10 Interesting Facts about Your Cats Tongue

I walked through the door from work the other day and my little Kitty run up to me and in her usual fashion she started rubbing herself against me. Usually, I have no problem with this but on his one occasion for some reason she happened to lick my ankle. The feeling was nothing like the cuddly pet I have always known her to be. It was rough and quite unpleasant.

It got me thinking, I know a lot about my fur ball and what she should and shouldn’t eat and how to keep her healthy and clean but how much do you know about a cat’s tongue? When I tried to find out, I was amazed.


Countdown of the Cat Tongue Facts!

1. Cats have rough tongues

You probably already know this. What you might not know is why the tongue is rough. The tongue of a cat is filled with Filiform Papillae. These are like short barbs that are made from a protein called Keratin (the same one that is found on the human nails). The barbs face towards the throat of the cat and as you’re about to find out, they happen to have such an impact on the cats way of life and its ability to do most of the things it does.

2. It is the perfect tool for grooming

Cats are notoriously clean creatures and they clean for a variety of reasons. Regardless of why they are grooming, they rely on the tongue and the papillae to get the job done. As the cat licks itself, lose hairs and debris is caught on the short barbs and is removed from the cat’s furry coat. 

Even though your cats tongue does a great job in keeping the coat clean, you always have to brush the cat to reduce the amount of hairs it swallows to reduce the formation of indigestible hair balls in the cats tummy.

3. Cats cannot taste sweet and salty things

If you’re always picky about your cat’s food like me, you have tried to sneak in a couple of sweet things for the cat especially when it behaves nicely. After all, if you love ice-cream because of how great it tastes, why wouldn’t your cat? Unfortunately, the cat’s amazing tongue has a serious oversight and is not able to taste sweet or salty things.

However, a cat is able to taste a lot more things than human beings. For instance, cats are able to taste ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which is the compound that supplies energy in living cells. It is quite amazing because despite the same compound being sufficient in our bodies, we are never able to taste it.

4. A cat’s tongue is a live thermometer

When it comes to food, cats are very specific about the temperature of food. They really detest extreme temperatures whether cold or hot. Ideally, cats prefer their food to be room temperature. Their tongues are able to tell if the food is too hot or too cold.

5. Cat’s taking a drink is magical!

Like any magic, you will not be able to see this in full detail nonetheless, understanding how it happens is pretty impressive in itself. When dogs drink water, they slop water which tends to be messy. This is not the case with cats!

When a cat drinks liquid, they touch the tip of their tongue in the water and quickly retract it creating a column of water. The cat then quickly closes her mouth and traps the water inside before gravity can take over. The cat does this about four times per second and is able to drink up to five teaspoons of liquid per second.

It is unfortunate that as cat owners we are not able to see this wonder take place because of how fast it happens but knowing how it happens is just as mind blowing.

6. The tongue is a cooling fan!

Well, not literally but the cat is able to use her tongue to cool off. This is achieved when the cat is grooming itself. When the tongue is rubbing against the fur, there is moisture that is transferred from the mouth to the fur. When this moisture evaporates, it causes a cooling effect. This also explains why cats are not as obsessive with grooming during winter.

7. It sucks fur into the digestive system

Not all features about the cat’s tongue are impressive. Some are actually the reason why we have some sleepless nights. When a cat grooms, all that dirt and junk has to go somewhere. Because of the unique design and placement of the Papillae, the cat can’t spit out the dirt. Instead, it is forced to swallow it. In younger short haired cats, this might not be much of a problem since the dirt is digested by stomach acids.

However, it can be a problem for long haired cats and also for older cats that are not able to fully digest the hair. The problem can be solved by buying innovative cleaning brushes like the Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush to get rid of most of the loose hairs.

8. Tongue colour says a lot about your pet

Whenever your pet is out of sorts, you’re always trying to find signs on what could be wrong. Sometimes, the colour of your cats tongue can have an explanation. If your cat is not getting enough oxygen, the colour of the tongue could change to pale pink, blue or white.

Also, during vet visits, you should also have the tongue and jaws of your cat checked. They are highly susceptible to cancer. Presence of ulcers in the mouth can also be a sign of kidney complications with the cat.

9. A cat’s tongue can tell how much she loves you

Like in humans, in cats, the tongue is an effective tool for communication. So many times, the cat uses her tongue to tell us how much we mean to her but we never seem to get the message. This is because the cat does this by licking. When a cat is licks another animal or even its owner, it is showing affection.

Unfortunately, we usually don’t get this and we don’t like it because of the sandpaper feel that comes with the lick. Sometimes we may even try to get the cat to stop. Actually, even dogs prefer not to be licked by cats because of the rough feel.

10. Rips meat from bones

The same way a vulture uses its beak and talons to tear into flesh is the same way a cat uses its tongue. The papillae on the cat’s tongue are short and tough and run into the thousands. Because they face inwards towards the cat’s throat, they are used for ripping and tearing into flesh. They work in the same way as a hair brush.

Even though your cat might not get to eat meat from bones, wild cats do. Because they are small hunters, they can only go after small prey. This makes it necessary for them to utilize as much of their meal as possible. With their rough tongues, they are able to achieve this. The papillae hook on the chunks of meat and rip it from the bone.

There is no question that our fur balls are truly remarkable and impressive creatures. Their ever busy tongues are just one other factor that makes you appreciate how unique they are.

If you are always looking to know and understand your pet better, knowing more about their anatomy and one of their most important organ (the tongue) definitely counts. I’m very happy I got that rough lick from my cat. I would never have appreciated how important the tongue is to cats.

Rebecca Welters

Yes, I am that weird cat lady with 200 cats and live in the darkest corner of the city where no one dares to go! Joking! But I am a cat lover and have 2 Ragdoll cats called Toby, he's 3 years old and Dory, she's 8 years old. I'm 36 years old and live in the quiet town of Washington.

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