A Cat’s Tongue: Everything You Need to Know

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Cats are found to be the most mysterious pets on the earth. No matter how many years you’re sharing your home with your cat, she will always surprise you with her actions. One such surprise element is their tongue. Cats have been gifted with a tongue that performs multiple functions as a part of the anatomy. They can taste the food, but more importantly, they help in grooming. They spend numerous hours (almost half of their waking hours) in grooming.



The reason behind it is not because they are self-obsessed or vanity, but these ambush predators are meant to clean themselves. Grooming is a matter of life and death for the cats. But what makes a cat’s tongue different? How it helps a cat in performing different functions? Well, check out this article to know the calm down your curiosity.


Why does cats’ tongue look different?

Being a pet owner, you must have noticed that the cat’s tongue looks hard and layered with a rough texture. It looks like sandpaper and gives a feel like it could take off several layers of skin when she licks you. But why?

Well, the upper layer of the cat’s tongue is made of tiny barbs, which are known as Papillae. These translucent spike-like elements vary in length, but they are large at the center and shorter at the edges. The experts say that these are made of keratin sheath, which makes them so strong and hard. They act as equipment to protect them or hunt whenever needed. Apart from this, these barbs help a cat in its grooming session.


What are the functions of a cat tongue?

Hunting and eating

As the cat’s tongue is usually equipped for hunting purposes, the papillae are also considered as a double-edged sword. The wild cat varieties do have stronger papillae than the domestic ones. While at the time of birth, they do look similarly sharp, but later, the domestic cats are more practiced to the home foods, and there is no purpose for them to hunt. Therefore, these edges become blunt when compared to wild cats. Papillae will help the cats to strip away the flesh from bones. It is one of the reasons for cats to absorb the maximum amount of nutrition from their prey.


Cats use their tongues extensively for drinking purposes. It may seem like the cats are actually lapping the water. Almost all the animals, including dogs and cows, put water in the mouth. But cats never do that. They usually take some smaller amount of water in the mouth with the tongue. The papillae lift the water from the surface until they close their mouths. They do it quickly for three to four times to get the right amount of water and then swallow them slowly. Check out this video of cat drinking milk, captured using slow-motion technology. It makes the cat owners curious about the fact of how cats create a column with the papillae and drink the water.




Here comes the critical aspect of using papilla. Grooming plays a big part in the daily routine. You can see the cat starts grooming whenever they are not eating or playing or sleeping. Papillae are the organ that helps the cats to remove the dirt and debris that are layered on their skin. The fur is straightened, and it helps them to keep it neat. It is the most effective method to maintain their hygiene.

For cats, cleaning is the fastidious thing because mother cats groom their kittens. Usually, when they are born, they are blind and deaf, and mother cats carry of the grooming process for the kittens. Hence, the touch sense is stored in their memory bank. Also, the intimacy and bonding between the cats are expressed as they groom each other.

The doctors also found that the kittens are to be stimulated for them to urinate. Hence, the mother cats assist them by using papillae as they vigorously start licking them. Otherwise, the kittens usually don’t excrete efficiently.

Taste buds

While just like any other predator’s, even cats consider the taste buds to be an essential element of the body. The taste buds are usually present in the papillae where the flavors are stored. They are a lot of debate going on whether the cats can sense all the five flavors (Sweet, Bitter, Umami, Sourness, and saltiness) just like humans or not. But even though it’s not conclusive, most cat owners do agree that cats have a different flavor, which is more than the primary five flavors of the tongue. The Papillae is the most cooperative elements for the cats as they quickly find different flavors from different foods.

As fascinating anatomy, they are absolutely one of the essential organs for the cats, which is quite clear from the above.


What does the cat’s grooming pattern say?

The cat doctors and a few other enthusiasts conducted various experiments. They captured the motion of the cat’s tongue with multiple patterns of grooming, which is listed below.

Pattern  How they groom? What do they do?
For survival Groom Vigorously with completely their tongue out. After eating the prey, the cats groom vigorously to remove all the traces of eating. It is more like a survival strategy. They wanted to clean completely also because they don’t want to be prey themselves.
For comfort Groom Slowly with the front part of the tongue out only Your cat will use the tongue to groom themselves. It gives them the ultimate comfort. Hence, they do it slowly.
For behavior Groom with wide-open eyes. Fast and quick motion noticed. It is more likely to be a displacement behavior. The cats feel stressed or anxious about a new place or people. That’s why they start to do it really fast without letting their tongue out completely.
For attention Groom paws with the half-closed eyes. They groom at different positions, especially clean the paws to get attention with their moving style and pattern.
For hunger Groom the owner or lick everything around. They start to groom their owners or people who are close to them. Otherwise, you can also see them licking furniture and other things around.


