HEALTH & CARE

Cat Foaming at Mouth: Figuring out the Foaming Frenzy

black cat with foam in mouth
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

If you are a cat-owner, you may have experienced seeing your cat foaming at mouth. For many feline lovers, this can be a really scary experience. Some will panic because it looks a lot like an emergency situation. Thankfully, this is not always the case.

There are many possible reasons why your pet’s mouth may foam. Some are just normal body processes and functions and not really a cause for immediate concern, while others may indicate a more serious health issue. Either way, this is something that happens quite often, and you’ll need to be aware of how to determine the cause plus devise a countermeasure.

In this article, we will provide a brief overview of why it happens, and what you can do when you see your pet foaming or frothing at the mouth. We will also be providing you with some guidance on how you can lessen the likelihood of it happening to your beloved pet. Since foaming most commonly occurs after some form of medical treatment, we will also be providing you with helpful tips and guidelines on how to properly administer medicine to your cats, to prevent cat foaming at the mouth after medication.

What Causes Foaming at the Mouth in Cats?

Foaming or frothing happens due to the presence of excessive salivation brought about by rapid breathing or panting while drooling. Sometimes, this may manifest as a normal reaction to an increased appetite or excitement, such as when the cat is given catnip.

Nonetheless, while a little drooling may be considered normal, excessive drooling or foaming can mean that something is dangerously wrong. Some possible reasons for this include:

#1: Fear and Anxiety

scared tabby cat

When your cat starts exhibiting erratic behaviors such as excessive grooming, hiding, destruction, and visible trembling, these are characteristic signs of anxiety and fear. It can be accompanied by foaming at the mouth.

These reactions are the results of unfamiliar stimuli or formed as conditioned responses to sudden traumatic events. In some cases, though, anxiety and fear are signs of an underlying illness or medical condition.

#2: Dental Problems

Disease of the gums and teeth, such as gingivitis, is quite common with felines, especially with the more senior ones. Periodontal disease is often caused by excessive plaque build-up—quite similar to that which affects humans.

Cats who suffer from gingivitis may show a decrease in appetite, noticeable weight loss, and excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth while their head is shaking.

Along with diet, gingivitis can be caused by food that is left on your cat’s teeth, which causes plaque to build-up and bacterial growth.

#3: Ingestion of Toxins

sick black cat

Many household products can be toxic and dangerous, especially when used incorrectly or accidentally swallowed by your pet. Even pet products such as pyrethrin, which is a type of insecticide used for tick and flea treatment in both cats and dogs, can be toxic when ingested.

One of the main symptoms of the ingestion of toxins will be excessive foaming and drooling at your cat’s mouth.

#4: Viral Infections

One infamous cause of cat foaming at the mouth is rabies. Although it can be extremely rare for a vaccinated feline to acquire rabies, it does happen. Another viral infection which can cause foaming in cats is calicivirus, an infection of the cat’s upper respiratory tract, which is quite similar to human colds.

#5: Nausea

cats salivation

Humans are not the only ones who can get car sick. Cats get that too! And when they do, they experience extreme salivation that results in foaming due to nausea.

Apart from this, cats may also experience nausea when they have kidney disease, pancreatitis, umbilical hernia, diabetes, liver diseases, hyperkalemia, motility disorders such as abnormal food movement within the intestines, and as a reaction to certain medications.

#6: Bitter Tasting Substances

Because eye and oral medications often have a bitter taste on them, it has become a major contributing factor to feline mouth foaming. Some eye medications like atropine cause a bitter aftertaste when it is administered into the eyes and travels downward, reaching the back of the throat.

Flagyl (metronidazole) and Benadryl (anti-histamine) are two other bitter medications that cause feline foaming at the mouth.

Provided you follow instructions regarding the administration of prescribed medications, there is no need to worry too much about your cat foaming at the mouth. However, you need to keep in mind the importance of letting your veterinarian know about the situation.

#7: Seizures or Convulsions

This condition results from sudden and uncontrolled electric impulses within the brain. It is one of the more common neurological disorder in felines. Seizures happen in the cerebrum, which is found in the front part of the skull and controls neural and sensory functions. During a seizure, your cat may foam at the mouth.

