Did you know that cats spend a quarter of their time grooming themselves? Felines are amazing creatures, with an unsettling gaze and an independent personality.
One of their most remarkable qualities is the time they devote to their own grooming. Of the hours they are awake, about 10 a day, about 2.5 hours are spent licking themselves, which is their way of cleaning themselves. The result is that they are always clean, and the secret of their cleanliness is in their tongue.
In this article we explore the fascinating secrets behind cats’ tongues and their crucial role in their grooming, survival and well-being.
The cat’s tongue: unique and essential
The feline tongue is a unique organ, covered with pointed spines curved in the same direction, known as conical papillae.
These papillae play a crucial role during cat grooming. A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that each papilla has an internal cavity that collects the cat’s saliva and distributes it on their fur during licking, allowing them to keep themselves clean with the help of their own saliva.
4 extra functions of the cat’s tongue
Cats’ tongues contribute to their survival and well-being, in these 4 aspects:
- Temperature regulation: when licking, the tongue deposits almost 50% of the fluid on the cat’s coat, which helps them to cool down and regulate their body temperature.
- Rough texture and functionality: felines’ tongues have small filaments of keratin, the same substance found in their nails. These filaments serve as taste buds and are essential for grooming, relaxation, water consumption and feeding, as well as for hunting.
- Different breeds, different techniques: Grooming is a rewarding experience for cats, although its effectiveness may vary from breed to breed. For example, Persian cats with thick fur have difficulty reaching their skin and completely refreshing themselves, while short-haired cats do not face this problem.
- Reverse licking: Unlike dogs, cats make a reverse movement with their tongue when drinking water. They bend their tongue downwards and, with a quick thrust, ingest the liquid quickly, allowing them to hydrate efficiently.
What role does food play in the health of a cat’s tongue?
Diet plays an important role in the overall health of cats, and this can also indirectly affect the health of their tongue.
That’s why it’s important to choose the best food for your cat. The right diet provides the nutrients needed to maintain the health of the skin, coat and mucous membranes in general, including the tongue.
Here are some of the ways in which diet can influence the health of a cat’s tongue:
- Hydration: Adequate nutrition ensures that the cat receives the necessary amount of fluids to stay well hydrated. Hydration is important for a cat’s overall health, including the health of its tongue and saliva production, which is essential for grooming.
- Nutrients for mucosal health: A balanced, nutritious diet supports healthy mucosal surfaces throughout the body, including the cat’s mouth and tongue. Essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, help to maintain the integrity and well-being of these surfaces.
- Dental care: Foods specially formulated for cats’ dental health can help prevent oral and dental problems, which could affect the tongue. These foods can help reduce plaque build-up and maintain a healthier mouth.
- Texture and quality of the food: The texture of the food can influence the way the cat consumes and chews it. An appropriate and palatable food facilitates the ingestion and chewing process, which can have an indirect impact on oral health and thus on the tongue.
- Skin and coat conditions: A balanced diet rich in essential fatty acids, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, can help maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat. This can have a positive effect on tongue health, as cats’ tongues also come into contact with their fur during grooming.