Nature's Perfect Hairbrush - How Does A Cat's Tongue Work?
Without a doubt one of their greatest things about cats is that they are their own little dry cleaning service and bonus they are open for business 24/7 365 days a year.
Our little feline fanatics are of course the complete opposite of our lovable sloppy canine family members when it comes to cleanliness.
Dogs seem to find dirt, eating, drinking and of course playing, dirt just seems to find them. Cats on the other hand, look as if they never know when the girl of their dreams may come knocking on the door, so day or night, they're always prim and proper.
To stay so perfectly spic-and-span, nature has provided our felines with the perfect tool, their tongues.
Now your big ole pooch can walk by our little fur balls and give one of those "I am full of mud, so I'll just shake-shake-shake it off, like he was trying out for a Taylor Swift video.
Poor unsuspecting Mister Mittens will be minding his own business just waiting for that front door bell to ring and a split second he looks like a pick-up trucks mud flap after a three day weekend in the mountains. But, you give that little dirt devil 10 minutes and you'll wonder where the dry cleaner put that hanger, because he'll be all clean, shiny and waiting by the front door for his beloved to arrive.
So what gives with that magical instrument of cleanliness?
Researchers at Georgia Tech wanted to know too: Their rough pink tongues are actually hairbrushes far better at detangling — and much easier to clean — than the hair tools for humans that are available at your local drugstore. This is no small detail for cats, who can spend half of their awake hours grooming, and not just out of vanity. Those licks remove fleas and dirt, spread body oils and improve circulation.
Despite what you feel when your cat licks you, your cat's tongue is not like sandpaper at all, according to the researchers, who created a 3D-printed cat tongue model to prove their point.
Cat tongues are covered in tiny, backward-facing spines that are shaped like claws and made of keratin, the same material fingernails and Rhino horns are made of. In a “single grooming sweep,” the researchers wrote, a cat tongue move in four directions, helping the tongue essentially act as a flexible comb that adapts to the knots it encounters.
“When the tongue glides over fur, the hooks are able to lock onto tangles and snags,” said lead author Alexis Noel, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering who presented her research at a physics conference this month. “As the snags pull on the hook, the hook rotates, slowly teasing the knot apart.
Much like claws, the front of the spine is curved and hook-like. So when it encounters a tangle, it is able to maintain contact, unlike a standard hairbrush bristle, which would bend and let the tangle slide off the top.”
And as shown by the 3D-printed cat tongue — made at a scale of 400 times the size of an actual cat tongue — the flexible spines lie flat when they’re not in lick mode, enabling collected fur to slide right off and swallowed.
There is one drawback to this amazing anatomy part, all that hair they swallow is gonna come out sooner or later and as any Cat owner knows, it can be a hair raising experience the first time you actually have to not only see but hear that heart breaking spectacle.