps me remember she does in fact love me despite her knocking my favorite plant over 😉 Ha, jk. I know she loves me always.

  46. rachel says:

    I have three cat two of them drool one only does it sometimes but our kitten princess peach drools and she only drools when she kneads she will crawl into my bed spread which is very soft on the inside bury her face and knead while I pet her she will sometimes shake her head and the drool flies everywhere I have been told she is simulating nursing on some other things I have read which is odd because she just started doing this at around 5 months old

  47. Karin says:

    I just now googled cat drooling and found this blog, which I enjoyed. Reader comments were great reading, too! My cat Sam was drooling and making biscuits this evening while I cuddled him this evening. His teeth are fine, so it’s good to know he’s exhibiting this behavior out of happiness and contentment!

  48. Lindsey says:

    I have two black cats, Midnight and Magic (brother & sister). My little girl loves to be held and drool on occasion. My boy doesn’t come around as often but when he does he loves to snuggle with me – and drool too! I think it’s cute and its usually just four to five drops then it’s done.

    No harm, just cuteness!

  49. Redd Rose says:

    I have 4 cats and only 1 drools. He has drooled ever since he was a kitten. He doesn't drool every time I pet or brush him but when he does drool, bring out the towel, you'll need it.

  50. I've been looking everywhere online for info if its healthy or unhealthy for my cat, Lucky, nose to drip? A couple of site's say it means they are hydrated and healthy! I've never heard of a cat drooling from its mouth…interesting.

  51. Soheila
    I have 4 cats and only one drools when he is happy.
    My question is what do u do when the oldest cat Hates the younger ones. I've used rescue remedy, feliway, clomicalm, water bottle but nothing works.
    I have dine the gradual introduction, treats, feeding at the same time. Pls any suggestions?
    The 3 young ones get along so nicely and not related also different ages

    1. Time is the only answer. I have 6 cats ranging from 2 yrs to 2 months. The little ones get along but one of my older cats dislikes the young ones. I feed them all together but again they are at least eating without incident. I hope you have greater success and good luck.

  52. So I have a Long haired Black Cat named Harry Potter, he is a little over a year old and he has drooled ever since he was a kitten… When he was 6months old he ran away, I was so devastated.. But country living is like that. But 2 months ago he showed up in my back yard.. He was gone for 6 1/2months… I couldn’t believe my luck… I knew it was him from his six toes and his bottle brush tail but when he started drooling and kneading me I new it was him… We kept our bond I guess bc that never happens I hear… Thank you for the Info on the drooling I will just wear 2 layers of clothes..

  53. Taka Zulu says:

    My youngest cat, Ginger (3yrs old), recently started drooling. I thought something was wrong with her, but my vet said she’s completely healthy.

    She’ll head bonk me and then flood me with me drool. She’ll also reach upward for hugs like a baby.

  54. Anonymous says:

    We have a male cat Kuddles two years old that drools on our head and does the twisty head thing and head bonks while we’re laying bed. And we have Dunner who likes to do the biscuit up and down on us then tunnel under the covers for a while.

  55. Anonymous says:

    There is a kitty i have been feeding for months who comes to my back porch each day. Recently we shared our first petting session and she today for the first time i noticed she drooled… as a result i googled what that meant because my house cat never drools… perhaps she wants to be part of the indoor family!

  56. @ “Anonymous” — One of our cats’ nose drips a clear liquid like water as well when she is relaxed and happy. This goes accompanied with very loud purring. She is actually on my lap right now purring away, making a big wet spot on my T-shirt.
    She is “purrrfecly” healthy … LOL.

  57. Langley says:

    It’s great to read all the comments on the kneading article and on this one. I love hearing about the unique and wonderful cats and cat parents out there.

  58. Our formerly feral boy Domino is a biscuit making drooler, but only with hubby.

  59. Priscilla says:

    It’s so interesting! I didn’t know that cats drool too!

  60. LOL… the topics we discuss as cat lovers!! With my current gang, we only have one drooler, Miss Harley, and it can get quite obnoxious! I have had several droolers with past cats of mine and it was always in combination with “making biscuits!”

  61. Carolyn says:

    Oh Austin is a drooler, big time. Always has, and it is just as you say. When he’s being brushed or he is kneading my lap prior to nap time. It is always accompanied by the loudest purr and head bonking! I know it’s because he is content 🙂

  62. I have never had a cat that drooled and I have had a bunch of cats in my long life.

  63. Hehehe… guess what… I have been known to drool when mom brushes and grooms ME!!!

  64. Anonymous says:

    Not to change the subject….but my cats nose runs when he purrs.Never seen or heard of this before,anyone one have any comments?

  65. Marg says:

    I have had several cats that drool and I have one that does it a lot right now. Baby Doll drools just if I come in the room. Guess she is really lonely, poor cat. Sure wish I could find her a home. Great post.

  66. So interesting1 We’ve got a few droolers at the shelter, which can be messy when they are “lap cats!” 🙂

    Hope you and your cats are doing well, Julia!

  67. I missed being able to comment on Katie Isabella. She kneads and she drools but not heavily and not all of the time. Petting usually will turn the faucet on. I get enough headbonks to get knocked out of alignment.

    1. Chrissie says:

      I have a 5 month chocolate Burmese and she drools, I now know why, she is very happy and contented, good to read all these posts.