All About Your Cat’s Tongue

cat tongue anatomy - cat with tongue out

All About Your Cat’s Tongue


Did you know your cat spends up to half of her waking hours grooming? Cats love to look and feel their best by cleaning themselves often, and their tongues are amazingly effective tools in this process. Scientists have only recently discovered just how incredible the cat tongue is in its anatomy and ability. Our team at Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery in Loveland agrees—everything about our cat friends is fascinating, including their tongues! Read on for more information and fun facts about your cat’s most active muscle!


Why Does My Cat’s Tongue Feel Like Sandpaper?


If you’ve felt the sand-papery roughness of your cat’s tongue against your skin, that means she accepts and likes you! Cats groom people they like. The sandpaper feeling of your cat’s tongue is due to scratchy barbs, or spines, called papillae on the surface of the tongue. Papillae on a cat’s tongue are long barbs consisting of keratin—human fingernails are also made of keratin!

Papillae play an important role in helping cats stay clean and healthy. They are turned backward, toward the cat’s throat, and this peculiar anatomy of the papillae allows cats to catch fur on their tongue (like a hairbrush but better!) and easily discard it. It also allows our carnivorous feline friends to clean meat off of animal bones by simply using their tongues. The barbs easily strip bones of any excess meat.


Does My Cat Have Taste Buds Like Mine?


Our human tongues have papillae too, but we call them taste buds! A cat’s papillae are entirely different from those of a human, however. While the human tongue can taste salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami—it is widely speculated that cats are not able to taste sweet foods. Some scientists believe cats taste something else when eating sweet foods, and that they may have additional taste sensations that humans do not have.


What’s So Unique About the Anatomy of My Cat’s Tongue?


Have you ever watched a slow-motion video of a cat drinking water? The anatomy of the cat’s tongue acts like a tiny scoop that pulls water out of the bowl and propels it in a straight column, directly into the cat’s mouth. The cat’s jaws close around the column of water and the cat swallows. It all happens far too fast for the human eye to see in real time, but the slow-motion video shows us that this method of drinking appears to defy gravity!


What Does a Healthy Cat Tongue Look Like?


Your cat’s tongue (and gums) can vary in color, depending on whether she is getting enough oxygen throughout her body. Gums should be a bright healthy pink color. If you notice a pale pink, white, or blue shade, talk to your veterinary dentist right away. As part of a routine check-up, your veterinary dentist will always check your cat’s tongue, as well. The vet will look for changes in color, as well as any lumps, bumps, or ulcers.


Call Us Today!


Now that you have the lowdown on cat tongue anatomy and the importance of a healthy tongue, make sure to schedule your cat’s routine oral exam today! Give Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery in Loveland a call at (970) 800-1106 or contact us online.