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.


Prosperous And Carnivorous

Concerning Cat Stomachs.

Cat stomach (photo credit, Drs. Foster & Smith)

Cat stomach (photo credit, Drs. Foster & Smith)

Now it is time to focus on a carnivore’s stomach.  Namely, the cat stomach.  Obviously, a carnivore’s stomach is different then say, a goat or horse stomach.  The esophagus transports food to the stomach where it enters a valve-like structure titled the cardiac sphincter.  From there, it enters the stomach.  A cat’s stomach is a sac-like structure designed to store large amounts of food and continue the digestive process.  Cats usually swallow large lumps of food, rarely chewing for very long.  So meat and bones make their way to the stomach and are ground up there.  The interior of the stomach is made up of a series of folds called “gastric folds”.  Their function is to grind the food into small pieces and digest it.  The inner stomach lining also secretes acids and enzymes to break down food.  Once the initial stomach digestive process is complete, the partially digested food exits the stomach through the pyloric sphincter area and then enters the duodenum. Once eaten, most food leaves the stomach within twelve hours after entering.  The cat stomach was designed very well for what it is meant to do, although, modern cats that are fed cat food out of containers may need some supplementing.   What is better for my cat?  You may ask, wet food or dry food?  Well, this is sort of a trick question because truthfully, (depending on the quality) the most ideal diet is a mixture of both.  You see, wet food is usually more nutritious, although if a cat never chews anything other than soft food their teeth can get weak.  Hearts and brains are the best things you can supplement into your cat’s diet.  As they contain the taurine cats need to thwart health problems and death.  Egg yolks are also a good idea as they are nutritious and good for your cat’s fur.  Conclusively, cats are carnivores and need lots of protein and saturated fats as well as access to greenery such as cat grass or catnip for other nutrients.  Assuredly, if you give your cat this diet, it will live long and prosper.

To see what the cat stomach looks like and some more anatomy, watch my video at http://youtu.be/y9-M99e4l0I

Chyme Time

Horse Stomachs

Horse stomach

Horse stomach (photo credit, succeed-equine.com)

Now we are going to move on to another kind of stomach, the horse stomach.  Interestingly, horse’s stomachs (like their hearts) are relatively small for the size of the animal, this limits the intake and storage of food.   An average horse weighs 800 to 1,200 pounds.  But their stomach capacity is only about four gallons, and works best when it contains two gallons.  Also, their stomachs empty when they are about 2/3 full.  Whether or not the stomach enzymes have completed their processing of the food.  This inhibits full digestion and proper utilization of food. Continuous foraging or several small feedings per day are preferable to one or two large feedings.  

The horse stomach consists of a non-glandular proximal region (saccus cecus), divided by a distinct border, the margo plicatus, from the glandular distal stomach.  In the stomach, assorted acids and the enzyme pepsin break down food. Pepsin allows for the further breakdown of proteins into amino acid chains.  Other enzymes include resin and lipase. Additionally, the stomach absorbs some water, as well as ions and lipid soluble compounds. The end product is food broken down into chyme.  It then leaves the stomach through the pyloric valve, which controls the flow of food out of the stomach.  Although not as complex as a cow stomach, horses stomachs serve them well.  They do not weigh the horse down or hinder their agility, such as the cow stomach does.  Although if a horse eats too much, it can get bloated like a cow.  Ultimately, make sure your horse doesn’t eat too much too fast, and remember, if an animal’s gut is not healthy, the animal is not healthy.

To see a horse stomach compared to a cow stomach and what the horse stomach looks like, watch my video at http://youtu.be/n1jUkgmUAts

Western Afflictions

The Western Fence Lizard.

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) (Photo credit: Larry Meade)

The western fence lizard is a cold-blooded reptile.  Their habitat includes all of California, Baja California, Oregon, Southern Idaho, Nevada, and Western Utah.  Generally avoiding harsh deserts, they reside in grasslands, broken chaparral, sagebrush, woodland, coniferous forests, and farmland.  They also occupy elevations from sea level to 10,800 feet.  Although I have witnessed them ingesting tomato worms, their primary diet consists of spiders and insects.  Reaching a length of 8 inches these lizards are also very colorful.  Ranging in color from light brown to black they also have unique stripes and spots consisting of green, blue, black, and white hues.  Nicknamed “blue-bellies” males have deep blue patches on the sides of their stomachs and throats.  These patches are faint or absent on females and juveniles.  Another characteristic of the western fence lizard is their tendency to do pushups.  Males assert their dominance by doing pushups and showing off their brightly colored underbellies and throats to intimidate other males and make themselves look bigger in the face of predators.  Western fence lizards are beneficial to have around.  Because when a deer or wood tick carrying Lyme disease latches on to them (usually behind the ears) a special protein in the lizard’s blood cleanses the tick’s gut and kills the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.   So when they fall off the lizard, the tick will no longer have the Lyme disease producing bacterium and can no longer infect other animals and humans.  So in conclusion, these colorful and advantageous lizards don’t only eat harmful insects like grasshoppers, they also help contain Lyme disease by helping to stop the spread of this devastating affliction.

To watch the ajoining video, go to http://youtu.be/d_03-f5I_RU

Smokey vs Dik-dik

Dikdiks compared to cats.


Dik-dik (Photo credit: cramsay23)

Recently I was looking up some animal facts, and I found something rather interesting.  The smallest known deer on earth is the dikdik, inhabiting South Africa.  These deer are just slightly bigger than my cat.  To avoid confusion, I should tell you just how big my male Maine Coon, Smokey, is.  And I’ll throw in the dik-dik’s dimensions too.  Smokey is 3 feet from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail.  Although his tail alone is more than a foot long, it is considered short for his breed.  A dik-dik on the other hand is 28 inches in length.  Smokey’s shoulder height is 12 .5 inches and the length from his back paws to his tail tip is 29 inches.  The dik-dik makes up for its length with long legs making it’s shoulder height 12 to 18 inches.  And last but certainly not least, Smokey weighs 11.5 pounds (he is apparently going to continue growing for a few more years.)  A dik-dik will weigh anything between 7 to 16 pounds.  Now Smokey is undoubtedly a big boy, but I never really realized how big.  It is sort of hard to imagine my cat’s tail going over a deer’s head, but I guess the dikdik has bigger problems.  Talking about size, I bet you didn’t know that female dik-diks are usually larger than the males.  This undeniably gives them an edge when defending their young.  The world’s smallest deer are not seen very often due to the shyness that made it possible for them to survive this long, and the fact that they don’t travel in herds.  Now it might be a little hard to think of a deer that is the same size as a large cat, but I assure you.  Dik-diks are real and so is the accompanying video.  So if you want to get a better grip of the Smokey/dik-dik size ratio, go to : http://youtu.be/EuYXJsKBgjE