Unlocking the Mysteries of the Cat Tongue

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cat got your tongue cat with tongue out

Kittens are enigmatic creatures. They are full of odd quirks. Understanding them isn’t always easy, just ask any cat owner around! A cat tongue doesn’t hide any fewer mysteries. Its odd, rough, sandpaper-like texture is enough to weird anyone out. But have you ever wondered why a cat’s tongue is shaped like it is? Or what they use it for? Keep reading to learn more!

Anatomy 101: The Cool Cat Tongue Close Up

You’re not the first to wonder what a cat’s tongue looks like. At first glance, it looks pretty normal—it even sort of resembles ours. But if you take a closer look, you’ll notice that’s not the truth.

In fact, cats’ tongues are covered in small spikes all angled in the same direction. These are called tongue papillae. They look just like cat claws, only smaller, and are made from the same material: keratin. Their job is to untangle knots and remove dead fur. It’s an ingenious helper in grooming, which we’ll get to later.

That feeling of being brushed with sandpaper? You can thank the papillae for that. When cats lick us humans, we feel those claw-like structures grazing our skin. Our feline friends are used to it. Us? Not so much…

What Are They For? The Tongue Function

A cat tongue serves many purposes. While their ability to taste a variety of flavors may not be on par with ours, their tongues still do a lot every day.

For starters, it helps them drink. Cats’ mouths are wide, perfect for digging into meat and separating it from the bone. Yet, it’s not so great for drinking water. Kittens, unlike us, don’t have lips, so they can’t create suction the same way. Instead, their tongues lap up liquids forming a column of water. The cat papillae help in creating enough surface tension for them to take a gulp of refreshingly cold water.

cat sticking tongue out showing cat tongue close up

Those Cat Tastebuds!

Oddly enough, cats also use their tongue to taste food. A cat tongue has taste buds all over it. That’s why you’ll hear so many comments about domestic cats liking one kibble but not another.

Grooming is obviously one of the things a cat tongue does. Kittens spend hours cleaning their fur, so much so that they come across as vain! But not quite.

When cats groom themselves, they’re spreading their skin’s natural oils throughout the whole coat. This keeps their fur healthy. Because the papillae also spread saliva, grooming is a way of staying cool. It also removes loose hair from their backs and parasites, such as fleas and their eggs. On top of all that, cats lick their fur to hide their scent from prey. After all, they are sophisticated predators.

Why Do Cats Groom Each Other?

Sometimes, you’ll see two kittens grooming each other. More often than not, they’re helping each other out in their cleaning routines. Some spots are hard to get to, for example, the ears and the face. Thus, with a little help, getting squeaky clean becomes much more accessible.

Another reason why cats groom one another is to strengthen their bond. Cats are social creatures and having friends by their side is important. When they lick each other, it’s like they’re hugging.

You’ll see other cat species grooming each other, too. Lions, bobcats, and lynxes, for example, have community grooming sessions. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Only Have One Cat? Invest in a Cat Tongue Brush!

cat grooming showing cat tongue up close

A good way of getting close to your kitten is by brushing them. You’ll help keep their fur and skin healthy and also spend quality time with Mittens. What could be more fun?

There are plenty of cat tongue brushes out there. Look for one with spines angled in the same direction. This imitates the papillae in their mouth and makes it easier to remove dead cat fur.

Cat Tongue Comb Pet Grooming Tool
Cats like to lick their fur with their tongues. This cat tongue comb successfully simulates the cat's tongue and is produced according to the principle and technique of making the file. The comb tooth is like the barb on the cat's tongue, which will make hair smooth when combing.Dog Grooming Brush Tools
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
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Cat Got Your Tongue? 3 Cool Facts About a Cat’s Tongue

A cat tongue really is the cat’s meow. There are so many interesting things to know about it!

  1. The papillae are angled backward so that the dead fur goes down the cat’s throat. This is why you’ll sometimes see Mittens cough up a hairball.
  2. Cats lick themselves to hide traces of their latest kill. The tongue eliminates the scent of blood, protecting kittens from predators.
  3. Cats lick their wounds because their saliva and tongue have special healing properties.

Cattitude: Cat Sticking Out Tongue

Have you ever noticed Mittens stick their tongue out of their mouth? This is definitely not a usual thing for cats, so owners are left confused.

There aren’t many explanations as to why cats do this. However, the most common answer is: because they’re uncomfortable. A cat will stick out their tongue if it doesn’t feel good in their mouth. They could be having teeth problems, for instance. Or their tongue might have a cut that’s not healing fast enough.

If you’re worried about your cat tongue being hurt, a vet can look at it and ease your worries.

Cat Tongue Out? A Cat With Tongue Out Is Hillarious

Sometimes there’s no cause for alarm. Cats are goofballs and love making their owners laugh. They may be sticking out their tongue just because they want to be funny! We’ll give them that: it is hilarious seeing Mittens’ tongue peek out.

Taking Human Tongues Too Far?

A cat tongue and a human tongue are completely different. Not only are they built differently, but they also have different tasks and functions. So, comparing the two seems a little farfetched. For starters, cats don’t need to brush their tongues or teeth with brushes like we do!

cat sticking out tongue

Each to Their Own: Cat Lick Brushes and Scratchers

There are some VERY strange products out there that help cat owners get really up close and personal with their cats. The cat licker mouthpiece does not do it for everyone, but each to their own right?

PDX Pet Design LICKI Brush
LICKI is a soft silicone brush you can hold in your mouth to lick your cat -- like a mama cat grooms her kittens. LICKI is designed to feel pleasurable to your cat's sensitive skin, and offers a unique bonding opportunity for human and cat. Now available in Glow-in-the-dark, you can easily return midnight headbutts without turning on the light!
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on Amazon!

Common Questions on Cat Tongues

What are those spikes in a cat’s tongue?

Why do cats lick themselves?

What does a cat tongue do?

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