It's not vanity. For cats, staying clean is a matter of life and death. And their tongue, specially equipped for the job, is just one of the things that makes cats such successful predators.
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Even after thousands of years sharing our homes, cats still remain mysterious. For one thing, they spend an inordinate amount of time grooming themselves, up to half of their waking hours.
But all of that primping isn’t about vanity. For ambush predators like cats, staying clean is a matter of life and death.
In this episode of Deep Look we get up close and personal with these fastidious felines. By looking closely at cat tongues, research at MIT and Georgia Tech reveals clues to cats’ predatory prowess and finds inspiration for new technologies.
--- Why do cat’s tongues feel like sandpaper?
Cats’ tongues are covered in little spines called “papillae” that look like tiny hooks. Cats use their tongues to groom and the spines do a great job of detangling knots.
--- Why do cats spend so much time grooming?
Cat’s spend much of their day cleaning themselves- up to half of their waking hours! Cats are ambush predators and they need to stay clean in order to remain hidden from their prey. Prey species tend to be on the lookout for danger, and one whiff of the wrong odor can give the cat away.
--- Why do cats drink with their tongues?
Like most other mammals that are predators, cats have wide mouths to help them sink their teeth deep into their prey. The large opening on the sides of their mouth helps them get a better bite, but it makes it hard for them to create suction in order to drink. Instead they use their tongue to draw water up from the surface into a column. They then bite the column to get the water. They usually lap about four times per second.
---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:
---+ For more information:
How Cats Lap: Water Uptake by Felis catus
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