Why Are Cats Tongues Rough?

Cats have hard, backwards-facing spines on their tongues, called filiform papillae. These work like a comb for grooming their fur, and are also used to rasp meat from animal bones. Cats are solitary hunters, but are also small enough to be prey for other animals, so grooming is important to minimise their own scent and make them harder to detect. Dogs evolved from pack-hunting wolves and grooming isnt so important, so they have ordinary, smooth tongues.

Is it normal for a cat's tongue to be rough?

As stated, the rough sensation of a cat’s tongue is due to the presence of papillae. These are small, hollow barbs that cover the tongue. Papillae are essential to a cat’s wellness and are entirely natural. If a cat’s tongue was looked at under the microscope, it would look hairy due to the presence of papillae.

Why do cats have textured tongues?

Cats have hard, backwards-facing spines on their tongues, called filiform papillae. These work like a comb for grooming their fur, and are also used to rasp meat from animal bones.

For cats, grooming is a full-time jobmany cats spend as much as half of their waking hours grooming. I dont know about your cat, but my neighbors cat Kitty doesnt spend much time getting dirty. However, shes working hard to keep her long black fur tidy as she sits next to me right now. Why would Kitty need to clean herself for hours each day?

The video above shows that pivoting actionit works because the durable claw-like spines are attached to the soft, flexible tongue beneath. The grooming behavior throughout the family Felidae looks almost identical, as you can see in the video above from researchers Alexis Noel and David Hu.

The giant ant eaters 2-foot-long tongue is densely coated with tiny sharp spines to help it capture insects. Many birds , including penguins, flamingos, geese, and some raptors use the spines on their tongues to grip the prey theyve just caught or filter out small edibles like shrimp or fish from the water. Kitty and I have been talking about the time-lapse photos of frogs catching bugs in the article all day.

Cats love to groom themselves almost as much as they love to sleep, spending up to one-quarter of their waking hours cleaning their fur. The secret to their self-cleaning success? The spines on their tongues are curved and hollow-tipped, according to a paper published today in the journal PNAS. These tiny spines, called papillae, can transfer large amounts of saliva from mouth to fur, which not only cleanses Fluffy down to her skin but also lowers her body temperature as the saliva evaporates.

The researchers found that these scoop-shaped papillae are what allow cats to get saliva right down to their skin, which could inspire new approaches to cleaning and depositing fluids on all kinds of hairy, furry, and fuzzy surfaces. Noel had seen her cat licking itself plenty of times before, but as she watched it try to groom a fluffy blanket, she began to think about the process with fresh eyes.

A 1982 paper reported that cat papillae had the shape of a hollow cone, but newer technology used by the Georgia Tech researchers revealed that the spines actually curved backwards towards the throat. This flexibility, Hu says, is the key to what allows such relatively short spikes to clean not only the longer, sparser outer layer of fur but also the thick, down-like undercoat next to the skin. The researchers measurements revealed that even relatively light pressure from the tongue during grooming allowed all the species of cat to clean themselves down to the skin.

Thermal imaging cameras revealed that grooming can also help cool a cat, creating a temperature difference of up to 30 Fahrenheit between the skin and outermost fur as the saliva evaporates. Noel could also remove the loose fur from the brush with the simple swipe of a finger, as opposed to painstakingly picking the hair out with tweezers.

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The cat then closes its mouth quickly, just in time to catch the water before gravity draws it back down to the surface .

What makes a cat’s tongue rough?

Kitty’s tongue, as well as the tongues of all types of cats from ragdolls to snow leopards, is covered with tiny curved spines. These spines, also called papillae, are hardened with keratin, like our fingernails and Kitty’s claws.The tiny papillae have a shape and angle very similar to a cat’s claws, with their spiny shape curved backward so that they point toward the back of the cat’s mouth.The spines move through her hair as she moves her head upward and pulls her tongue into her mouth with that familiar lapping motion. These spines act as a comb and keep Kitty’s coat looking tidy. The curve of the spines makes it easy to remove hair from the tongue surface in a single clump (unlike a hairbrush with bristles that stick up).These tiny spiny papillae are also used to shred meat and pick up food while eating.

Cat Tongues Are Also Air Conditioners

Remarkably, when cats lick their fur, they are also cooling off their bodies. The spines on a cat’s tongue are hollow and the space inside each spine wicks up saliva from a cat’s mouth as she grooms. She wets her fur with her tongue each time she licks, and the water on her fur gradually evaporates, cooling the surface of her coat. This creates a temperature gradient between the surface of her skin (very warm) and the outside layer of her fur (as much as 63ºF cooler), so heat moves away from her body surface.Cats only sweat from hairless areas like their paw pads and chin, not from the rest of their skin, so this type of evaporative cooling through grooming is a really important way for cats to control their body temperature, especially with such thick and luxurious fur coats.

Big Cats Have Spiny Tongues, Too

The spines on the tongues of big cats like lions, leopards, and tigers, are the same size and shape as the spines on our little domestic catstongues. Fortunately, their larger tongues have a lot more of these spines—handy since lions have a lot more fur to cover with each grooming. The grooming behavior throughout the family Felidae looks almost identical, as you can see in the video above from researchers Alexis Noel and David Hu.

Do Other Animals Have Spiny Tongues?

You bet! Other animals have spiny tongues, too, and the spines are often used to capture food in one way or another.The giant ant eater’s 2-foot-long tongue is densely coated with tiny sharp spines to help it capture insects. Many birds, including penguins, flamingos, geese, and some raptors use the spines on their tongues to grip the prey they’ve just caught or filter out small edibles like shrimp or fish from the water.Like cats, cows use their scratchy tongues to groom themselves and their calves—cow tongues have the right scratchiness to remove ticks from their skin and are just long enough to clean off their big noses.Looking for a cute distraction? Go ahead and spend a few minutes watching cows play with their tongues. Veterinarians think this quirky motion comes from a cow’s innate behavior of sweeping grass into their mouth using their tongue—but grain-fed cattle don’t get to use their tongues for this purpose, so they do the same behavior in play.If you want to take a deep dive into animal tongues and how they work, check out the research article The Tongue as a Gripper by Alexis C. Noel and David L. Hu in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Kitty and I have been talking about the time-lapse photos of frogs catching bugs in the article all day. Or maybe it was just me talking while she napped?