What Should You Do When Your Cat is Foaming at the Mouth?

Foaming at the mouth is usually accompanied by other symptoms and behaviors. While a little drool is considered a normal cat behavior, accompanying symptoms and behaviors such as lack of appetite, loss of weight, vomiting, and tremors are things to be taken seriously.

You may want to take a trip to the veterinarian since they can decide the proper medical management and course of action to address this problem. Because there are so many possible causes of mouth-foaming, your vet will be taking a complete physical examination on your cat and will ask about your feline’s medical history.

What comes after depends on what the vet determines as the cause. If the cause is an illness, follow the vet’s instructions and allow the vet to administer treatment.

If the cause isn’t an illness, other common causes are toxic ingestion and ingesting a bitter substance.

#1: The Cause is Toxic Ingestion

sick cat

Foaming that happens because of possible toxic ingestion is considered a medical emergency and will require immediate veterinary attention. It is always recommended that you bring a sample of the ingested substance for further evaluation.

Once poisoning is established, the vet may try to induce vomiting by administering charcoal to absorb the toxins in your cat’s stomach. IV fluids may also be administered to restore and rehydrate your cat.

See Also: How to Treat a Poisoned Cat

#2: The Cause is Bitter Tasting Substance

sad cat

As mentioned, there are many factors that cause foaming in cats. One of these is foaming during medication, which is quite scary for many feline owners. For new cat owners, this occurrence might prompt them to avoid giving medications to their pets, which should not be the case at all.

So why exactly does this happen? Is this a natural feline behavior, or something we should seriously worry about?

Foaming at the mouth happens as a reaction to ingesting a substance that is unpleasant and distasteful to the cat. This can be a supplement, medication, or remedy that evokes foaming, as an attempt to expel the substance.

Every cat has its own foaming threshold. The only thing that should be a cause for concern when cats foam during medication-administering is the possibility that they may not be ingesting the full dosage. In addition to this, the feline may form a life-long resistance towards the substance.

By now, it’s pretty obvious that cats can be challenging to medicate without seeing those bubbly, frothy foam. There isn’t a clear explanation as to why it’s quite challenging to get cats to take in or even taste oral medication.

Some say it goes back to genetics. Some even attribute this to a cat’s rough tongue, which tends to hold distasteful and bitter flavors a lot longer. This causes them to salivate and foam in order to push that horrible taste away from their mouths.

Unfortunately, most medications veterinarians prescribe for your feline friend are quite bitter. Antibiotics, Tapazol, Lasix, and Alkaloids are all very bitter. If it’s well coated and small enough, you might succeed in giving it orally. However, if it’s large and needs to be split, expect a reaction of utter disgust from your cat.

Coating it in sweet syrup may not even work since cats don’t recognize sweet. You’ll need to get creative to get your cat to ingest their medicine. To help you get through this struggle, below are a few tips.

How to Administer Cat Medication Without Causing Foaming

pill for a cat

Some medications come in flavors like bubblegum or strawberry, which are literally useless to cats. If only there are tuna or fish flavors available, that would be great. But the reality is, there’s none. You need to resort to creative ways. So here’s what you need to do to give your cat their meds without incident.

#1: Correct Methods to Get Your Cat to Swallow

Pills usually come in sizes fit for humans, so they need to be split in half. This exposes the bitter part. If you need to give your cat pills, here are a few things you need to know.

  • First of all, you will need to clip your cat’s very sharp claws to avoid injury. You may do this using a toenail clipper, or better yet, you can just ask the vet or groomer to do this part for you.

  • Get all the needed materials ready and within reach. Seal off any escape routes. Turn the lights on. Have some towels handy. Have a disinfectant soap and some povidone-iodine on the side just in case you get scratched, and a 3 ml syringe.

  • Coat the entire pill with butter. Dry pills can sometimes get stuck in your feline’s throat. If you need to break a pill, make sure the pieces don’t have sharp corners.

  • Place your pet in between your knees in a cloth or towel so that they cannot wiggle too much or scratch you.

  • Wrap the cat carefully so that the only thing that is showing is their head. Stroke them gently and let them calm down.

  • Slowly tilt the head backward until they open their mouth a little.

