Picky Papillae


Concerning Cat Tongues.

English: Macro photo of a cat cleaning itself,...

English: Macro photo of a cat cleaning itself, showing the hooked papilla on the tongue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tongue is a muscular organ that has several functions, the main ones being the guiding of food and water into the mouth and for the taste sensation. The tongue assists in the chewing and swallowing of the food as well. The tongue also plays a role in reducing body temperature in the cat. Dogs are well known for panting, but when the ambient temperature is particularly hot cats will also pant. As air passes over the tongue, the air is cooled. Saliva augments this process as it evaporates.  The tongue of a cat differs from that of a dog in several ways. In the center of the tongue are papillae – small hair-like projections that act as small hooks. They are responsible for that “sandpaper” feel when a cat licks our skin. These papillae are made of keratin, the same material found in human hair and fingernails. The papillae serve several purposes. They are important in grooming the fur. And also assisting in gathering and holding food inside the mouth. Specialized papillae at the tip and the sides of the tongue play an important role in taste sensation. Studies have shown that the feline tongue can sense texture as well as flavor.  This may explain why some cats prefer dry foods based on their shape. The feline tongue is very sensitive to temperature, and studies have shown that cats prefer food served at room temperature over chilled or warmed food.  Which is part of the reason that cats are so picky.

To see papillae under a microscope, click here to watch my video.

 

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