Dogs’ eagerness to kiss you is one of the most divisive characteristics. You’re likely to get a tongue bath if you come close to their faces. Some people adore it, while others despise it, and dogs seem unconcerned.
What about felines, though? There’s a reason why few people enjoy a cat’s kiss: their tongues are as rough as sandpaper. It seems strange that dogs have smooth tongues while cats have rough mouths; after all, they both evolved to be predators, right? What’s with the cat tongues, anyway?
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What Makes Cat Tongues So Rough?
The tongue of a cat is scratchy because it is lined with papillae, which are backward-facing spines. These spines are comprised of keratin, the same material that makes up our hair and nails, and they run the length of the cat’s tongue, with the majority of them concentrated in the middle.
If you look closely enough, you can see the papillae on their tongue. However, because your cat is unlikely to sit there with their tongue out while you examine it, you might want to try taking a short photo.
If this is all new to you, don’t worry; scientists are still learning about it. They’ve only recently discovered that papillae aren’t cone-shaped and solid, as previously assumed. Instead, they’re hollow and scoop-shaped. This is significant because it influences a lot of what cats do with their rough tongues.
There’s Not Just One Reason
If you’re asking why cats have scratchy mouths, you’re approaching the subject incorrectly. It has no “reason”: they are the result of millennia of evolution.
As a result, there will be no each response to the question. Cats utilize their tongues for a variety of tasks, and the roughness makes many of them easier.
It’s impossible to say whether cats’ rough tongues originated as a result of their utility or if they simply learnt to make the best of the situation. In any case, it’s unlikely to make a difference.
So, rather than seeking for a single explanation, consider all of the ways that having a rough tongue benefits cats.
Also Read: Can Cats Eat Cucumber? All You Need to Know
Rough Tongues Help When Drinking Water
Because the papillae on a cat’s tongue are hollow and scoop-shaped, drinking water is considerably easier for them.
Cats don’t have the ability to purse their lips and sip water like humans do; instead, they put their tongue in water and quickly bring it back into their mouths.
The scoops on the papillae do this by pulling water droplets off the surface, creating a spiral that the cat can seal their mouth around and swallow. It may not be as efficient as the way humans drink, but it is certainly effective for them.
Dogs, on the other hand, dip their entire tongue in the water before curling it and scooping up large gulps of water. Anyone who has ever cleaned up after a dog knows how messy it can be. Cats, on the other hand, only dip the tip of their tongue in the water, leaving the remainder to the papillae.
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Their Tongue Helps With Grooming
You’ve probably noticed your cat grooming itself for the majority of their waking hours. While it may not appear so, cats are quite adept at grooming themselves, owing to the papillae on their tongues.
The papillae assist the saliva of the cat in reaching deep into the fur and down to the skin. Surprisingly, compressing a cat’s fur reveals that the distance between the skin and the papillae is exactly the same! (The domestic Persian is an exception, which explains why their fur is prone to matting and tangling.)
Another advantage of ensuring that saliva penetrates deeply enough to reach the cat’s skin is that it eliminates blood and other materials that could leave your cat smelling bad. This is vital for hunting, and it also explains why cats’ tongues differ from dogs’.
Cats, with a few exceptions, are solitary hunters, therefore anything that might reveal their existence could ruin their chance at supper, causing them to starve to death. Dogs, on the other hand, hunt in packs and will chase down prey across long distances.
It makes little difference to a dog if you can smell them approaching; what counts is whether you can outrun them. It’s a matter of life and death for a cat, so it’s a good thing cats have those rough tongues.
Also Read: Why is My Pet Foaming at the Mouth?
A Rough Tongue Helps Cats Eat
If a cat has been successful in disguising their scent and killing its victim, they must now be able to consume enough of their prey’s meat to satisfy them, and the papillae on their tongue will assist them in this effort.
During mealtime, papillae’s primary function is to assist the cat in gaining a strong grip on its prey. This is especially critical when the cat initially pounces, because the prey only has a few moments to break the cat’s grip and escape. Few creatures succeed in escaping thanks to the papillae.
The rough tongues assist them in removing every last bit of meat off the animal’s bones once it is dead and mostly digested. It functions similarly to a cheese grater, scraping off a small amount of material with each stroke.
Because a cat’s hunting success rate varies so much, cats need to make the most of every meal, which their rough tongues help them do
Also Read: What Happens if My Dog Eats Sand?
What Happens When a Cat Loses Their Papillae?
You may have noticed that some cats — especially older ones — can have “bald spots” on their tongue that aren’t as rough as the rest of it. That’s because, like our human hair and nails, a cat’s papillae can break off — but unlike our hair and nails, they don’t grow back.
When this happens, grooming your cat will become much more difficult, so you’ll have to take up the slack. If your cat’s tongue is starting to develop smooth patches, boost your grooming efforts appropriately, especially if you see mats or knots in their fur.
Just to be cautious, you should take your cat to the vet. Because papillae can fall off due to oral herpes and other disorders, you should rule out something more serious.
The Weird, Wonderful, Rough Cat Tongue
While cat tongues aren’t great for showing love, they are ideal for a variety of other tasks. Given how new a lot of the study on cat tongues is, we’re probably only touching the surface of what these things can do (no pun intended).
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