Last week we posted an article about cats licking, which made us think about cats tongues, so this week we decided we'd go a little more in depth on the topic of cat's tongues!
We mentioned in our earlier post that the tongue of a cat is covered with tiny, backward facing, spines called papillae. According to cats.com, these spines are made from keratin, which is the same stuff a cat's claws and fur are made from and also the same stuff our fingernails and hair is made from! No wonder it feels like sandpaper when a cat licks you!
So, what good are a cat's tongue spikes? All cats have them, including lions and tigers, not just your cat at home, and in the wild, those papillae help a cat clean the meat off of bones and move the food to the back of their mouth according to Hillspet.com.
The cat papillae are also used for grooming. If you have a cat, you are sure to have seen them licking their fur, and the spikes on their tongues are used like a hairbrush to untangle their fur and remove dirt and loose hair from their coat. Cats.com says that the papillae in cats are shaped like scoops and are hollow at the tips, which fill with saliva to help clean a cat's fur and also help to cool them off on a hot day. Since the spines are facing backwards toward the throat though, it could cause a cat to swallow the loose fur they have cleaned off and could contribute to hairballs, so it's a good idea to brush your cat regularly to keep them from swallowing their loose fur, especially for long haired cats.
Cats.com also notes that the backward facing spines can pose another danger to our cats, because it makes it hard for them to spit out things like yarn and tinsel when they start to lick it. Long strands like that can then get swallowed and cause serious damage to their internal tissues, so be careful with long stringy things around your cats!
But, a cat's tongue isn't just about the spines! Hillspet.com notes that the shape of cats tongues are unique as well. The tip of their tongues is curled backward like a spoon, and that helps cat with their unique way of drinking too! If you've seen a cat drinking, you'll notice that they curl the tip of their tongue back to collect the water.
And, of course like us the tongue of a cat has taste buds. I have heard the tale that cat's can't taste sweet, but there seems to be some debate on that. According to Hillspet.com, they can, but not as well as you and I. They say a cat has around 473 taste buds, compared to 9000 in a person! I have definitely seen cats who like ice cream and other sweet snacks (in small amounts), but they are probably reacting to the fat in the food rather than the sugar. Cats are meat eaters, so sweet doesn't seem to be high on their preferred taste profile. According to Cats.com though, there is a flavor that cats can taste that we can't! That is ATP, which is a compound found in meat. (Cats.com also disagrees with Hillspet on a cat being able to taste sweet!)
Cats tongues can also be used to watch out for health issues. Your cat's tongue should be pink and dry. If you see any changes, contact your vet right away. According to cats.com, some things to look for are is if your cat's tongue has spots that weren't there before, or looks white, blue, purple, gray, yellow or dark red.
And we at catswhereitsat.com wanted to point out one more thing about cat tongues, which is that they are cute! You may have seen cute cat tongues on social media just sticking out of their mouths and referred to as a "blep" or sticking out pretty far during a yawn. Tuesday is even referred to as "tongue out Tuesday", in some circles, so the next time you see your cat with it's tongue sticking out start snapping some photos for extra cuteness!