Have you ever wondered why the tongue of a cat feels similar to sandpaper? Take a closer examination.
The tongues of cats are coated in small spines. Referred to as “papillae,” they resemble miniature hooks.
“According to Alexis Noel, a researcher at Georgia Tech, they are composed of keratin, similar to human fingernails.”
While Noel, the family’s one-year-old cat, was at home for the holidays, they noticed Murphy grooming himself and accidentally getting his tongue caught on a blanket.
Noel noticed the tiny spines caught in the blanket, but Murphy was able to free himself easily from the temporary tongue trap by pushing his tongue against the back of the blanket.
Noel remarked, “The individual spines are shaped resembling tiny feline claws with an extremely sharp tip. They possess the capability to infiltrate any kind of entanglement or knot, and unravel it skillfully.”
Noel, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, is fascinated by the efficiency of cleaning them while maintaining the natural interest in models of tongues’ cats.
Noel was inspired by the observation that she scanned a specimen of a cat’s tongue and printed it out in 3D, scaling it to 400 percent. She decided to study cat tongues by creating a model that replicates the tiny spines.
Across a patch of fake fur, inside a machine that drags the model, she sent the artificial cat’s tongue through its paces.
To clean a conventional hairbrush, you have to remove the hairs from between the bristles. Cleaning Noel’s cat tongue model, on the other hand, was a breeze: she effortlessly swiped her finger across the surface, following the same direction as the spines.
Noel believes that this technology may lead to better cleaning or grooming tools for pets and people, as humans can interact more gently with robots, and even soft ones can be used.
There are several reasons to groom cats. It removes eggs and parasites from their fur. Additionally, it redistributes the oils produced by the cat’s skin, providing waterproofing. In addition, it helps detangle their fur.
The vets will not tell you to clean your cat because you’re removing all their protective oils and disrupting their cleaning habit, said Noel.
If you and others each groom and care for cats in a friendly manner, it will trust a cat. It is also a way to show another how to do it.
Cats tend to be on the lookout for the prey’s wrong odor, which can give away their presence. Perhaps one of the most important reasons for cats to stay clean is that they need to hide their smell, as predators that ambush their prey.
Cats, like most other predatory mammals, have wide mouths on the sides to help them sink their teeth deep into their prey, allowing them to better bite and get a hold of them.
However, as per Sunghwan “Sunny” Jung, a researcher currently at Virginia Tech, “the drawback of that mouth structure is excessive saliva secretion.”
While at MIT, Jung worked alongside Roman Stocker, Pedro Reis, and Jeffrey Aristoff to investigate the mechanisms and motivations behind the lapping technique employed by cats when drinking.
Jung said, “They lap water with their tongues. They make it difficult to create suction with their lips, widening the corners of their mouths. Water will flow out once they have water in their mouths due to the large openings on the sides.”
The researchers’ team studied high-speed videos of cats to demonstrate how they flick the tip of their tongues on the surface of water.
Jung stated, “they grasp the water column and consume it.” Cats position their tongue on the surface of the water and swiftly raise it to generate a graceful water column just before it separates into two parts.
The cat’s bites are keeping the column dry, while also getting as much water as possible at the right moment.
The researchers used a glass disc that rests directly on the surface of the water to adjust the acceleration of the disc as they find the optimal rate. The MIT team created a model that mimics the way cats create columns.
Gravity has the opportunity to pull the water back to the surface, but it is also slow. The disc doesn’t have a chance to draw up as much water into the column, and it is also too fast.
In comparison to the smaller species, the bigger species acquire a higher quantity of water per lap. As their body size increases, larger species of felines such as lions and tigers lap at a slower pace. Domestic cats typically lap water approximately four times per second, whereas larger species of cats lap at a slower rate. This was revealed by their research.
The episode “Look Deep” of Cat Town Cafe’s “Adoption and Rescue in Oakland” was mostly filmed. Special thanks to cat behavior consultant Mikel Delgado from Feline Minds.
This report was created by Deep Look, a program of KQED. You can access the original report on its official website.