Essential facts to know about cat tongue

After stating the different purposes of the cat’s tongue, now you may understand why it is one of the busiest organs in their body. They are cool rather than weird. After various experiments conducted, here are some of the facts that one must know about the cat’s tongue. It will help you to understand your cats better.

Papillae are sensitive

Even though the Papillae look sharp and strong, they need to be taken care of sensitively. It is eventually optimized for hunting, but it could cause them some troubles as well. Consider a cat playing with the rubber objects by putting in their mouths. The papillae can easily direct them to the throat. There is every chance that any piece of string can quickly be wrapped out and got stuck in the throat.

Cats can’t taste sweets

Unlike other mammals, cats don’t perceive sugar or sweet usually. The anecdotal evidence proves that cats perceive the taste of sugar differently, but the same experiment has also confirmed that cats can taste things that we don’t. For instance, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP); it is a compound that supplies energy to the cells, and humans can’t notice its taste.

Maintains temperature

A cat’s tongue helps her to regulate its body temperature, especially during the extreme cold and hot weather. Therefore, they lick their coat to groom themselves and maintain the temperature. Similarly, when food is kept too hot or cold, they tend to use the tongue to check the temperature. Only at room temperature, they can eat well.

Lazy grooming

You can quickly identify when there is abnormal lazy grooming. Obesity, pain, or malnutrition are the specific reasons why they groom slowly. Therefore, when they groom, it is not only important to check whether they have cleaned themselves but also to see how they’re doing it. Also, overweighed cats cannot groom themselves easily as their gamut area starts to pain.

High stress



Sometimes, you may have noticed that the cats have developed bald spots. The reason behind it could be emotional stress. The cats undergoing anxiety and stress start to groom vigorously. As a result, they lose their hair completely while grooming. It can also be a condition when they have thyroid and other allergies.

Appropriate oxygen supply

Have you ever noticed the tongue’s color changes, especially in the kittens? If yes, then it is due to the fact that they are not getting a sufficient amount of oxygen supply. It will turn to pale pink, white, or sometimes even blue. It results in shortness of breath. In this case, you need to take them to the vet at the starting stages itself.

Signs of cancer

Changes in tongue color do not only mean shortness of breath; however, sometimes, it also means that a cat is prone to cancer. Cancer usually starts with the change in color and even ulcers in the mouth area. Therefore, check regularly with the vets to confirm that they are not affected by cancer.

Go against gravity

A cat’s tongue is magical when drinking water. When it comes to drinking water with the tip of the tongue, it literally goes against gravity. Here the tip moves downward and touches the liquid. While they drat back in the mouth, it creates a trail of liquid behind. There is no scientific explanation for this, but cats generally do drink it in four phases as they consume.

Evaporative cooling

Cats do not possess the ability to sweat because of the grooming. They let the excess heat escape through their tongue. It keeps them not only clean but also cool all the time. The evaporation process begins as they leave pockets in better skin and fur. Now, as they lick the fur, the sweat moisture is lost completely.

Tongue out

You must have seen that sometimes cats keep their tongue out and sleep. But there is assure a reason behind it. The cats sleep as they feel the utmost relaxed and display as they sleep. Sometimes while grooming, they tend to doze off, and that’s one of the reasons why the tongue is out. But if you abnormally find them with their tongue out, you should take them to the doctor.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should be the cat’s tongue color?

The color of the tongue must be pink. A red tongue could be an indication of inflammation of poisoning. If you find the red color only the tip, then it is a sure sign of thyroid and another heart disease. The blue tongue indicated poor oxygenation, and the yellow tongue could be a sign of jaundice.

What makes the cat drool?

The cats drool excessively must be taken care of with medical care. Commonly, cats are prone to oral diseases over the age of three years. Almost 85% of cats undergo oral diseases easily. You can also use products like OxyFresh Premium Dental care solution for pets. Also, check out Dental freshwater additive, an original formula that keeps the cats away from a plaque or any other diseases.

Is the cat’s tongue wet?

Cats tongue is usually dry even though they are using it continuously for grooming or licking. With the moist that is naturally available in the tongue, they tend to be wet.



One might wonder if the cat’s tongue has got to do so much with their daily routine. But after so many years of research and experiments conducted now, the scientists are thinking of using the cat’s tongue principle in the field of biotechnology. Also, never judge your cats for their grooming or licking behavior. We hope this article would have helped you to understand better about a cat’s tongue. So next time, when the cat comes and lick you, remember how lucky you have got and how much do they care about you.

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