The owner of a cat knows that the furious animals can spend an extremely long time grooming. Cats take this…
The owner of a cat knows that the furious animals can spend an extremely long time grooming. Cats take this sandpaper stick and lick and lick and lick and lick for literally hours a day. But researchers discover more about what the tongue, with its hundreds of small backward spines called papillas, does.
In a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Georgia Tech found that papels are not conformable and solid, as previously believed, but instead shovel and hollow.
“It allows the cat to store and keep saliva in these little little spines,” said Alexis Noel, a researcher at Georgia Tech. She and her colleague David Hu used high-speed video and CT scans to observe how the papules on a cat’s tongue raise saliva from the mouth of the fur.
“When the cat goes to the groom, the nails penetrate the fur and redistribute her cleansing saliva in all her hair,” she says.
The team also studied different types of kittens and discovered that papillas are exactly the same size and shape on each cat.
“Tigers actually have the same spines on the tongue that your domestic cat would have, they only have a lot more of them,” says Noel.
While all papules can be created alike, a cat’s ability to clean up is not effective ̵
1; and it’s all about fur.
For a cat to have optimal grooming, Noel says, the papillas must penetrate through the coat layer and reach the skin so that the saliva can get to the root of the hair.
“We found that for all these different animals, from tigers, bobcat to snow leopard, the minimum fur height you can compress will always be less than the height of papillas,” she says. “That makes us believe that the height of the papilla and the papillé is actually optimal for a whole lot of different fur types.”
Only one cat in their experiment was called “non-groomable”: the domestic press. The fluffier the cat, the harder it is for the cat to stay clean. Noel says that’s why many long-haired cats get a fur coat and have to brush daily.
“The cat is physically unable to get her little spins all the way down to her skin,” she says.
The researchers used this new information to print a kitten-inspired brush that is said to work better when removing the allergen from cat fur and is easier to clean. Noel says that these results can be used to make cleaning of pets – and rugs – more effective.
What does this new research for cat owners mean all over the world?
They are a great species that managed to optimize their tongues to be able to clean better than any other animal, “says Noel. “I guess, quantitatively, you know your cat never smells, but your dog does.”