Today, let’s talk about the cat tongue and all of its wonders. If you’re used to dog tongues
or maybe even human tongues, then your first kitty lick might be quite surprising. The fact that instead of wet and soft they’re rough and scratchy can be a culture shock for sure, but why are they like this?
Cat tongues are covered with tiny barbs called papillae that are made of the same thing that human fingernails are made of. The cats make use of these barbs in various ways. We’ve looked at how cats groom themselves in a previous post and these papillae are invaluable in this process. The barbs are able to wok through tangles and remove loose hairs and other foreign particles from the kitty.
In a similar fashion the barbs also help with eating, especially in the wild. Cats are carnivores and the papillae help scrape the meat of the bones of their prey allowing them to make the most of their meal and waste little to nothing.
On the topic of feeding, here’s another interesting fact, cats, including big cats such as lions, cannot taste sweet flavours. They simply do not have the genetic makeup to create the proteins that detect sweetness. Researchers Joe Brand and Xia Li confirmed this in an in-depth article with Scientific American, if you’re curious about that, you can find it here. However in this article they also acknowledge that “cats can taste things we cannot”. They reference certain compounds associated with meat which makes sense as so much of what cats do revolves around their eating habits.
Finally we’ll take a look at one of the most visually interesting things about feline tongues, the way they drink. You might think that cats and dogs drink liquids in similar fashions however, when you break it down you’ll notice how truly different they are. Dogs will lap up water by bringing their tongue down into the liquid creating something akin to a bucket with their tongue and then bring that back up into their mouths, this process is quite straightforward and also results in a lot of water wastage as the tongue displaces quite a bit of liquid. Cats however do something a little more intricate, they use their tongues to flick the surface of the water which causes the water to rise up in a sort of column, they then snap their mouth over this column resulting in much less wastage. They do this process about 4 times a second.
This video can help you visualise and understand this a bit more.
Well there you have it, hopefully you’ve learned a bit more about cat tongues and how truly incredible they are. If you have another topic you want covered or anything you want to add feel free to leave a comment!