Anyone who owns a cat knows that they like to groom themselves often. They use their sandpaper tongue and lick themselves, sometimes for hours. However, researchers have a better understanding of their tongues, with backward-facing papillae do.
Before, researchers thought that cat papillae had more of a cone shape and were solid. However, researchers at Georgia Tech found out that they are actually hollow, and have more of a scoop shape.
Alexis Noel, a researcher at Georgia Tech, says that the shape of the papillae allow for cats to store and hold salvia in the tiny spines. Using high-speed video and CT scans, Alexis and her colleague David Hi were able to observe how the papillae on a cat’s tongue work. She says that when cats groom, the spines are able to penetrate the fur. Doing so allows the saliva to be redistributed throughout all of the cat’s fur.
Cat Tongues Are Spiky For A Good Reason
The group also took the time to study the tongues of different kinds of cats. They were able to find that it doesn’t matter the cat, they have papillae that are the exact same size and shape. Noel says that tigers have the exact same spines on their tongues as the average house cat, only more.
Though all feline papillae may be the same, the animal’s ability to clean itself is not. In order for a cat to optimally cleanse its self, it’s papillae has to fully penetrate through the fur layer and reach the skin so that the saliva of the cat reaches to root.
Through the research, the scientist believes that papillae height and shape is important when it comes to different fur types. During their experiment, they found that the domestic Persian cat un-groomable due to the fluffiness of its fur. Cats with longer hair need a daily brushing due to not being able to cleanse themselves with their tongues.