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Feline Friday: Ask Amy~Why Cats Drool During Petting

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Cats (especially show cats) can learn to tolerate and even appreciate hugs. What does this kitty's body language say? Look at the ears, the whiskers, the eyes...

This week’s Woof Wednesday post on hugging dogs garnered a LOT of attention and started some great discussions both here, at my puppies.about.com site, on Facebook and even in my IAABC email list among the behavior consultants. And it’s true that the “hugging rule” applies to cats, as well. Hugging is not generally considered a cat behavior that expresses affection, even though cats can learn to enjoy this. As others have said, it all depends upon the cat, the owner, and the circumstances (and also, how you define a “hug”).

But that begs the question, what do cats enjoy? And how do you know they like it? What do you do if a cat’s expression of affection or enjoyment doesn’t appeal to you–or even disgusts you?

WHY DOES MY CAT DROOL, EWWW!

How many folks have experienced a drooling, bubble-blowing saliva-spewing kitty? Since they’re much smaller than dogs, the drool factor may not be quite the same level as, say, a St. Bernard. Lovers of drooly dogs invest in drool-resistant attire and regularly hose down walls, furniture, or anything else within drool-flinging range.

I exaggerate, but not by much.

Cats also can turn on the water works. Sometimes that’s a sign of dental issues or sore mouths. While the sight of something tasty can get my Magical-Dog soaking wet with slobber-icity, the same thing rarely seems to happen with cats.  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.

But some cats salivate when petted. The more they get petted, the greater the drippy flow. 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.

Do your cats drool? What are the circumstances? I’m curious if cats in the same household might “copy cat” behavior and more than one do this or is it primarily an individual issue? What are some other ways your cats show you they LIKE something? What else have I missed in the Ask Amy video below? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

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About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant, award winning author, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

17 responses »

  1. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    And here I am remembering that silly line from the remake of “The Incredible Journey”

    Cats Rule and Dogs Drool

    Didn’t know it was the other way around sometimes!

    Wayne

    Reply
  2. What does this kitty’s body language say? Look at the ears, the whiskers, the eyes…

    “That’s nice. Where is my treat bowl?” 😉

    Anubis, on the other hand, LOVES hugs. Hugs, kisses, whatever, as long as it comes from one of “his” people. He seems to adore even full-on snuggles, and apparently we invented a new Best Thing Ever when we created what we call the “snuggle sammich”, where I pick him up and hug him, and James hugs me, so it’s a big group hug with the fluffball in the middle. He purrs his fool head off, curls his tail in that way he does when he’s pleased, and just eats it up (unless he’s grumpy or his tummy isn’t feeling so good, then he just wants down).

    Simba it just weirds out. LOL She’d rather just lay next to you in bed. Or sit on top of your head when you’re napping on the couch. She does that one a lot.

    My parents used to have a cat (named Sharky because he was gray and white, circled like a shark, and ALWAYS pounced any bare toes he saw to lick them LOL) who drooled like a mastiff when he was happy. He would leave huge puddles of wet on your knee. Of course, this was the same cat we’re determined thought he was a dog. Played with the dog’s toys… once tried to chase down a deer… unfortunately he was one of our coyote victims. :\ Just glad I wasn’t the one who found him… it apparently was NOT pretty… they figure after being torn up he dragged himself back to the barn with whatever strength he had left… poor guy. I still miss him. Note, he was the only one of the cats that drooled, so it doesn’t seem to be a copycat behavior. In his case it seemed to be sheer relaxation causing it. I think we always just kinda left a tissue nearby when petting him.

    Reply
    • Wow, Karyl, that “snuggle sammich” would make Seren go balistic!

      Reply
      • It would make MOST cats I’ve known go ballistic, Simba included. LOL But Anubis, if he trusts you, is what I call a “marshmallow kitty” – he adores being picked up and cuddled. I’ve known a tiny handful of other cats like that. I blame the Main Coone in his lineage – I’ve known a lot of cuddly Maine Coons. It is a bit ironic, though, considering what we (and his vet) suspect the OTHER part of his heritage might be, but that would only account for about 1/4 of his makeup if we’re right. He displays wild behaviors in several aspects (which makes him quite the challenge to live with at times) and yet if you’re one of The Chosen Ones he’s an absolute cuddle-bug.

        He’s still no Chester – Chester belonged to my aunt and uncle down the road and was an absolute teddy bear. If you were touching him, giving him any kind of attention at all, it was great. Haul him around, flop him upside down and hold him like a baby – didn’t matter, he’d purr his head off and when you put him down he’d run right back for more.

        Reply
  3. As a teenager my family had a St. Bernard (dry mouth, thank you very much) but she could still spray down the walls. The only drooly cat I’ve had let the waterworks loose after I returned from an extended absence. I always assumed she was happy to see me again. Such a sweet kitty.

    Reply
  4. Thanks goodness my Rocky doesn’t drool. 🙂 He does love my hugs, though only mine. He’ll rub on my hubs when hubs gets down on the floor to play or to find toy mice under the furniture for him. I can pick him up and hold him like baby and get all in his face and he loves it. When my hubs and I are sitting and talking after a meal, Rocky reaches out a paw to ‘ask’ if it’s okay to get up in my arms. He loves being held. Gives me a warm feeling, too. 🙂

    Reply
  5. One other thing, Amy. Don’t know if this is typical, but I’ve found that male cats are far more affectionae than females. Is that just my experience or is that ypically the way it is?

    Reply
    • Ya know, I’ve heard other folks suggest that, too. But there’s really no survey to support the notion and I suspect it’s pretty equal between girl and boy cats. But the boys may show affection a bit differently, since they tend to be larger and maybe therefore not as concerned about being “man-handled?” That’s just a guess, though.

      Reply
  6. Hello
    I love your article! And I love cats! I think drooling when a cat is kneading is a sign that the cat was taken from its mum too early and never had the chance to grow out of the habit naturally. My cat drools as well, only when he kneads, and he makes a lot of noise when he wants attention.

    Reply
  7. Jessica Beeson

    I’m wondering if you know why my cat drools all over me while I pet her but not on my husband. She was my husband’s cat first, had her for 2 years before I came along. We’ve been living together for 3 years and she started this like a year ago.. Thanks!!

    Reply

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