My Cat Has a Runny Nose and is Drooling

It can be quite distressing for cat owners to see their feline friend unwell. It is also difficult to know when you should take them to the veterinarian or seek advice online or just wait. In particular when my cat has a runny nose and is drooling I become quite worried they may have a feline upper respiratory infection. In the current coronavirus pandemic it can be additionally concerning as not a lot is know about the virus yet.

Symptoms to check for

A runny nose is a discharge of fluid from the nasal passage. It can be watery or thick and can be clear or it may have streaks of pus or in some cases blood. This would give the discharge a slightly red, green or yellow color.

In addition to the runny nose you should look out for discharge from your cat’s eyes and whether they have a stuffy nose. Your cat may also be sneezing and lost some of their appetite. If your cat has lost weight this should be of particular concern.

Possible Causes

There are many possible causes your cat has a runny nose and is drooling and whilst we will mention them here none of these may be the cause for your cat. If you are concerned you should ask a vet.

  1. Upper Respiratory Infection (commonly known as Cat Flu). In some cases cats develop ulcerations in their mouths which increase saliva flow causing drooling.
  2. Allergies can cause similar reactions in cats as they do with humans and may be the cause of your cat’s runny nose and drooling.
  3. Infections such as bacterial or fungal in your cat’s nasal cavity can cause the runny nose.
  4. Foreign objects in your cat’s nose can cause issues. This could occur if you cat swallows a blade of cat grass, a small fish bone or another object which becomes stuck in their mouth or esophagus. In addition to the runny nose your cat may paw at their mouth or try to vomit to dislodge the object. Swallowing will be uncomfortable for them.
  5. Dental disease is another potential cause of cat drooling due to an irritation that is caused in the cat’s mouth. The drool is the cat’s natural way to sooth their discomfort. Following a good dental care plan, as detailed in our article “The SECRETS to Cat Teeth”, will help prevent this occurring.
  6. Oral cancer, nasal polyps or tumors in a cat’s mouth, nasal cavity or throat can result in excessive and ongoing drooling.
  7. Extreme emotions in your cat can cause them to have excessive drooling such as fear and happiness. If they are very excited, upset or scared this can cause the cat to have some nausea which may lead to drooling.
  8. Pneumonia is another potential cause of your cat’s runny nose and drooling as this is a respiratory problem.

What Should I do?

Depending on the number of symptoms your cat has you could monitor them initially. Make sure they have a quiet and warm area in which to rest; just as we humans do when we are unwell. It is very important to make sure your cat is eating. If your cat’s nose is blocked they may not be able to smell their food and may not feel hungry. If you have wet food you should try feeding it to your cat as it has a stronger smell that may attract them and it also will give your cat some fluids.

If your cat’s chest is congested you can try using a humidifier as you would do with a young child or for yourself to help clear the nasal passages. If you do not have a humidifier you can try running hot water in your shower a couple of times a day and taking your cat into the bathroom so the steam helps clear their nasal passages.

When should I contact a veterinarian?

If your are concerned you should ask a veterinarian immediately either online or by calling your local vet. If have decided to wait and monitor your cat you should look out for the following symptoms and if they present themselves you should contact a veterinarian immediately.

  • Not eating for more than one day for kittens or two days for adult cats
  • The color of discharge from their nose or eyes is slightly red, green or yellow.
  • Your cat is panting, breathing with their mouth open or they are panting or having difficulty breathing.
  • If your cat does not respond to you, they are lethargic and seem very despondent.
  • Any diarrhea or vomiting that last for more than 24 hours.

How does the veterinarian diagnose the issue?

Often the veterinarian can diagnose the issue by observing your cat but they need to understand all symptoms you have observed in addition to the runny nose or drooling. This will allow the vet to diagnose any underlying issues.

If the discharge from your cat’s nose is clear the vet may diagnose an allergy without further testing but in some cases they may recommend a further test. If the discharge is slightly red, green or yellow they will like want to do further testing such as a blood test or nasal swab. the swab and blood sample will look for abnormalities such as infection. If these are clear the vet may perform a scan or endoscopy to look for foreign objects, polyps or tumors.

Possible treatment

Depending on the diagnosis your cat may need antibiotics, if an infection is the cause. These will most likely be an oral medication you will need to give your cat and ensure they swallow. If your cat has polyps or a foreign object in their nasal cavity the vet may need to perform surgery to remove them safely.

Other potential treatments for possible causes can be anti-inflammatory or anti-fungal medication. Regardless of the diagnosis and treatment, ensuring your cat is drinking plenty of water is critical to their recovery. It can also help to keep their nose and eyes clean; but be careful to avoid further contamination by not using the same side of the tissue or wipe you are using to clean each area.

How long will recovery take

Recovery time is difficult to estimate without knowing the true cause of your cat’s runny nose and drooling. Recovery from allergies is usually quick if you have worked out what they are allergic to and removed it from their environment.

If your cat has had surgery to remove a polyp or foreign object they may need at least a week to recover and a check up with your veterinarian. For infections the recovery will occur after the course of antibiotics or anti-fungal medication has been taken.


There are so many possible causes if your cat has a runny nose or they are drooling it is hard to know sometimes what action you should take. We hope we have provided you with some suggestions to help.

If you are unsure it is always recommended you contact a vet. To ease your mind there are cat veterinarians available online 24 hours a day 7 days a week; simply click here.

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