  • Carefully pry open your cat’s mouth using your thumb and forefinger and drop the pill into the cat’s mouth as far back as possible.

  • Immediately close the mouth so that your cat can’t spit the pill out. Keep it closed until your cat finally licks their nose. This is a sign that your cat has completely swallowed the pill.

  • Fill the syringe with broth in half ml increments. Place it in the cat’s mouth and sprinkle it in to make sure the pill is swallowed.

  • Stroke your cat, praise, and offer a treat.

#2: Hiding the Meds in Food

cat eating

Some cats are very clever and can easily detect medicine in food. However, here are some options that might successfully work for you.

  • Make sure your cat is extremely hungry when you attempt to hide their medicine in food.

  • Crush the tablet until it forms a fine powder.

  • Use a very pungent type of food to hide the taste. Some examples can be anchovies, liverwurst, sardines, gourmet cat food, or tuna paste. Warm the food a little and have the cat sample a bit of it first without medication.

  • Begin with a very little amount of a bad tasting medicine and gradually work on increasing the amount as your cat gets used to the taste.

See Also: How to Make Homemade Cat Food

#3: Turning a Tablet into a Liquid Medication and Giving it Through a Syringe

  • Liquefy one type of pungent tasting food in a blender.

  • Crush the tablet into a powder and dissolve this in 1 tbsp of water.

  • Mix these two ingredients together.

  • Put the mixture in a syringe without the needle and check if it would pass.

  • Do not give it all in one sitting. Ask your vet if you can give small doses throughout the entire day.

#4: Tricking Your Cat

  • Most cats hate being dirty, and will likely lick off any paste or liquid on their wrists or paws.

  • Try putting some liquified medicine mixture on their paw.

  • Make sure the paste is always fresh because there is no telling how long the medication can retain its strength when mixed with other substances like food.

  • Keep your pet in a restricted area until the time they lick their paws.

Prevention of Feline Foaming at the Mouth

scared cat

By practicing our responsibilities as cat-owners and maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for our pets, we can lessen the occurrence of many health-related foaming at the mouth issues.

Avoid frightening or causing situations that agitate or scare your cat. Keep in mind that a safe, loving, and peaceful environment where your cat can feel at home and secure can greatly prevent the occurrence of anxiety and fear related issues.

As your cat gets older, many dental problems may start to manifest. You may still keep your feline’s mouth comfortably healthy by taking them to an annual or semi-annual trip to a veterinary dentist.

With a bit of patience and the appropriate tools, you can brush your pet’s teeth on a daily basis to keep their mouth and teeth clean in between dental hygienic visits. Do not use dental products that are meant for humans because these may prove toxic to felines if swallowed.

See Also: How to Brush Cat Teeth

Natural feline food with high water concentration may also help keep bacteria and plaque away from your cat’s mouth.

When using anti-flea and tick medications, make sure that they are designed specifically for cats and carefully follow package directions. Formulas that are for dogs can be toxic when used on felines.

Topical medications should generally be placed on the back of the neck, an area which the cat cannot reach when grooming. However, be extra careful of altruistic grooming when you are treating multiple cats and even a dog.

Some felines may foam because of the alcohol in liquid-based homeopathic remedies, herbal tinctures, and flower essences. If this happens, dilute the remedy in milk or water and simmer to gently release the alcohol in it. Homeopathies also come in lactose and glycerin base, so you may also want to try another version of the remedy.

Wrap Up

tabby cat with mouth open

Foaming or excessive drooling may signal an agitated state. It can also occur as a reaction or manifestation of your cat’s frightened state. When not associated with feelings of fear or anxiety, foaming at the mouth is a significant reaction to toxic ingestion or illness.

Plus, a cat’s strong ability to sense anything bitter has its pros and cons, much like a two-way street. It protects them from consuming potentially toxic substances in their in their environment. However, this ability also makes some otherwise simple processes more challenging—an example of which is when administering medication.

We hope that the information we have shared in this article will help you manage your cat’s foaming at the mouth. It may take a little more patience and creativity, but if it’s for the health and well-being of your feline friend, anything can be accomplished.

What do you think of this article? Did it help to solve your problem? Do share your opinion in a comment below! Next, check out our article on why do cats stick their tongues out for more interesting cat facts.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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