If a cat has ever licked you, you've met sandpaper. But did you know that a rough tongue helps a kitty do more than enjoy his food?
According to Hills, cited below, a cat's tongue is covered by "hundreds of filiform papillae: the tiny, white keratin protein spines that give the tongue its sandpaper-like texture." Those little spines help your kitty latch onto anything he wants to taste - even your arm! The spines also help cats move food to the back of their mouths. In addition, PetHelpful, cited below, says, "cats will also lick their tongues if they need to throw up."
If you watch your companion cat drink, Cats International says, "you'll see how they curl up the tip of their tongue to collect water and, once a certain amount of water accumulates (every four or five laps,) your kitty will swallow and repeat."
Cats International explain that a cat's tongue is unique. "The tip of the tongue is curled backward to create a hollow shape that acts like the bowl of a spoon," Then, "a cat 'darts' their tongue across the water to create a column of water that the cat catches on their tongue."
According to Cats International, the feline tongue has other essential uses, including:
* Washing and cleaning his fur. A cat's tongue already feels like a scratchy washcloth, after all.
* Smoothing his fur down when someone or something ruffles it.
* Drying his fur when it gets wet.
* Enabling him to pant and cool down when hot.
* Grooming becomes a fan. The saliva left on his fur will evaporate, cooling him further
Your cat's sense of taste depends on his tongue. According to Hills, "cats have about 473 taste buds compared to humans, who have 9,000, and dogs, who have around 1,700. So, like humans, they can taste sweet, salty, bitter, and sour." But, since cats are built to seek out meaty smells, they don't care much for sweet or bitter.
Emotionally speaking, felines communicate with their tongues. PetHelpful offers a complete guide to how a cat communicates with different parts of his body. They explain, "When a cat flicks her tongue, she is uncertain and going through an emotional conflict, anxiety, or anticipation. This should not be confused with normal lip-licking, where the tongue wipes around the mouth. A tongue flick is a 'flick' up towards the tip of the nose."
Physical health-wise, a cat's tongue can sometimes reveal possible concerns. A regular cat's tongue is pink and dry with no excess saliva causing drooling. Hills encourages pet parents to "pay attention to any changes in your cat's tongue, such as white patches, swelling, inflammation, or cuts and sores."
If you see anything not typical of your cat's tongue, it's time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Remember, constant "blepping" is not OK. Hills says, "It's not cute if your cat's tongue always hangs out of his mouth. While it could result in one or two adorable photos, it could also be a sign of a serious problem."
Quote to remember: "If cats could talk, they wouldn't." - Nan Porter
"Everything You Need to Know About Cat Tongues"
"The Amazing Feline Tongue"
"Cat Body Language Chart and Pictures"