What does a cat's tongue look like

The secret of the cat's tongue

Cat washing - a permanent job

Domestic cats sleep a lot - about 14 hours a day. And when they are not sleeping, they care for their fur with their tongue. Not always, but for a quarter of their waking time they are busy removing dandruff, fleas and whatever else gets caught between the hair. And at the same time they also cool your body.

US researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta have now found out how clever the cat is.

Microfiber breakdown as a research impulse

The reason for the investigation was a personal experience: The researcher Alexis Noel tells how her house cat licked a microfiber cloth and got caught with its tongue. Then she wanted to get to the bottom of the secret of the tongue.

The miracle of the cat's tongue

Cat owners know: the cat's tongue is very bumpy. There are hundreds of papillae on it - small, shovel-shaped spines. The researchers have now followed exactly how the papillae are used to wash cats with high-speed videos. On the one hand, they ensure that the tongue reaches the skin through the fur - the papillae comb the hair to one side, so to speak. On the other hand, there is a tiny U-shaped cavity at each tip that works like a pipette. This also explains the mishap with the microfiber cloth: it stuck to the cavities.

Cleaning and cooling in one

Each of these papillae sucks some saliva from the mouth when the cat is washed and applies it to the skin. This not only cleanses the skin, but also cools it. Cats don't sweat. What sweat is good for in humans - it provides evaporative cooling - is done in cats by the saliva applied. The researchers were also able to measure this with infrared cameras: The areas that the cat “washed” with its tongue are immediately afterwards much cooler than before.

Success varies depending on the type of cat

The different types of cats are different in their effectiveness. In Persian cats, for example, with their long hair and thick fur, it is more difficult for the tongue to get down to the skin - which is why it is all the more important for the owner to take care of them.

New hairbrushes modeled on the tongue?

Speaking of grooming: The researchers want to use their findings to develop special hairbrushes based on the model of the cat's tongue, which are able to clean the fur even better but also to rid it of allergens - because cat allergies are mainly from dandruff and proteins triggered in saliva. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to make cats “allergy-friendly” with a hairbrush.